Garlic is a cool-season perennial grown as an annual; part of the Amaryllidaceae family, closely related to onions, chives, leeks, and many ornamental plants including agapanthus and daffodils. Hundreds of garden varieties are available that aren’t sold in markets, with varied pungency, color, flavor, and more. Garden garlic has two subspecies: 1) Softneck garlic (var. sativum) with artichoke, silverskin, and creole types. It produces larger yields of mild-flavored bulbs (that may be hot or spicy), store well, and may be braided for hanging. 2) Hardneck garlic (var. ophioscorodon) with rocambole, porcelain, purple-strip, and Asiatic/turban types. It has stronger and more complex flavors with shorter storage life for bulbs; and produces edible flower stalks called “scapes.” Hardneck garlic is rarely grown successfully for bulbs in California home gardens because it requires vernalization (cold weather) and a long day length with cool temperatures for bulbing.
Grow only softneck garlic in warm-winter California areas. For artichoke varieties, try Inchelium Red, vigorous and productive, with mild flavor; or Lorz Italian, a spicy heirloom that tolerates hot weather. Silver White is a silverskin variety that stores well and also tolerates hot weather, but with a longer time to harvest.
The best availability of seed garlic (cloves and bulbs) is in a narrow window from about September through November, and it may be hard to find the rest of the year. Preorder in July or August for best selection. Softneck garlic only is normally planted during fall in warm-winter California areas, often from September through late November in frost-free areas.
For best yields, avoid planting garlic sold at markets or as food because of higher likelihood for plant disease and possible treatment to inhibit sprouting.
Garlic is a moderate feeder that prefers loose, well-drained soils high in organic matter at pH of about 5.8 to 6.8.
Garlic rarely thrives when planted into heavy or infertile soils; plant into fertile soil or use raised beds.
See Soil and Microclimate Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic for additional information on the soil needs of softneck garlic.
It grows and bulbs best in full sun during cool weather of about 50°F to 75°F. See Soil and Microclimate Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic for additional information on the microclimate requirements of softneck garlic.
Garlic tolerates light frost, but plants may perform and yield best when covered with sheets of paper, plastic, or cardboard during frosts. Provide sufficient water and shade during heatwaves. See GardenZeus Tips for Shading Vegetables During Hot Weather
Garlic is easy and rewarding when its simple-but-important seasonal and cultural needs are met. Garlic needs cool weather, and has a long growing season, usually about 5 – 8 months depending on variety and growing conditions. Grow softneck varieties only in warm-winter areas. Store seed garlic (cloves and bulbs) until planting without breaking up bulbs and in a cool, dry, dark place with air circulation, such as in braids or in mesh bags (not in a refrigerator).
Plant garlic into previously irrigated/moist soil. Garlic is not drought tolerant; it yields best with sufficient watering in consistently moist soil. Rainfall in most California areas from fall through spring is insufficient for garlic, and it usually needs supplement water at all times other than during periods of steady or heavy rains and for periods of a few days to a week or longer afterward. Be careful not to over-water. Garlic bulbs may become diseased or rot in standing moisture or wet soils, which can be common in heavy or clay soils.
Maintain consistent soil moisture. Avoid watering with sprinklers. Prevent wilting. Walking on soil or working near garlic plants, especially when soil is wet after irrigation or rain, may compact soil and encourage diseases.
The best method for watering garlic is generally drip irrigation, especially in heavy soils, which allows for infiltration of water over time. Consider installing drip irrigation before planting, which can save hassle and damage to plants later on. See Watering Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic for complete information on watering softneck garlic.
When garlic is planted during the appropriate growing season and a few simple-but-important cultural needs are met, it can be easy to grow and among the most rewarding of garden vegetables. SeeGrowing Garlic in the California Home Garden for complete instructions for planting softneck garlic.
For recommended spacing of softneck garlic, see Spacing and Harvest Timelines for Softneck Garden Garlic
Garlic has a long growing season, usually about 5 – 8 months, depending on variety. Garlic has a long growing season, usually about 5 – 8 months, depending on variety. See Spacing and Harvest Timelines for Softneck Garden Garlic for a complete discussion of harvest timelines for Softneck Garden Garlic.
Because we eat the cloves of garlic plants, we are not concerned with pollination.
Companion plants for garlic include beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savory, leeks, and chamomile.
Consider maximizing your garden space by inter-planting rows of garlic with quick maturing crops, such as cilantro or lettuce, that will not disturb the roots of your garlic plants.
Garlic benefits from supplemental nitrogen about once per month in most soils for the first few months (before bulbing); avoid adding nitrogen during the last 2-3 months before harvest. See Garlic Care and Maintenance in the California Home Garden for a complete discussion of the nutrient needs of softneck garlic.
See Garlic Care and Maintenance in the California Home Garden for recommendations regarding mulching softneck garlic.
GardenZeus does not recommend pruning, cutting back, pinching or separating softneck garlic plants.
From cloves. GardenZeus generally recommends untreated, organically grown cloves.
Garlic makes an excellent container plant. GardenZeus recommends a soil mix of at least 50% sand when growing garlic in containers. Potting soils with high proportions of organic matter tend to shrink and collapse over the course of a growing season as soil microbes and macro organisms like insects digest or decompose the organic matter, which results in falling soil levels and possibly insufficient soil depth for garlic.
Garlic has a long growing season, usually about 5 – 8 months, depending on variety. See Spacing and Harvest Timelines for Softneck Garden Garlic.
See GardenZeus Tips for Shading Vegetables During Hot Weather
See Harvesting and Curing Garlic for complete instructions regarding harvesting and curing softneck garlic.
See Harvesting and Curing Garlic for additional harvesting tips.