Growing Tutorials

Growing Garlic – Questions and Answers

Dried garden garlic in a basket

Seed garlic clove

Growing garlic is one of my favourite jobs in the vegetable garden, it is pretty much trouble free to grow and adds wonderful  flavours to our home cooking. Homegrown garlic comes in a wide range of varieties with subtle differences in taste and strength giving a much broader choice than the standard shop bought bulbs.

I thought you might be interested in some answers to questions we are frequently asked on the Quickcrop site which I hope you will find helpful if you are interested in growing this very rewarding crop.

Dried garden garlic in a basketDoes garlic only grow in hot countries?
Garlic grows just fine in cooler climates like Ireland and the UK though many people assume it is only a Mediterranean crop. Garlic does need to be planted in full sun but there are varieties that are bred specially for colder, more Northerly gardens.

There is also some evidence that garlic adapts to local conditions. Keep the best of your garlic cloves for use as seed garlic next year to produce your own personal strain perfectly suited to your garden!

White Chinese garlicCan I plant garlic bought in the Supermarket?
Technically you can but with the following words of caution: Shop bought varieties can carry disease which may effect later crops, it is best to use certified disease free seed garlic.

You may also find white shop bought varieties were grown in much warmer parts of the world and won’t be well suited to your climate.

What is Elephant garlic?
Elephant garlic is not actually true garlic but is technically a variety of leek. Bulbs look very similar to garlic but are very large; one clove of elephant garlic can weight the same as a full bulb of normal garlic. Flavour varies from mild to strong, cloves are particularly delicious roasted.

Seed garlic for plantingWhen do I plant garlic?
Autumn planted garlic grows larger bulbs. It stands to reason I guess as the bulbs are in the ground longer than the Spring planted varieties. The time for Autumn planting is September till early December weather permitting. Garlic can also be planted in the Spring but make sure you use a variety suitable for Spring planting.

Why does garlic need to be planted in cold weather?
Garlic needs 30-60 days exposed to temperatures of 1-10 degrees celsius for the single clove you planted to form a bulb of new cloves. If the bulbs are planted too late in the Spring (when it’s too warm) they may grow as one single large clove.

Garlc sown in modulesDo I plant garlic direct in the ground?
Provided you have a well drained site garlic is planted straight into you garden soil. If you have a heavy clay soil which is prone to waterlogging in Winter grow garlic in raised beds to avoid cloves rotting in the ground. If you don’t have raised beds you can also sow garlic in modules or small pots which can then be planted in their final positions next Spring. Keep module sown garlic outdoors to expose them to low temperatures but move to a cold frame or unheated greenhouse if hard frosts are expected.

Can I plant all the cloves in a bulb of seed garlic?
Yes but the size of the cloves will effect the size of the finished bulb. I would avoid the skinny ones at the centre of the bulb and only use the more plump cloves from around the outside. Avoid any that look soft or damaged as they may harbour disease.

Planting garlic clovesWhich way up do I plant a garlic clove and at what depth?
Plant garlic with the flat end of the clove facing down, this is where the roots will emerge from. Plant up to 10cm deep on light soils but shallower on heavy soils with at least 2.5cm of soil covering the bulb.

What is the recommended planting distances for garlic?
Recommended optimal spacing when planting out is 17cm all round or 10cm between cloves in rows 25cm apart. I use my ‘Growgrid D’ planting mat which has a spacing of 15cm all round and produce excellent size bulbs. The advantage of Growgrid is you will have minimum weeding to do which is an advantage with shallow rooted garlic as heavy hoeing can damage roots.

Burnt wood produces potashDoes garlic need to be fed?
Garlic does well with an application of potash when planting. If you burn wood in an open fire, stove or have a garden bonfire you can work the fresh ash into the soil when planting. Do not use turf or coal ash.

Avoid adding fresh manure when planting; garlic is happy with a moderate level of soil fertility. An application of well rotted garden compost or ‘Envirogrind’ is ideal. If you have an acid soil add lime to raise the pH.

Freshly harvested garlicWhen do I harvest garlic?
Garlic is harvested mid to late Summer when the leaves start to turn yellow, unlike onions do not wait for the foliage to fall over. You are better off harvesting garlic too soon rather than too late as bulbs can shatter or sprout if left too long. Bulbs can be deeper than you expect so lift carefully with a fork. Once lifted handle gently as bruised or damaged specimens won’t store well.

How do I store garlic?
Dry garlic for 7 to 10 days outside preferably in a warm sunny position. If conditions aren’t suitable use a greenhouse, polytunnel or south facing porch with plenty of ventilation. Stalks can be plaited to produce a very attractive braid which should keep for 6-12 months if hung in a dry frost free position.

Where can I buy seed garlic for home growing?
I thought you’d never ask! From us of course! We stock a broad range of bulbs both for Autumn and Spring planting all available online on Quickcrop.ie, I include the link to our garlic and onion shop (which also includes Autumn planted onion sets).


  1. Trudy Melvin

    Hello, I did not take the straw off my garlic and when I harvested the bulbs it did not have a nice papery wrap. Can this garlic still be used in any way?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Trudy

      It sounds like you harvested your garlic a little late. Yes, you can still use the garlic, it just won’t store as well.
      I hope this helps

    1. Andrew

      Hi Shedea

      How long has your garlic been in the ground? Where are you located? If the plant has been growing for 6-8 months it may be ready for harvest so the leaves will die back naturally. If this is the case dig carefully around the sprout to see if there is a new garlic bulb under the ground.
      I hope this helps

  2. DIana

    My garlic plants have something like a bulb at the top of the scape, is this correct or should I have cut it off when it first started forming?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Diane
      Hardneck varieties produce a flower head at the top of the scape. If the scape has straightened your garlic will be ready to harvest. The scapes are also delicious steamed and served with butter so don’t waste them if you are cutting them off. You can cut the scapes off when them first form, is is thought to increase the size of the bulb if you do this but I have not noticed much difference.
      I hope this helps

  3. Rudy

    My elephant garlic made beautiful cloves but they are so bitter raw I tried cooking in butter to see if that helped but it was still bitter I waited so long please tell me what happened the ground was very dry at harvest time since we hadn’t had rain for a while

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