Freshly harvested garlic

Garlic is a great plant to grow and is suited to both beds and container planting. It’s also super easy and until you have used fresh garlic in the kitchen, you don’t know what you are missing.

Garlic is most definitely a slow growing plant. However, don’t let that put you off as there are just so many different varieties to choose from making it great to grow as a family.

Growing Garlic – The Basics

Child Holding a garlic bulb

When should you plant garlic?

Sowing outdoors: November – April 

Because garlic is so easy to grow, it does have a large window to get it planted in the garden. It is recommended that you plant your cloves before Christmas so that you will get bigger bulbs when it comes to harvest. Once in the ground, there really isn’t much else to do until the spring. Just watch them come through the soil around December time.

What you will need to grow garlic?

Cloves, compost and pots.

Can garlic grow in containers?

Most definitely and if you are short of space, this is a great way to enjoy this wonderful crop. It will grow in a container just as well as it grows in the ground, you just need to give the garlic the right conditions. For the container, you can use multipurpose compost along with some organic fertiliser to make sure that the soil is nice and rich. Make sure that you follow the growing guidelines so that the garlic has enough room for its roots and also for the bulb to swell.

Can garlic grow in the ground?

Young Garlic ShootsIt certainly can. And it will also help later on in the growing season to deter pests that may enjoy eating your other vegetables. You will want to ensure that your soil is rich in nutrients so be sure to dig in some organic matter or some compost where you want to plant it. This is a great activity for the children to help out with. 

If you have lots of birds in your garden, you may want to cover the garlic with some nets as they do enjoy pulling newly sprouting garlic from the ground. This can be devastating when you have waited weeks for it to grow!

How to plant garlic

Garlic can be grown straight into the ground or in containers without the need to do any potting on. It has an extremely versatile sowing window which will allow you to either plant it at the end of autumn / beginning of winter or when the weather has warmed up in the spring. It is recommended that the cloves are planted in November as you will have a better chance at growing larger bulbs and of course enjoying more garlic for the months to come.

Choosing your garlic bulb:

Garlic bulb for plantingYou will want to make sure that the garlic bulbs that you are using are from either a local garden centre or an online nursery. Avoid using varieties from the supermarkets (unless sold to grow) as the bulbs are often grown in warmer climates or are not suitable to grow stock from.

There are many different varieties out there and certainly one to suit everyone. If you want to grow something spectacular, try the elephant garlic. It’s massive! There are also mild and strong varieties depending on the ‘cuisine of the family’. If you are looking to experiment with different garlic varieties, this can be a great activity post harvest.


Split the garlic bulb into cloves

Garlic split into cloves

It is important to complete this task carefully as you won’t want to damage the bulbs. This is great to do with children, especially young ones. It will play on their fine motor skills as they carefully split the cloves from the bulb and realise all of the different sizes.

Once they have been split out, lay them out and count them ready for planting. This will certainly help with the next step to establish how many you will fit into the space that you have. You could lay them out before planting, leaving 10cm in between each one, to get an idea of where you are going to plant them.


Planting the garlic

Planting garlic cloves

Now that you have split the bulbs into cloves, there isn’t much more to do than plant it. With the pointy end of the clove pointing upwards, simply place them into the ground at a depth of 2.5cm

You will want to leave 10cm between each of the plants to allow the bulbs to swell and give the plants some space to grow.

This is a great activity for children and depending on their age, they will be able to get involved in measuring the growing space and also using mathematical skills.

Once the bulbs have been placed onto the ground simply cover them over with the soil used to create the trench and place a marker so that you know where they are planted. Now just to wait for the magic to happen!

Young Garlic Shoots

Growing and caring for garlic

Where does garlic grow?

As seen above, garlic will grow both in ground and in containers as long as adequate room has been left between each plant. Garlic enjoys a position in full sun.

How often should I water garlic? 

Generally speaking, you won’t need to water garlic. If you have a long period of dry weather, be sure to give the plants a good drink – this is especially important if you are growing them in pots. However, don’t make the soil waterlogged as it could result in the bulbs rotting – keeping them damp will be sufficient.

How easy is it to grow garlic?

Easy! This is a plant that you won’t regret growing in your garden. It is extremely easy to grow and if you use it in the kitchen, having fresh garlic on hand is a great advantage. Garlic also makes for a nice display in the vegetable garden.

Harvesting garlic

With garlic being such a slow growing crop, you can might feel a little impatient by the time you are getting ready to harvest. You will want to ensure that you get the timing right as otherwise:

Too early: could result in smaller bulbs and therefore less garlic to cook with

Too late: the garlic may already have started sprouting again – this will limit the time that you are able to store it for use later on.

How do you know when garlic is ready to harvest?

One of the biggest tell tail signs that it is ready for harvest is that the leaves will start to wilt and turn slightly yellow. This is the ideal time to get the bulbs out of the ground. If you planted the garlic in November or December, your garlic will be ready in June or July. If you planted it in the spring, you will be ready to harvest later on in the summer.

Garlic harvested in the garden

How to remove garlic from the ground

When garlic is ready for harvest, the leaves will not be as strong as when they plant was growing. Therefore if you try to harvest the garlic by pulling the leaves, they could detach from the bulb which will make it harder to dry and also damage the crop.

Start by using a trowel around the base of the garlic and gently loosen it. Be careful not to damage the bulbs in the process. When the trowel is underneath the garlic, lift the bulb. You can also gently pull the leaves as the bulb should now be loose in the ground.

Helping to dig garlic from the garden


How to dry garlic

When the garlic comes out of the ground, the leaves will still be green. Simply hang the garlic in bunches in a airy position. When the skin of the garlic bulbs is crispy, the roots and the leaves are dry, they are ready for storage. When they are dry, this is also the best time to clean the garlic as the mud should fall off relatively easy. You will want to ensure that they are clean before putting them into storage.

Garlic hanging drying


How should garlic be stored?

Stored correctly, garlic can b enjoyed for a few months after the original harvest. You will want to store the garlic at room temperature, where there is good air circulation and the conditions are dry and dark. You can use mesh product bags to help get the conditions right.

How do children get involved in growing garlic?

Garlic is very much a plant that can look after itself in the garden environment. Because of this, it is a great plant to get started with for children. Here are many of the ways that children can get involved in planting garlic at home or school.

Preparing the ground

This is a great way for children to get involved in sowing garlic. You will want to ensure that  the soil is well dug over with the addition of compost or organic material. This will involve a number of garden tools and as well as quite a lot of energy. Wellies and wet suit will be a must if the soil is wet!


Planting is relatively easy for garlic. Once you have prepared the ground, you will just need to space the cloves evenly and then cover them over. The rest is left to nature to do its work. There are some great skills that can be learnt here:

  • Measuring the distance between the cloves
  • Measuring the depth of the cloves


Picking any type of vegetable at harvest is certainly an exciting time. Garlic is no exception. Garlic isn’t one of the easiest crops to harvest as you will need to be careful not to damage the bulbs. However, when you’re holding a bunch of freshly harvested garlic in your hands you will have a real sense of achievement.