How to grow garlic

Discover how to grow garlic at home and you'll never have to buy this versatile ingredient again. Garlic bread, anyone?

how to grow garlic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're wondering how to grow garlic yourself, then you've come to the right place. Garlic is a staple ingredient and livens up so many dishes, from classic roast lamb to our fave simple pasta dish, spaghetti aglio e olio. And the great news is, it's so simple to grow that you'll soon be wondering why you've been paying for it for so many years!

Garlic will grow best in a sunny spot, in well-fertilised, free-draining soil. Before planting, add a general purpose fertiliser to your soil for your best chance of success. Place in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill in pots during the winter months and then move outside when the weather improves.

Here's how to plant garlic, when to harvest it and how to store all those bulbs you're going to grow!

How to grow garlic

Method:

1. First you'll need to spread a general purpose fertiliser through your soil.

2. Next, split your planting bulb into individual cloves. You'll usually get about 10 cloves from a bulb.

3. Plant the cloves, pointy side up, into soil about 2cm deep. Most varieties need planting in October, so they're best planted in a greenhouse or inside on a window ledge, to avoid frost damage.

4. Move outside in March and place gloves at least 15cm apart, with rows about 30cm apart.

5. Water occasionally during dry weather. Do not water for a month before harvesting, as this will help the cloves to ripen.

6. Most garlic will be ready in the summer. See below for a full guide to knowing when it's ready. 

how to grow garlic

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long does it take to grow garlic?

Garlic is known as an overwintering vegetable because most varieties – as the name suggests – are planted around October and are ready to harvest in the summer, usually around July. However, there are some bulbs, like these from Waitrose Garden, which you plant in March and are ready as quickly as August.

The telltale signs to look for are when the leaves begin to yellow and wither.

Garlic bulbs will last for a couple of months if you store them in a cool, dry place.

Where to buy garlic bulbs

Not sure of the best place to buy garlic bulbs? Most garden centres will have them but you can also order them online. Take a look above for the best prices on garlic bulbs today. We rate these retailers:

Uses of garlic and storage options

If you don't use garlic in your cooking already, you're missing a treat! It's a great way to add depth of flavour to everything from curries and stews to pasta dishes. In fact, we can't think of many savoury dishes that wouldn't benefit from the addition of some garlic. 

Cloves of garlic will keep for a couple of months in a cool, dry place. If you have too much garlic to use in that timespan, then you can roast whole bulbs, squeeze out the cooked cloves and freeze in ice cube trays. Alternatively peel raw cloves and blitz in your food processor with a bit of water, then freeze. You can cook either from frozen.

Common problems with growing garlic

Garlic plants can easily be swamped by weeds once they're planted outside, so consider planting through black plastic sheeting to keep weeds at bay.

Birds are the biggest threat to garlic plants. Pigeons are especially partial to a garlic clove, so the RHS recommends using horticultural fleece, which goes over your plants, to deter them. It also means you don't have to buy a scarecrow!

If you notice the leaves of your garlic plants withering in dry weather, it may be a sign of onion white rot, which causes the bulbs and roots to develop white fluffy mould. 

Bright orange spots on your leaves could be a sign of a fungal disease called leek rust. Unfortunately, once you have either disease, there's nothing you can do to save the plants and the soil may remain contaminated for many years, so avoid it by making sure your plants aren't overcrowded.