There’s Still Time to Plant Garlic…

By Ann Barnes, EMGV

No doubt if you are either cooking or enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving meal this week, garlic is on the ingredients list. Growing garlic isn’t hard, and thanks to our mild climate, you can still plant garlic for a late spring and summer harvest. It’s a great time to revisit Ann Barnes’s 2016 article on the topic. It’s a quick read during a busy holiday week, and it includes a comprehensive video showing you how to plant this tasty bulb. Plus, we’ve added some additional resources on the topic.


(Image credit: Virginia Cooperative Extension, Piedmont Master Gardeners)

I love garlic. Since it should be planted in fall (September – November), it is not too late to add it to your garden if you act quickly. Garlic is easy to plant, easy to grow, and can be stored for months after harvest. Choose a sunny spot with good drainage and add compost if your soil is heavy clay. Garlic doesn’t compete well with weeds, so you will need to take care of those winter weeds that can take over your garden!

Types of Garlic

“Seed garlic” (actual cloves of garlic) can be purchased online or in garden centers. Garlic from the grocery store may not be a variety best suited for growing in your area and also could be treated to reduce sprouting, so buying seed garlic may lead to a better crop. There are two classifications of garlic varieties – hardneck and softneck. Softneck varieties are most often recommended for southern gardens. Softneck garlic is the familiar type of garlic you see in supermarkets. It stores well and can be made into braids.  Hardneck varieties are also prized for their edible scapes that can be harvested in the spring. It does not store as well as softneck garlic. There are some varieties that grow well in the Piedmont, but most are more suited for areas with colder winters.

How to Plant and Harvest Garlic

NC Cooperative Extension video featuring a Durham County Master Gardener volunteers demonstrating best practices for planting, growing, harvesting, and curing garlic at the Briggs Avenue Community Garden in Durham, NC. (Filming and editing credit: Lisa Poser)

The video above details how to plant garlic. Make sure the pointed end of the clove faces up and the flat end faces down. Plant 1-3″ deep, 4-8″ apart. Mulch to retain moisture and reduce weeds. If a soil test indicates your soil pH is below 6.0, lime may be required. Garlic is also a “heavy feeder,” so an application of fertilizer at planting and again in early spring may be desired.

Garlic is ready for harvest in June or July, when leaves start to lose their green color. Use a garden fork to lift the bulbs from the ground. Remove soil without washing and leave the stem and roots on the harvested bulbs. Allow garlic to cure in a well ventilated, dry place for about two weeks. If you plan to braid your softneck garlic, do so while the stems are still flexible. See instructions for braiding garlic below in the University of Georgia Extension’s extensive site link.


Resources and Additional Information

For a thorough overview of growing garlic in your garden including varieties, plant development, irrigation requirements, pests, harvesting, and preserving, check out the extensive Cooperative Extensions’s online resources from University of Georgia, North Carolina State University, and Virginia.

Intrigued by garlic and curious about growing other species of the Allium genus like onions, leeks, and shallots? Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center has a fantastic online resources to whet your appetite for growing these related bulbs.

To learn more about the history of garlic–its ancient uses for medicinal purposes to its staring role in world cuisine–and some interesting trivia to share with friends and family over the Thanksgiving table, The University of Missouri’s Integrated Pest Management site offers a wealth of knowledge on garlic.

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