How to Care for Your Garlic Plants

Growing garlic plants are fun and rewarding. How can you provide the proper care to ensure your garlics thrive?

Garlic has grown in popularity, and for good reason—it has a rich flavor and is easy to grow. This makes it the perfect starter plant for new gardeners. If you can maintain the necessary growing conditions, you too, can grow garlic. 

In this article, we’re sharing some tips for caring for garlic and maximizing its growth potential. 

Why You Should Consider Growing Garlic

The benefits of growing garlic are endless. Not only is it one of the simplest vegetables to grow, but garlic also offers loads of health benefits. Eating garlic regularly is said to improve athletic performance and help prevent the common cold.

Still not convinced that garlic is a good fit for your garden? Here are a few more reasons garlic plants make great additions to the garden: 

a group of freshly harvested organic garlics

Garlic is a Staple Ingredient

Lots of international dishes call for garlic or garlic flavoring. With so many ways it’s used in food preparation, growing your supply of garlic is beneficial.

Long Shelf Life

Cured garlic has a long shelf life. An unpeeled head of garlic is good for at least 6 months,  regardless of whether it’s been cured.

Once peeled, fresh garlic cloves should be kept in the refrigerator, where they will be good for approximately a week. When cloves are chopped, sliced, or otherwise processed, they should be used within a day.

Easy to Maintain

You only need to purchase garlic seeds once because you can harvest garlic in the summer and then plant homegrown cloves in the fall for new plants. If you plant the same cloves year after year, your garlic plant will eventually get used to the soil conditions and its growing environment.

Best Time to Plant

Garlic is mainly planted in the fall from late September until November. They’re ready for harvest between June and August. 

Plant garlic cloves before the ground freezes if your region is prone to freezing in the 6 – 8 weeks of fall.

In milder climates, you can plant garlic cloves as late as February or March; however, the developing bulbs won’t grow as large. The garlic scapes will still be good in the summer.

planting garlics in an array

General Care

Growing garlic plants can be easy if you plant them at the right time of year and properly care for them as they grow. 

Garlic grows best in full sun and in loose, rich soil that has good drainage. The plant’s overall health is essential to its production of garlic. 

an array of garlic shoots

Water Needs

Once garlic bulbs start to develop, ensure the plant receives at least an inch of water each week. This can be from rainfall or hand-watering. 

Water plants when the top inch of soil feels dry. Use drip irrigation, a soaker hose, or hand watering to add water to the soil. Let the water soak in 6 – 8 inches to promote the formation of deep roots.

Avoid getting any parts of the plant wet when watering it, and do so in the morning or early afternoon. 

Amount of Sun

Garlic grows best in sunlight, which may seem odd for a plant that mostly grows underground. Plant your garlic plant in a location that gets direct sunshine for at least 6 – 8 hours every day for the best results.

Garlic plants can survive in partial shade or indirect sunlight as long as it primarily gets full sun.

Fertilizer may be required to supplement the garlic plant’s nutrition if it can’t get the full sun it craves.


If you planted your garlic plant in the fall, it’s a good idea to fertilize your plant in the spring. There are two options commonly used for fertilizing garlic plants: side dressing or applying fertilizer to the whole garden bed. 

For best results, choose a fertilizer that has a high nitrogen content, such as blood meal. Fertilizers with a synthetic source of nitrogen are also good for garlic plants.

Work the fertilizer into the soil 3 – 4 inches away from the plant and roughly an inch down. Fertilize every 3 – 4 weeks, and re-fertilize your garlic plant in mid-May before the bulbs expand. 

Avoid fertilizing the plant with high-nitrogen fertilizer after May since doing so could limit the size of the bulb.

growing garlic in the home garden

Other Maintenance


To save energy, many garlic growers advise removing the plant’s scapes, or topsets, as soon as they begin to curl. Others believe the scapes benefit the bulbs when they’re stored and keep the scapes intact. 

The scapes can also be removed during cooking before they become woody.

Mulching and Overwintering

You can insulate soil around garlic plants naturally and prevent the plants from becoming dormant by adding a thick layer of mulch.

When the earth warms up in the spring, add another layer of mulch. Since it has a weak root structure, garlic plants won’t grow in dry soil or in soil that’s too hot. 

Straw or chopped leaves can be used as mulch and will help insulate the roots, retain the moisture in the soil, and control weeds.

Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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