There’s Still Time to Plant Garlic

by Ann Barnes, EMGV

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!

This young garlic plant tucked between rows of mixed salad greens was planted in mid-October

“Seed garlic” (actually 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 our 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.

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 here:

References (including variety suggestions):




Preserving Garlic from Your Garden

-by Sara Smith, Durham County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer


Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow and preserve.  Harvest it in late September to early October when the leaves are about two thirds dry.  When lifting them from the ground, keep the entire plant whole.  Carefully brush the dirt off,  but don’t wash them.

You can make a braid with leaves of softneck garlic, or tie the scapes (stalks) together of the hardneck type.  Be sure to stagger the bulbs so that they don’t touch.   Hang them in a well-ventilated, shady place.   Some people like to hang them in their kitchen for decoration and ease of access.

After about two weeks, you can remove the tops of the garlic and store the bulbs in a dark cupboard or drawer.  They will keep for about six to eight months.  The ideal temperature is 65 degrees.  

Fresh garlic will not keep long in the refrigerator but you can preserve it in oil or vinegar or freeze it.  Freezing garlic makes it a bit mushy, but the flavor stays delicious.  The easiest way is to just pop it whole in a freezer bag either peeled or not.  Some people like to chop it up, wrap it tightly in plastic to form a block and then freeze it.  When you want to use it, just break off a small amount or grate it.  Many chefs like to puree garlic in oil and then keep it in the freezer.  The oil keeps it from freezing solid so a measured amount can be scooped out and immediately added to food.

Garlic can also be preserved in vinegar.  As with the oil preservation, always refrigerate it, never keep it at room temperature.  Because of garlic’s low acidity, it can develop botulism toxin.   If it develops mold, discard it.  Add as many peeled cloves as will fit in a glass jar and cover them with vinegar.  The vinegar will pick up the flavor of the garlic and can be used as well as the garlic.

Garlic can also be dried in the oven or in a food dehydrator.  If using an oven, turn it to 140 degrees for two hours and then down to 130 degrees until completely dry and crisp.

Dried garlic can be mixed with salt at four parts sea salt to one part garlic powder to make garlic salt.  Process in a blender briefly.  If you go too long, it will cake.  Store the garlic salt in an airtight glass jar.

Always remember to save the biggest and best cloves to plant for next year’s crop.  Bon appetit!