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Garlic Basics

By on August 04, 2008

Garlic is easy to grow since most of its time in the ground is during our rainy season and, after you mulch it for winter, can pretty much be ignored.

About the time the scapes (flowers) begin to develop in spring, the weeds start to grow and need to be removed as garlic does not develop well with all that competition. Have you ever eaten garlic scapes? Since you have to remove them when they begin to curl, you might as well cook them. Grilled or sautéed, they have a nice, mild garlic flavor. Just use the tender part as you would asparagus and they store in the fridge at least a month.

Back to the garlic bulb, here are the basics. We sell 2 types of garlic – hardneck & softneck. Hardneck garlic usually has larger cloves, which are easier to peel, but they don’t store a tremendously long time. Softneck garlic has a larger quantity of smaller cloves, they’re a bit harder to peel, but they keep a long time. These are also the ones you can braid & hang in your kitchen. I usually plant both types, using the hard necks first.

purple glazer organic garlic peaceful valleyGarlic is planted in the fall. Separate the cloves but you don’t need to remove the papery skin around each clove. Plant, pointy end up, within 5 days, at a depth about double the size of the clove. Deeper if you’re in a very cold location. Water-in and moisten frequently till the rain starts. Once the soil cools off, mulch with a few inches of rice straw. That’s it for fall.

When the soil begins to warm in spring, watch for the growing tips. (Sometimes they’ll start in the fall if you plant early and the soil is still warm.) Cover with more straw to protect from frost – you may need to do this 3-4 times. This is also the best way to keep the weeds down.

Harvest when about ½ the leaves turn yellow or brown. This usually happens in my yard about the end of June, but this year its about 2 weeks later. Stop watering so the soil can dry a little. Don’t leave them in the ground too long after you stop watering as the papery skin will start to deteriorate and the bulbs won’t store as well. Try not to poke them with your digging fork as this can introduce disease and again, affects storage.

california early white organic garlic peaceful valleyPlace them in a cool, darkish location to cure, usually about a month. We have a huge, low-limbed butternut that shelters our garlic. If curing outside, be prepared to cover your garlic with plastic if it rains. It seems like it always rains once in July, after we’ve harvested. If you want to taste your garlic while its still green, you can, just not with Elephant Garlic. Once cured, keep in a cool, dry location, inside. Yes, garlic freezes and turns to mush.

Enjoy your garlic. Not only does it taste good, but it’s good for you!

Additional info on fertilizing, cover-cropping the garlic area, and rotating beds next season in our How to Grow Garlic video and Garlic Growing Guide.

  Comments (12)


“I just read your article about garlic.  I have planted for two years with ““seed”” I got from the farmer’s market.  Some of the garlic had ““scapes”” and some of it did not as they were different types—but which are the hardneck? I heard that the hardneck do not have scapes—but the ones with the scapes were much larger.

Appreciate your time and generosity.  Hopefully you will have an answer.”

Posted by Sandra Kovacs on Aug. 19, 2008 at 7:10:47 AM


All garlic softneck & hardneck forms scapes even though different varieties will appear different from each other. Scapes are the flower bulb & top of the stalk where leaves stop forming. Hardnecks have a solid core that grows through the center of the bulb. Softnecks are a gathering of the papery fiber around each clove that meet in the center and remain supple until completely dry hence can be braided. In either case once the scape forms it should be cut off close to the top leaf.

If the scape is left on the bulb will usually not get as large since energy is going into making seed. The scape will produce a seedhead that looks like a tiny garlic bulb. If this seed is used to grow garlic the bulbs are generally very small.

Posted by Linda on Sep. 09, 2008 at 12:29:14 PM


I have two questions.  We live in central AZ and don’t get the ““winter rains”“.  How much watering do you suggest?  Also we have found that our garlic often does not form cloves and becomes one giant clove.  Why does this happen?  Thanks for your time.”

Posted by Andy Vircsik on Sep. 14, 2008 at 9:46:08 AM


The amount of water to apply for garlic in your area will be determined by a couple of factors. How quickly the soil drains and what the temperature is. If your soil is fast draining you can add up to 50% compost to hold the water. After the soil has cooled you can add 2-3

Posted by Linda on Sep. 17, 2008 at 9:47:49 AM


Hi Linda

We have grow great garlic every year. This last year we had a problem with rust and the garlic not head up. We fertilized them more than other years and were careful about the watering. We live on the coast north of San Francisco and there is alot of fog. This hasn’t been a problem in the past…
Any ideas?



Posted by Penny Li vingston on Oct. 20, 2009 at 8:16:37 AM


I live on Maui Hawaii at 4000 feet.  Is there a type of garlic that would succeed here when there is no frost/ chill period?  Thanks

Posted by Melanie Stephens on Aug. 30, 2010 at 6:45:01 PM


It is my experience that most garlic sets scapes but not all. Sometimes softnecks will bottom set their bulbils even if most of the variety you are growing does set scapes. When this happens the stem will be hard from the bulb of garlic to the bulbils usually several inche and then be soft neck above that.

Posted by Jerrilyn(a.k.a.Grandma Garlic) on Aug. 31, 2010 at 8:22:52 AM


Where I live, we have a terrible problem with vampires.  I grew some elephant garlic two autumns ago, but the neighbors still got bit by some fanged dude in a cape.  Last year, we grew Georgian Fire garlic, and that was an improvement as I think it was too hot for the vampire’s palate.  Is there a variety of garlic that will keep our vampires away completely?  Thanks.

Posted by Vadim on Aug. 13, 2011 at 10:13:27 AM

Vadim, The elephant garlic didn’t work because it wasn’t a hardneck variety wink Georgian Fire should have done better, but we suggest you try Romanian Red—Transylvania is now part of Romania.

Posted by on Aug. 15, 2011 at 4:45:19 PM


I’ve read that garlic needs to have temperatures below 40-45ºF for 6 or 8 weeks in order to grow well.  I live in Oakland (zone 9) and my average temperature in December and January only goes down to 44-45ºF.  Although we get the occasional frost at 36ºF, it rarely falls below 32ºF and we never get a hard freeze.

Should I refrigerate the bulbs for 2 - 6 weeks?  I’m concerned that it might be too cold/moist inside the fridge.  I also have a wine fridge that stays about 55ºF.  Would that be better?

Last year, although my garlic grew it didn’t really set a good bulb.  I only had tiny little bulbs with itsy bitsy cloves.  I left several in the ground longer to see if they would develop but they never did.  The tops eventually just died back so I pulled them out.

I’m hoping to have better luck this year and appreciate any advice.  Thank you

Posted by Kat on Oct. 27, 2013 at 5:17:07 PM


I plant your Spanish Roja and Music every year….I’d love to store longer…Can I do so in a refrigerator and how best?

Posted by Nancy Rojo on Jul. 02, 2014 at 10:21:44 AM

Hello Nancy,

According to the Center for Home Food Preservation, “Commercially, garlic is stored near 32°F (0°C).
However, most home refrigerators are too warm
for ideal long-term storage of garlic. Instead,
store it in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place in
well-ventilated containers such as mesh bags.
Storage life is 3 to 5 months under cool
(60°F/16°C), dry, dark conditions.”

Posted by on Jul. 02, 2014 at 10:37:52 AM

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