Store-bought garlic is a popular food product, but many people wonder if they can plant it.
Growing your organic supermarket garlic is more than possible! You only need to know when to plant it in the ground and how to care for it as the seasons change.
Some states do not allow store-bought garlic to be planted, and they require certified bulbs for planting, so always check with your local extension beforehand.
Growing garlic is not as hard to grow as it seems. You can plant your store-bought garlic cloves in a pot or directly into the ground, whichever you prefer.
Store-bought vs. Seed Garlic
Buying garlic from the supermarket has its pros and cons. It's best to buy organic store-bought garlic, as it may have been treated with fungicide or sprayed to prevent sprouting and come in a variety that isn't typically grown successfully at home.
Most grocery stores keep softneck garlic, which has a mild flavor.
When buying garlic seeds/cloves from your garden center, one has a choice over what variety of garlic to select for your area and the guarantee that it will sprout.
Types Of Garlic
Softneck garlic stores very well, and each bulb contains several small cloves. Softneck garlic grows best in hot summers and mild winters.
Hardneck garlic is better in harsher winters and low temperatures, and they have larger but fewer cloves. Hardneck varieties have long flowering stems called scapes.
Elephant garlic is another variety that is technically related to a leek. The large bulb has a mild garlic flavor and is biannual, which means it takes two growing seasons to complete its life cycle.
When To Plant Garlic
The first step to growing your store-bought organic garlic bulb is knowing when the best time to plant this cool season vegetable.
You may plant garlic in the fall for the best results unless you are in a very warm climate such as zone 9 or 10, then plant in November and December.
Most garlic requires sufficient cold temperatures in the winter to develop large bulbs.
Planting in the fall will result in bigger bulbs, whereas early spring planting will produce small bulbs.
Your garlic will establish its root system in the winter and will start dividing into a new head in the spring. When the soil temperature reaches about 60F (15C), the head begins to grow, and as they develop, you will need to keep the garlic cool with mulch, so they have a longer time to grow before the soil heats up and stops their growth.
Once the soil reaches about 90F (32C), the head stops growing.
Planting Garlic Too Early
Early planting of garlic can lead to stunted growth and delayed maturity.
The best time to plant store-bought garlic after fall planting is after the first frost, before everything freezes.
Garlic will survive the harshest of winter temperatures if planted in the fall; planting too early or too late decreases survival rates and reduces bulb size.
Where Should I Plant Garlic In My Garden?
Garlic needs full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. You may have success in partial shade but not full shade.
Plant garlic in your garden or at the base of trees as long as you have enough space to provide it with plenty of sunlight and room for growth; this will help keep pests away from the plants!
Related Article: Grow Herb In Pots Or Ground
How To Plant Garlic
Prepare the soil with some rich compost as garlic likes fertile, well-drained soil. Add in some bonemeal and bloodmeal.
If your garden bed has poor drainage, consider planting in a raised garden bed or a container. Or in the garden bed your soil structure can be improved by adding lots of organic matter.
The rows need to be spaced appropriately so that they have enough room to grow.
I plant store-bought garlic at 5 - 6in (12-15cm) spacing in the row and 8-10in (20-25cm) between rows.
Separate the cloves from the bulb.
Make a furrow in the soil about 3 inches deep and lay them pointy side up.
Cover with the soil and water.
Always mulch with a few inches of dried leaves or any organic mulch to prevent evaporation, protect the cloves from cold and keep weeds away. Garlic does not like to be competing with weeds.
When scapes appear, cut them off when they curl down towards the leaves and use them in your cooking for a mild garlic flavor. Scapes are the curly flower stock that produces bulbils. Removing them will help increase the size of the bulb.
What Is The Best Fertilizer For Garlic?
Garlic is a heavy feeder. Fertile soil will result in the production of the best garlic.
Choose well-composted manure or compost to mix in with your garden soil, with added bone and blood meal before planting garlic cloves to release nutrients over the growing season.
Give them a dose of organic liquid fish or kelp fertilizer every 6 - 8 weeks.
How Long Does It Take For Garlic To Grow From A Clove?
Garlic has a long growing season, and it takes about 180 days from planting to harvesting a garlic crop, giving you many cloves to store from late summer into the winter for delicious winter stews and soups.
How Often Should I Water Garlic?
Garlic likes even slightly moist soil throughout the growing season. Do not overwater, or they may rot.
Watering will depend on your climate and location. In some places, you may only need to water once a week!
Garlic does not like wet feet so make sure the soil is well-draining and never soggy.
What Can I Plant Near Garlic?
Garlic likes a lot of sun, so choose plants with the same growing needs. Plants in this category include: tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, spinach, strawberries and even roses enjoy being planted near garlic.
Garlic repels some insects, and the aroma of the garlic is a natural pest repellent and attracts beneficial insects such as wasps and lacewings.
What Happens If You Leave Garlic In The Ground?
Homegrown garlic can be left in the ground as a perennial. One garlic clove will turn into many cloves after a year or two.
Some people leave the garlic in the ground instead of harvesting and storing it. The bulbs may be smaller because of space.
If left in the ground, each clove will multiply into more bulbs. Start harvesting from the outsides after the second year. These can be used to propagate for your next season's crop.
The garlic left in the ground does not have a strong taste like conventionally grown cloves because they are typically not cured, which leads to a milder and less intense flavor than garlic treated as an annual.
Harvesting And Storing Garlic
When you harvest garlic, make sure the soil is dry and for hardneck garlic, look for leaves that have started to brown and die back, usually mid-summer.
Softneck garlic is ready when the leaves fall over (like onions do when they're ready to harvest).
Stop watering and wait a week or ten days to dry the soil. Tug the garlic out of the soil; it should release fairly easily and loosen the dirt off the papery husk with your hands.
Leave the roots intact and store them in a cool dark place with good air circulation. Hang them up by the garlic leaves. This is the curing stage, where they draw the last nutrients from the stems.
After about two weeks and they have dried, cut the roots off and the stem and store them in a dry cupboard in a paper packet or net bag. Elephant garlic needs to cure for at least 30 days. They store best with moderate humidity at 60-65F (15-18C).
Keep the best clove back for your next fall planting.
Planting store-bought garlic can be a great way to save money and make sure that you always have enough on hand.
Planting them at the correct time will help you get the best harvest of garlic for your kitchen.
Add mulch to keep them cool and weed-free.
Store garlic correctly so they don't rot or get moldy before next year's planting season arrives!
Plant some garlic this fall; you will not be sorry.