How To Grow Garlic

Garlic is a great, easy little plant that can really help out your garden while it grows, is a key ingredient in loads of dishes and keeps those pesky vampires at bay.

Originally grown in central Asia it has been part of our diets for thousands of years and with a little care and attention you can have your very own supply to dry and enjoy for months. So without further ado read on for complete instructions on how to grow your own.

Quick Guide

Perennial or Annual 

Very Hardy
Full Sun
Slightly Damp

Plant 15cm apart

up top 60cm tall

garlic bed


There are two different types of garlic; soft and hard-necked. The difference is based on the stiffness of the stem just above the bulb.

As a general rule hard-necked are hardier and more suited to British weather but there are now so many different varieties you will be able to find plenty of both types to grow.

Purple Wight

As a general rule hard-necked are hardier and more suited to British weather but there are now so many different varieties you will be able to find plenty of both types to grow.


As a general rule hard-necked are hardier and more suited to British weather but there are now so many different varieties you will be able to find plenty of both types to grow.

Solent White

Very attractive bulbs that are well adapted to the British climate. The bulbs store well into the following spring.


The pretty pink cloves of this garlic are strong in flavour and store well.


Garlic enjoys well-drained soil with plenty of well-rotted organic matter (fresh manure can burn the fragile roots) so make sure if you are using manure as fertiliser add it to the soil a good few weeks before planting your garlic. 

You can also plant garlic in pots as long as you leave about 10cm of room around each garlic clove as you plant. The soil is better being slightly alkaline so if you have acidic soil then add some ash from a fire in with your compost to swing the Ph in the right direction.

Garlic with mulch


When growing as an annual crop, garlic needs to be sowed in late autumn – early winter to give the cloves a nice cold spell before they flower. Harvest once the leaves begin to turn yellow and wilt in early-mid summer.


  • A sunny and sheltered spot
  • Make sure compost is well rotted for nutrients and soil texture
  • When separating cloves from the bulb keep as much papery skin on as possible. This protects the clove during germination.
  • Place each clove 15cm from other plants and place the clove about 5cm deep with the pointy end pointing up.

companion planting

Garlic is a friend to most plants and makes a great companion as it deters pests and acts as a natural fungicide. It does particularly well when planted alongside shallow-rooted plants such as lettuce which fan out and fill the gaps between your garlic plants suppressing weeds as they go.

Personally, I like to scatter my garlic plants throughout my garden where the conditions are right for them but they get on very well with fruit trees, cabbage, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and cane fruits, such as blackberries and raspberries.

Beans, peas and asparagus do NOT get on with garlic so keep them well away from each other. Sage and parsley can stunt garlic growth so these are also best kept separate.


  • Water well during spring if the rain doesn't do the job for you and mulch with well-rotted compost or straw
  • Don’t forget to trim the “scapes” if you’re growing a hard-necked variety (the garlic alternative to a flower) to ensure all the energy of the plant is put into making those garlic cloves nice and big. There are lots of recipes online for using the scapes once you’ve cut them off.
  • Stop watering once the leaves start to yellow a couple of weeks before harvest to allow the bulbs to harden up.


Knowing when to harvest your garlic is one of the most tricky things about the whole process (which let’s face it has been easy as pie until now) if you are growing a hard-necked variety then when the scapes appear you have about a month until harvest but mostly you’re gonna have to trust your gut.

Just check the information specific to your variety and keep an eye on the leaves around that time. When they start to yellow and wilt then stop watering for a couple of weeks (make sure not all the leaves have turned yellow) and you’re good to go but you can always just uproot one bulb first to double check.

To remove the bulbs from the ground carefully; loosen the soil with a fork and then very lightly pull on the stem while using your other hand to scoop the bulb out the soil. The stems can snap quite easily so loosening the soil first and supporting the weight of the bulb is important.


Once harvested any soil must be brushed off the garlic, but don’t wash it (you’re about to dry your garlic out so getting it wet is kind of counterproductive). You then need to dry or cure your garlic for about three weeks in a cool place that is out of direct sunlight and with good wind circulation. Once dried properly garlic can be stored in a cool dark location for up to 6 months.


Growing as a perennial

Now while reading this you may be been thinking to yourself “that’s funny I’ll be planting garlic when harvesting my other crops and vice versa.” That’s because garlic is actually a perennial that gardeners traditionally grow as an annual. I think that tradition may be one of the only reasons that this is the case.

I came across the idea of growing garlic as a perennial this summer when I visited a friends allotment and saw a rather exotic and enormous garlic plant; it was glorious! The best thing about it is that it was a complete accident. They had been growing garlic in the traditional way and had simply missed a few cloves when they came to harvest. Left unattended for a couple of years the plant thrived and has now become a very reliable source of garlic cloves and leaves.


So if you have the room and patience plant a whole bulb together in a quiet corner. Apart from making sure it’s alive and giving it a water and mulch now and then just LEAVE IT ALONE.

It will take a few years but that really is how easy it is. After a while (two to three years so it IS a while) you will have a nice big bushy clump of garlic leaves. Underneath these leaves will be a large healthy clump of garlic bulbs. You now have a few different options.

Every winter you can dig down and remove some of the garlic cloves (with the greenery attached so caution and a gentle touch is required) break apart and plant as annuals. You can also leave all the scapes attached (usually removed to divert all the energy to the garlic bulbs) and allow them to develop into small cloves of fresh garlic hanging in the air. These can either be used in cooking or planted on as annual garlic.

In essence, finding a space for a perennial garlic plant has been moved sky high on my garden to-do list for three main reasons:

  • I know I will always have garlic that can be harvested for cloves to eat or plant. Pretty handy in case of a zombie apocalypse.
  • Perennial garlic patches can be an awesome permaculture pest control strategy.
  • It's just plain pretty. Who needs fancy flowers when you can have a beautiful exotic looking curl of garlic scapes in a perennial bed?

So there you have it! Now you know everything you need to know about growing garlic. If you fancy reading more about garlic check out some of the recipes and articles below:

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our article and that it has inspired you to turn your green hands to a new challenge. We’ll keep updating our site with more information, ideas and tips to grow the blog into a truly great resource and we need you to grow with us! 

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