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The Secret Life of Garlic

Updated on December 8, 2012
garlic plant
garlic plant | Source

Garlic and Healthier Living

Garlic is an amazing plant that can do so many things with. I was introduced to seed garlic by a nursery a few years ago in western PA, as a neighbor that I regularly worked for wanted me to plant some for her. She had a couple of beautiful Macintosh apple trees that produced a lot of apples, but sadly, they were worm-filled. I had explained to her that one of the properties of garlic was that if planted around wormy apple trees, the worms would be eradicated. The other half of the equation is that the apple drops with the worms would also have to be disposed of elsewhere. No point of keeping those worms around to return to the new apples!

Garlic bulbs
Garlic bulbs | Source

A Member of the Onion Family

Garlic is a hardy perennial, and the strongest member of the onion family. Garlic will bloom pink flowers, but may or may not make seed, depending upon the circumstances and the variety.

Consequently, garlic is best propagated with garlic bulbs, or heads that grow underground. The roots will go as deep as two feet. Each head is made up of cloves, which can be dug up and stored like onions. Don’t try to plant grocery store bought garlic, which is usually too dry to plant and give a yield.

Elephant Garlic Plant
Elephant Garlic Plant | Source

Where to Plant

For garlic(or even elephant garlic, if you prefer that), plant in well drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Garlic plants need fertile, moist soil and full sun. They do best with a loose, even sandy soil or high humus soil, so that the bulbs can easily spread out and grow. The optimum planting time is late August to mid-October, as garlic grows best during cool weather, which is fall. It will store energy, which will make the cloves. If you’d rather plant in the springtime, do it as soon as the ground is thawed, probably early March. Garlic will not transplant, so plant it where you want it to grow, which can even be a window box. Don’t plant in a pot, as that is too small.


Planting and Growth

If you plant in rows to share the garlic with others, two pounds of cloves will be plenty for each 50 foot row. There are about 150 cloves to the pound. Plant the cloves with the points face up, 2-3 inches deep, and 3 inches apart. Plant very shallowly if you’re planting on the late end of spring. Each planted clove will yield about 15 cloves in the head. Garlic repels many insects in your garden, and is compatible with most vegetables EXCEPT any legumes. It will inhibit their growth, as well as the growth of flowers, especially roses. Since it takes up little room, you can plant it between vegetables, if you wish. Keep the garlic free from weeds, don’t let them get dry, and loosen the soil around them.

This garlic will be good to braid!
This garlic will be good to braid! | Source

Harvesting and Drying

Once the garlic leaves get a foot high, cease watering. Harvest the bulbs as soon as the leaves die and fall over, which will be around August. Garlic won’t make cloves until the last minute, the last 45 days of its growing season. To speed them up, knock over the above ground shoots 90-110 days after planting. Don’t cut the leaves if you’d like to braid the garlic. In a few days, you’ll be able to loosen the dirt and pull up the entire plant. After digging, wash them well and allow them to sun dry until they are white, which should be in about a week.


Dust off, trim roots, and store in paper or mesh bags. They will stay good for months and if the humidity is low, even longer. Bulbs for a winter kitchen look gorgeous braided together by their stems and hung up.

Cooking with Garlic

Peel the clove’s outer papery layer, and use the clove whole, minced, chopped, or crushed with a garlic press. It can be rubbed on meat, added to salad dressings or tomato sauce, or even roasted as a vegetable.

Or roast an entire head after you trim the tops, in a terra cotta roaster with a little olive oil at 350 degrees for about an hour, but don’t try to speed it up. Garlic will taste bitter if cooked at too high heat. It will smell fragrant when done. There's no need to remove the peel, as you'll do that at the end, when you mash it with a fork and spread it on crackers for a lovely and mild taste sensation. Make sure that you use the roaster as directed. Most of them need to be soaked in water first.

Garlic Powder Recipe

Peel cloves, slice or chop, dry at 120 degrees, then grind, mortar, or pound them into a powder. This will be stronger than what one buys in a store.

Garlic Bread

Mince 3 garlic cloves, mix with ½ cup melted butter, add chopped parsley. Let sit for an hour. Then spread on sliced French bread, heat under the broiler, and serve hot for a taste of heaven.

Garlic Soup

Heat 12 cloves of crushed garlic in 3 cups of whole milk for 8 minutes.

Medicinal Use

Garlic is a great antibiotic. For a sore throat, mix garlic and lemon juice and a sweetening agent mixed in a cup of warm water. For a chest cold, mix garlic juice with a vapor rub. To worm a large cat, give one crushed clove each month mixed in wet food.


For insect and plant blights, blend several garlic cloves with a little water and a tablespoon of soap emulsion or cooking oil. Then strain. Dilute to 1 quart and spray on your affected plants. If you have a bad case of either malady, spray frequently.

This should give you a good start on garlic knowledge. You will learn new things, too, as you experiment with garlic. Have a wonderful experience with it.


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    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, KoffeeKlatch Gals. I adore it roasted, slathered on a plain cracker.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love garlic. I've never tried to grow it before but now I think I might. Great information.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Rural Bulgaria. Oh, garlic is really a prize! Thanks for visiting.

    • Rural Bulgaria profile image


      6 years ago from Bulgaria

      Lovely hub, I adore garlic and find it grows well here in Bulgaria. One of nature's wonders. Thanks

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, same here, Meldz, especially fresh garlic. Thanks for the votes!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I really love the smell of garlic in food and it is healthy too. Thanks for sharing this useful information about how to grow and store them.

      Voted up and useful . :-)

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to hear that your personal garlic has done well, including the scapes. There is never too much garlic in one's life!

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Great info, the only garlic we ate growing up was garlic bread. Since then I use it in my soups, salsas, marinades and sometimes just one whole to keep the vampires away. A friend showed me last year, how to harvest the scapes which we eat too. I used store bought cloves this year (some that I thought were bad that went into my compost) once they sprouted I replanted them in my garden. Here it's middle October and I still haven't harvested them besides the scapes which are still green. I will wait till they turn brown then dig them up, I wonder if I'll get a bulb or two?



    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, precy anza, you might want to start sharing some of those great Asian recipes!

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 

      6 years ago from USA

      We use garlic almost everyday on cooking :) I don't like it much but now I'm learning to and been enjoying fried garlic with peanuts ^-^' I also had use it to treat my oncoming asthma attacks. Voted up!Those are good information about garlic.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Connie. Garlic oil is so wonderful in cooking, too. Thanks for all the votes.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mama Kim, if you use that much, growing your own would make a lot of sense, be more available, as well as cost effective. You would also know where it came from.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      6 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Great info, Deb. I love the garlic scapes, or seed pods, as well. Some I harvest when ripe and give to friends to plant, and some I use in oil to make garlic oil. My friend planted her scapes last fall and had a huge crop of garlic this summer. Voted Up, Useful and Interesting, also shared.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      6 years ago

      I use SOOOO much garlic in my cooking that I really should plant my own! Looks like I just missed out for my area, but I'll be all ready for next year ^_^ Thanks for the fantastic and informative hub! Voting a bunch and sharing

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, kashmir. Yes, garlic has a number of healthful attributes, including heart-healthy ones.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I adore garlic myself, Ghaelach. I always said that you can never have too much in your food...(grin)

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Mhatter, it is wonderful stuff to have on your own property. It will seed if there are any pods, so it might show up where you never planted it. It might even show up at a neighbor's place, if it is carried by the wind.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sorry to hear about the garden. Will there be another one taking its place? Glad that you liked the garlic article.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub with lots of awesome information on garlic and the planting of it. Garlic it also good for you and has some nice benefits to eating it.

      Well done and vote up and more !!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Morning Deb.

      Wonderful hub on one of my favorite foods. Love Garlic.

      It gives your meal that extra kick.

      Unfortuneately it doesn't smell to nice when you greet the ladies with a kiss as we do in Germany.

      LOL Ghaelach

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I LOVE GARLIC! It grows well in SF. The only "problem" I had was once introduced it might be challenging to remove.

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Sadly, the community garden that we had joined last year and planted garlic cloves around first frost had closed down. At least we got our last chance to harvest this fall of the remaining veggies. We had harvested garlic around August and I'm glad I still have some cloves in my kitchen.

      Thank for this useful "garlic" hub, aviannovice.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It might be a little late in the season now, Billy. Glad that you like the article, and I hope it helps you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very useful Deb! We tried garlic for the first time this spring and failed miserably. Of course, we did everything wrong, so go figure. :) We will be ready this next year, though, and maybe we need to do some planting now, huh? Thanks for the info!


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