How to grow garlic at home
Fancy growing delicious fresh garlic at home? You might be happy to learn you can grow garlic indoors on a window ledge as well as outdoors in your garden.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to grow garlic from a clove. There are two ways to get your garlic sprouting – either from soil or in water.
Method 1: How to grow garlic from a clove
Most vegetables are typically grown from seeds. However, to grow garlic plants, you need to plant individual cloves of garlic.
If you plant garlic you’ve bought from the supermarket, it probably won’t suit the British climate. Instead, buy named varieties of garlic from a garden centre or online supplier.
When should you plant garlic?
Garlic needs a period of cold to develop good bulbs, with one or two months at 0-10 degrees C. This means it’s usually planted in late autumn or early winter. Plant garlic cloves between October and February for the best chances of success.
Some varieties are suitable for planting garlic bulbs in early spring. Here are the steps for how to plant garlic at home in soil.
1. Prepare the soil
Garlic prefers a sunny, well-drained spot to grow in. Remove weeds before planting and add general purpose fertiliser at 50g per square metre.
To guarantee garlic-growing success, mix in well-rotted manure or garden compost. You’ll need two buckets of compost per square metre – and halve the quantity of any fertiliser you use. Garlic won’t thrive in acidic soil below pH 6.5, but you can reduce acidity by adding lime to your soil several weeks before planting garlic bulbs.
2. Plant the cloves
Break up your bulbs into individual cloves, leaving the skins on. Nestle them 3-4cm below the ground’s surface, spaced 15cm apart. Make sure they’re the right way up, too. The root end should face downwards, the pointed end upwards.
3. Water your garlic
Throughout spring and early summer, water your garlic during dry spells. This will increase the bulb size. Water at the base of the plant, as too much moisture on the leaves can cause fungal diseases.
Stop watering completely for the last few weeks of growing. To check if your garlic have reached this stage:
- Dig to see whether the bulbs have become large and well formed
- Look for yellowing foliage
4. Garlic plant maintenance
Garlic plants need full sun, so be careful they don’t get shaded by weeds. Remove weeds by hand as they appear – hoeing can damage the bulbs.
How long does garlic take to grow?
To grow your own garlic from cloves with sizeable bulbs can take six or seven months. If you plant your garlic cloves in the middle of winter, expect a harvest between June and August.
How to harvest garlic
Your garlic plant will give you two signs it’s ready to harvest. The garlic flower heads will droop over, and the leaves will turn yellow or brown.
Harvest too early and your cloves won’t have their final growth boost. Pull your plants out of the ground too late and the bulbs will have opened up and won’t store as well.
Carefully dig up the garlic bulbs with a gardening fork, handling them gently so they don’t bruise. Dry plants thoroughly in a single layer, either in the sun or a dry, well-ventilated shed. Drying takes two to four weeks. In the unlikely event you spot mould, use a fan heater to speed up drying.
Once the garlic leaves are crisp and dry, cut off the bulbs and store them in a dry place at around 5-10 degrees C. Your garlic should store for several months.
Can you grow garlic indoors?
You can easily grow garlic as an indoor plant. Just make sure your garlic:
- Has a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom
- Is placed in a sunny spot on the windowsill
- Stays in a dry room
There’s one big difference in how to grow garlic indoors. It’s more difficult in the house to expose the planted cloves to the few weeks of cold they need to start them growing bigger. Instead, you’ll be harvesting garlic greens rather than bulbs. These greens can be chopped up raw to toss in salads, garnish soups and add flavour to stir-fries.
You’ll see the greens appear after just a couple of weeks of growing. When you chop them off, always leave an inch of green shoot on each clove so they continue to grow.
You may still be able to grow full-sized garlic bulbs indoors. If you’re determined to grow them, chill your cloves in the fridge for a few weeks before planting them.
Method 2: How to grow garlic in water
You can grow garlic in water – and this is a great option if you don’t have garden space to grow it in soil.
Similar to growing garlic indoors in soil, you’re unlikely to harvest sizeable bulbs to eat when growing garlic in water. Instead, this method is useful for snipping off garlic greens to use in cooking. Here are the steps for how to grow garlic in water.
1. Select the right cloves
When shopping in a garden centre for garlic to grow, look for cloves with a small green bud at the top of the white clove. These sprouted cloves are more likely to carry on growing greens once you place them in water.
2. Place the cloves in a bowl
Find a glass bowl that holds around 250g of water, or individual glasses. Transparent containers will allow you to watch your garlic sprouting.
Separate garlic bulbs into individual cloves, leaving the skins on. Rest each clove along the sides of the containers with their pointy or sprouted end facing upwards.
3. Add water
Pour about 1 inch of lukewarm tap water into the container – just enough to cover the bottom of the garlic clove. If you submerge garlic cloves, they’ll usually die.
Leave the pot in a very sunny spot for a week. Replace the water when it turns cloudy or dark brown – simply hold the garlic out of the glass and tip the old water away.
If the tops of the cloves wilt or start to turn brown, move the glass out of the sun for one or two days.
5. Harvest the sprouts
Leave the delicate, green garlic shoots to grow until they’re at least 8cm tall. Cut off the shoots with scissors. Only take as much as you’ll use, as garlic shoots lose flavour quickly in the fridge. Your garlic grown in water also isn’t likely to produce more shoots after the first harvest.
Want to know what you can do with your newly-grown garlic? Check out our guide on how to store, prep, and cook garlic.