Growing Garlic – Yours Large Enough For You?

The first time I ever grew garlic I produced the smallest bulbs of garlic I’d ever seen. I lost interest in growing garlic after that —- at least until last year.

Two things made me decide that garlic was something I definitely wanted to start growing again:

  •  Learning where most grocery store garlic comes from. (See my last post on garlic.)
  •  Learning how to make sure I get large bulbs rather than small ones.

You probably already know the normal stuff like planting 30 days before cold sets in so the roots can get established in soil with good drainage and lots of organic matter. And of course it needs mulch to protect it in the winter and hold moisture.

Now we get to some requirements that a lot of folks don’t know. I mentioned these 3 things in the last post on garlic but they bear repeating because they’re important if you want to get big bulbs:

  • Large cloves make large bulbs; small cloves make small bulbs.
  • Plant about 1 inch deep in the South; 2 to 3 inches in the North because of heaving after a freeze. (Like onions, if you plant garlic too deep you’ll end up with very small bulbs.)
  • Space at least 5 to 6 inches.  Bulb size will be larger if they have enough space.
Music Hardneck garlic just harvested.

Garlic just harvested today.

Choosing the right varieties for you

Even if you do all the things mentioned above — you can still get small bulbs if you don’t get the right variety.

Rather than spend years trying new varieties to see which one will make big bulbs in your garden — search for a supplier who is from your state and grows the garlic you’ll be buying.  They will usually tell you all about that variety on their website.

I did a lot of looking before I ordered last year and found the varieties that other Virginia growers had been successful growing. Finally I chose to order from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  They’re in Virginia and they grow all the varieties that I had choosen.


3 varieties of garlic just harvest - from left to right - Music, German Extra Hardy, Italien soft neck

3 varieties of garlic just harvested – from left to right –  2 Music,  1 German Extra Hardy (the smallest) , 2 Italian soft neck

The Results

I’ve been pleased with the results of my choices.  The Italian Softneck was just the size I wanted it to be.  So was the Music variety which is a hardneck.  The German Extra Hardy (another hardneck) was a bit smaller than the others, but still nice.


Garlic just harvested. From left to right: 2 Italian softnecks; 1 German Extra Hardy – hardneck (the smallest); 2 Music – hardneck.

Saving Enough to Plant this coming October

I’d like to double my planting this year to 120 cloves. That should give me enough garlic to eat for the year and enough to plant the following year.

This year I’ll attempt to save a couple of my biggest bulbs of each variety until October.  I don’t want to break them open any sooner than the day I plant since it promotes dehydration.

If I end up having to break some apart before October (to use the small cloves), I’ll  store the large cloves in the refrigerator until time to plant.  (Once they’re refrigerated, they’ll sprout if you take them out.  That’s something you don’t want.)

Garlic stores well at temperatures from 50 to 60 degrees. (Like onions.)  My storage space ranges from 60 to 70 in the summer — but onions still keep well for me.  Probably the garlic will too. (I’ll cure them first of course.)

Final Thoughts

I hope your garlic harvest was just what you had hoped for.  If not — now is the time to research the varieties you’ll need to make your garlic harvest next year your biggest and best.


For more Information on Growing Garlic:

Growing Garlic – A Good Reason to Grow Your Own


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.


All content including photos is copyright by  All Rights Reserved.


  • Theresa,

    That’s some good looking garlic! Nice job! Being a garlic rookie, I’m curious, approximately how long before harvest were your scapes cut from the hardnecks? Are there any tips you can share, beside the dying leaves that indicate the garlic is ready.

    Thanks, Jack

  • I planted garlic last fall. I live in Zone 5b or 6 depending on what chart you look at. When should I harvest the garlic I planted last fall. I bought some garlic to plant this year. I’ve seen where you can plant in the spring as well as the fall. Is it too late to plant now for a summer harvest or should I wait until fall now to plant. I’ve never grown garlic before so this whole thing is a learning experience. Thanks for any advice you might have.

  • Hi Jack,
    I’m not sure when I cut the scapes — I’m guessing a couple of weeks ago. There’s a lot to be said about the pros and cons of cutting the scapes.

    The main thing about cutting scapes is to cut them before they seed in your garden.

    Professional growers who like their garlic to store longer (since they’ll be selling it all year)— wait until the scape is straight up and just before it seeds. Then after curing — the bulb will keep longer this way.

    Whether or not garlic is ready to harvest is tricky. (At least I’ve found it so.) So many variables each year. When you read about just looking to see if 25% to 40% is brown — for example if you had 8 leaves — when 2 or 3 are brown — the garlic is ready to harvest—– it all sounds so easy.

    I was test digging sporadically from June 3rd on. I was afraid all the rain would ruin my bulbs. It did ruin one — it opened up to expose the cloves rather than remain tight. I still didn’t think mine looked ready to harvest, but when I dug one to see on June 15th and 16th – they looked fully formed and ready. So I harvested.

    Had I had more garlic I would have left some in the ground until into July — just to see the difference.

    The more experience you have in growing something — the more you can go by gut feelings — and delicate details.

    One more thing — you never want to allow too many leaves to die because they’re the wrappers to your garlic. If they die and are left in the ground they are decaying. You want to keep your wrappers to better protect your garlic.

    Hope this answer is what you were looking for Jack.
    Thanks for commenting.

  • Hi Elizabeth
    Too get the best results with garlic you plant in the fall. (Read both garlic posts I have written because there is a lot of information in them. Link to the other is at the bottom of this post.)

    Another TMG reader planted garlic one spring and still enjoyed the results —- it’s just not the same as fall planted.
    I’m not sure if you have enough time now to get a crop or not. If you have extra you might want to plant some just as an experiment.

    Regarding when to harvest — see my answer to Jack’s comment. I think that will answer your question as well.

    Growing is a learning experience for all. Every year is different.
    But if you follow the guideline here and in the other post, you should do just fine.

    Let me know how you do.

  • I hadn’t thought of digging to inspect, I’ll start peeking in on them when things dry up a bit. We’ve had nearly 14″ of rain here since the 1st of June, needless to say it has me a bit worried what’s going on down there.

    Thank You!

  • Definitely dig one ASAP, Jack. With all that rain — they could open up — and you don’t want that.
    Let me know what you find.

  • Poked around in my garlic today after reading this, Theresa. I have bulbs opening up as well as some decent sized ones, I think. I will harvest tomorrow. I read the post about imported garlic aloud to my kids, and they were shocked at all the ‘yucky stuff’ that is sprayed on it. First thing they said to my husband when he walked in the door this evening was, “Theresa says not to get Chinese garlic, and she’s right!!” He then had to listen to the list of ‘yucky stuff’ – you really made an impression around here. Homegrown garlic all the way from now on!!

  • So sorry to hear that your bulbs have opened up Sandra. Let me know the rest of the story after harvest.
    I loved the story about the kids! Will keep me smiling for at least a week!

  • I sacrificed one of the Martins Heirloom and it looks good at about an 1-1/2″ in diameter. No signs of rot or separation either. I actually think it has quite a ways to go before it max’s out as it still seems to be nearly perfectly round (not a clearly divided bulb). I guess the combination of lack of experience+too much rain+a few yellow leaves has me a bit antsy in anticipation!

    I also took one from the “bulbil project”, I was surprised to find a good sized “round”, approximately an inch in diameter. It also looked very healthy. Anyone looking into growing a large amount of garlic economically, should look into bulbils!

  • Garlics don’t look clearly “divided” until they cure Jack. After the wraps stretch from curing —that’s when they look like what most people are use to seeing.

    Just keep checking. Sounds like you’re gonna have some great garlic!
    Thanks for the update. Keep me posted.

  • Great information. Thank you so much. I plan on harvesting the garlic I planted last October today. I pulled some bulbs earlier in the week and they are ready. Not as big this year, so will be on the lookout for larger bulbs to plant come October. Also need to do some checking on varieties for this area. It has been cold and windy here. 48 degrees this morning, I feel a need to run out to the garden and cover the plants with a warm blanket. 🙂

  • Good hearing from you Alice. It’s been a cool spring — but a great one.
    I’m enjoying every minute while I can as the weather forecast is for the 90s next week!
    Enjoy that garlic!

  • A lot of my harvest has some kind of white mold on the bulbs. What might it be and is it safe to eat? Also, where to buy bulbs to plant in Western Pa?

  • My guess is that the white mold is something from all the rain this year. I’ve never had anything like that.
    You need to either call your extension service or talk to another organic grower of garlic and find out if they’ve had the same problem.
    Do some research on the internet as to where to buy bulbs to plant in Western Pa.

  • I like your information on garlic. Some of it I picked up from, which is where I get my organic garlic cloves.
    The thing about planting cloves to deep & getting small bulbs, I learned the hard way.
    This will be my third year getting garlic off the web. I will never buy my bulbs from grocery to plant or eat again.

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