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Growing Garlic the Organic Way

Updated on September 30, 2013

Garlic from Your Garden to Your Table

One of my favourite hobbies is growing my own vegetable garden. Garlic has become a mainstay in our diet for many good reasons. Our garlic is fresh and tastes a whole lot better than store bought garlic. We include this wonderful tasting veggie in a variety of dishes not only for its taste but as well for its many health benefits. I will share with you my step by step planting, growing, harvesting and storage methods. You do not have to be an expert farmer and live on a farm to grow healthy flavourful garlic. I have a real nice garden right here in the city so this is about you the urban gardener. If you have a bit of room even in a flower bed then garlic will have a home in your garden. We grew 384 garlic this year not only for our use but its always nice to share with family and friends. You can take this fine herb to a homeless shelter where flavour and good health can be a part of some ones next meal.

Preparing Your Soil and Planting Your Garlic - Tips on Growing Organic Garlic

Planting bed ready for planting 120 garlic 3 inches apart
Planting bed ready for planting 120 garlic 3 inches apart

Northern climate gardeners should plant their garlic in the early fall. Your garlic will put down roots and will winter over quite well, giving your garlic that early spring start that is important to ensure lots of large cloved garlic that will be part of so many healthy tasty meals all winter long.

So lets get started, I will take you through the fall planting procedures that I do and you can expect great results from these time tested ideas so you can have your own garlic that's fresh and tasty year around.


Your garlic will like soil with good drainage so I have added a bit of sandy loam to my soil. This will keep your soil well aerated to ensure great plant growth. Now comes the organic part, if you compost your organics, which I do then you will have the natural nutrients your garlic will need to ensure healthy plant growth. Add about 2 inches of your compost materials to your soil. Bone meal is another good soil amendment that ensures good healthy and strong root production. I sprinkle a few handfuls uniformly over the entire planting bed. Mix all your soil and its amendments together and then level off your planting bed, a rake is a good garden tool to use and your done. Well almost now its time to plant your garlic.

Step # 2 Planting Your Garlic:

This is your very first year for planting your very own garlic crop and have gone out and purchased your garlic seed. Hard neck varieties do well in northern climates, where as soft neck varieties are better suited for southern climates. Note: When you buy garlic in your local grocery store its usually a soft neck variety that you are buying. Majority of the worlds garlic is grown in China so the motivation for growing your own garlic is that you minimize your carbon footprint. Its important that you purchase your garlic from a local garden shop and not use the garlic from a grocery store because it may not be suited for garlic seed.

The larger bulbs are best suited for planting purposes because the cloves are large and grow well producing larger garlic. Here is a bonus; after your first crop is harvested you can cut the cost of growing down to almost no cost at all, you now have your own garlic seed. Take your garlic bulbs and brake them apart into individual cloves taking care not to disturb the outer protective skin that surrounds your garlic.

I plant my garlic in a grid format. This follows the planting instructions that you would find in a square foot gardening book which I like to use as it utilizes garden space very well. Plant your cloves 3 inches apart in the grid format. Just as a helpful hint, lay your garlic out onto the top of your bed first to get the planting pattern down. Now you are ready to actually plant your crop. Each clove of garlic has a pointy end and a root end so its quite easy to identify which end is up. The pointy end always is up. You can push your garlic seed into the soil to a depth of 1 1/2 to 2 inches and once it is all planted you can then hand cover your garlic. Give it a watering at this stage and let mother nature do her magic. Your garlic will put down some good roots and will winter over quite well.

Step # 3 Protecting Your Garlic Seed Over The Winter:

As summer fades away and the fall shadows creep in over your newly planted garlic bed your next step will be to cover your bed with a protective coating. I like utilizing my leaves for this purpose, you can use leaves or maybe you have access to straw which acts as a good insulator. Note: Never use hay for insulation as it contains seed that will cause weed and grass problems in your garden. Mulch your leaves with your lawn mower or use a Mulcher if you have one. Cover your entire planting bed with a blanket of mulched leaves to a depth of two inches. The fall work is done now we can wait for spring and the new shoots of garlic will push its way upwards to meet the warm spring sun.

Gardening Essentials - Helpful Gardening Supplies

All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook
All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook

Here is a nice addition for you all those fresh garlic and vegetables finding a home on your dinner table.

All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space
All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space

This is one of my favourite gardening books. You will love it.

Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons
Preserving: The Canning and Freezing Guide for All Seasons

This is a good resource for all your food storage needs.


Spring Time And Your Garlic Has Reached Out To The Sun - Spring and Summer Care and Maintenance

Garlic Scapes
Garlic Scapes

Your mulch that you covered your planting bed is a good thing to leave in place as it will provide a good shield from garden weeds and it will keep in the moisture. I do however take a bit of it off just to help the garlic shoot through easier.

Step # 1 Weeding:

Your garlic like any other plant likes you to manage three basic things, it needs weeding, watering and fertilizing. Lets start with the weeds, firstly lets say you kept your cover of mulched leaves in place so your weeding will be easy, just keep an eye out for those pesky weeds and pull them out as they appear. Just a side note: I would not put your weeds in your compost but your garbage can works well for weed disposal.

Step # 2 Watering:

Water your garlic quite well every second or third day, do not let them dry out and do not over water either. keep a good steady water supply coming all spring and summer.

Step # 3 Fertilize:

Fertilize every two weeks, I like a good general purpose organic vegetable fertilizer that is formulated for good root and bulb production. Your local garden shop will help and assist you in choosing the right fertilizer for the job.

Step # 4 Managing:

It really is that simple your garlic will grow over the summer and into the early fall to a height of about four feet or more. O.k what are those green bulb shoots all about in the picture? Those shoots that you see growing are your garlic are called scapes. They are producing seed and its important that you remove them as it takes away energy to the garlic bulbs and they will not grow as big as they should so brake off those scapes. You have now garlic that you can use in salads and other dishes like soups, stews etc. Simply chop up the shoots including the bulbs and add it to your dishes. Store your scapes in your refrigerator and they will last for quite awhile.

Your last step is your harvest in the late summer or early fall.

Tips for Cutting Garlic Scapes:

1. No damage by taking a number of scapes to eat, however do not wait till they are massive. Most of the scapes I see available are larger than the four-to-six inches long that they ought to be for best flavour and texture.

2. Also,no damage to the garlic is done when you cut some for a vase either, however do not take them too early. If you wait till the flowering heads become well developed you will get, a good selection of tasty scapes.

3. The head of the scape contains small garlic grains that may be used whole or unpeeled in lieu of minced garlic (for a couple of weeks or so, once the the skins toughens).

4. Also the clump of little spherical bulbs, known as topsets, that may be kept all winter long then planted close together in early spring to provide the garlic equivalent of scallions.

The Final Result Garlic Harvested and Drying in the Sun - Garlic Harvest

Garlic Harvested and Drying
Garlic Harvested and Drying

Well here is the end result of your garlic bed. This all started last fall when you planted your garlic bed and later after planting you covered it up with the fall leaves from your yard. In our garden it wintered very well and we ended up with 384 garlic bulbs. Well I know that's the end result it was worth the effort wasn't it. You have done all the work to prepare your soil for planting, you have planted your garlic patch,and wintered your garlic, and have done your spring and summer care and maintance, feeding your garlic,weeding, watering,using your garlic shoots and saving seed for your next planting. Sounds like a lot but it really is easy and you will be very happy with the best tasting garlic ever.

Step # 1 Pulling Your Garlic

You have stopped watering for the last week to ten days and have allowed the soil to dry out. Your garlic is ready for harvest when the tops start to dry out and turn brown from the bottom of the plant up. You can use an hand trowel tool to loosen the soil and you can then easily pull the garlic bulb out. Gently shake off as much soil as you can and lay it out on the ground to dry. Note: Do not rinse off the garlic with water to remove the soil as this will shorten its storage life. Leave it out to dry for a week or two if possible, but if it rains in excess then bring it into a dry place where its well aired. I put mine in a gazebo to complete the drying process. I braided my garlic in bunches of twelve and just hung it over a rope that I strung out in the enclosure. After its dry you can snip off the plant tops and gently brush off the remaining soil and cut off the roots with scissors. I use mesh bags to store my garlic in the storage area in my basement, simply hang them up to finish the drying process. Enjoy you garlic all winter long.

Gardening Essentials - Growing Garlic the Organic Way

I have given you a few self help gardening books that will help you to get started in your Organic Urban Garden. A couple of great cookbooks and a good quality garlic press and your set. Happy gardening, tasteful dishes and your good to go.

Teaming with Microbes; The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web
Teaming with Microbes; The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web

Great book for understanding organic soils and preparing your garden to grow organic food.

The New Organic Grower
The New Organic Grower

This is a great gardening guide book.

Garlic, Garlic, Garlic: Exceptional Recipes for the World's Most Indispensable Ingredient
Garlic, Garlic, Garlic: Exceptional Recipes for the World's Most Indispensable Ingredient

All that garlic needs a home on your dinner plate. Here is 200 recipes to choose from


Growing Organic Garlic Summary Page - Listing What You Need To Do From Planting To Harvest

Garlic Late Summer Ready To Harvest
Garlic Late Summer Ready To Harvest


1. Ensure soil is well drained ( add sandy loam if needed ).

2. Add in about 2 inches of organic compost materials.

3. Mix well and level out your planting bed.

Planting Your Garlic:

1. Plant in a grid 3 inches apart.

2. Lay out your garlic on top of soil to get the spacing right.

3. Plant garlic pushing in the cloves with pointy end up 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep.

4. Hand cover your garlic into your bed.

Wintering Your Garlic

1. Use mulched leaves or straw if available ( never use hay ).

2. Cover your bed to a depth of 2 inches

3. Cover up just after your first frost.

Springtime and Summertime Procedures:

1. Leave mulch on your garlic bed, you can move a bit away if you choose

2. Weed your garlic bed as required, the mulch keeps the weeds from growing.

3. Water your garlic every two to three days ( don't let it dry out ).

4. Fertilize every two weeks ( pick out a good organic fertilizer that is in liquid form for easier application).

5. When the scapes grow on your garlic break them off ( use scapes in salads and other dishes ).

Harvesting Your Garlic:

1. When you see the stalk turning brown from the bottom up to about 1/3 rd. up plant stop watering for 2 weeks.

2. Using a trowel or other tool loosen the soil and pull out your garlic.

3. Gently remove a much soil as possible ( do not use water to remove soil) and lay out in the garden to dry.

4. If rain occurs then put garlic in bunches and hang out to dry in a sheltered open to the air spot.

5. Brush off the remaining dirt on the bulbs, cut off stalks,cut off roots and store in mesh bags.

Additional Information:

Northern climates plant hard neck garlic and southern climates use soft neck garlic. Southern climates will normally plant in early spring and harvest in the late fall. Northern climates will plant in early fall and harvest in late summer to early fall. Be sure to use larger bulbs for replanting and use garlic cloves from your first harvest for your next planting saving you from having to buy garlic each year for planting.

Some of My Favourite Varieties of Garlic:

1.Bogatyr Organic Fall Garlic

Hot and spicy. Not for the faint of heart, this amazing garlic has a super fiery, spicy flavour that garlic lovers will adore. The flavour holds up well in cooking and the 4-7 extra large cloves per bulb are beautifully striped in dark purple. Perfectly suited for cold climate gardening.

2.Legacy Organic Fall Garlic:

German Heirloom. A beautiful heirloom garlic that came to Canada in the 19th century with German immigrants. Legacy's flavour is classic, rich and particularly spicy when fresh, but mellows with storage. Legacy typically produces 8 or 9 good sized cloves and thrives in cold climates.

3.Music Organic Fall Garlic:

Big cloves with bold flavour. Music is beautiful hardneck, porcelain garlic. White parchment skin and a slight blush of pink. 5-7 large cloves. A hardy variety which stores well.

I would like to acknowledge Vesey's Seeds in Prince Edward Island Canada for their high quality garlic seed as well their other gardening seeds and plants. They do ship to other countries as well. Well that's my tips on growing garlic. I hope you have enjoyed the gardening tips. I will be looking at growing other vegetables in the future so watch for my next post. Enjoy!

Moosewood Restaurant Cookbooks
Moosewood Restaurant Cookbooks

I thought I would add a recipe or two for you to try. This recipe is form one of my wife's cookbooks which is Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates.Very nice cookbook.

Assertive herbs,garlic,and vinegar give zest to this versatile rub.

Prep time: 10 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: Yields 1 Cup


  • 1/4 Cup Minced or Pressed Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Rosemary (1 Tablespoon Dried )
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Oregano ( 2 Teaspoons Dried )
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Thyme
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • or to taste


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Let sit for at least 5 minutes so the flavors develop. Rub the mixture directly on the foods to be grilled.
  2. In a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, Herbed Garlic Rub will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
Cast your vote for Herbed Garlic Rub

Growing Garlic

Here is a short video on planting garlic.

The end result is garlic all winter long.

This is a helpful instructional video

Great tasting shrimp, enjoy!

Growing Garlic and Garlic Storage - Garlic for Health and Fitness

I just know you have something to share and it would be great if you would share some of your experiences in gardening. So join in on the conversation please.

I Look Forward To Your Comments - Great Comments Brings Great Results

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    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 

      4 years ago from Virginia

      Where have you been al my life!! LOL! :D Love this lens and will be sure to follow it to the letter! I featured it on our Facebook page today.

    • Womansfavourite profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @SgtCecil: Hi Cecil so glad you liked the Growing Garlic Lens. I plan on adding a bit more to it in the future addressing different methods of storage. I was in the Canadian Army from 1970 to 1978.

    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      4 years ago from Osaka, Japan

      Great lens! I'm an expat in Japan and garlic is expensive. I might have to grow my own. Thx for the info!


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