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Growing Garlic

Garlic ( Allium sativum) is good for more than just keeping the vampires away. This cholesterol-fighting super herb can be easily grown to meet the needs of the busy gardener. Historically, it has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes. The origins of this plant are thought to be Central Asia, but this is uncertain as the plant was heavily used in trading along Southern Europe. This onion relative is perfect for raised beds, home gardens, container gardening or herb gardens. Garlic is planted in the fall and is harvested the following summer. Garlic differs from onions, as it forms multiple bulbs, called cloves, instead of one bulb. Each garlic bulb will contain eight to 10 cloves, all separated by a thin membrane.

Varieties Suitable for West Virginia

Garlic varieties can be broken down into two groups: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties are easier to peel and have large cloves. Softneck garlic varieties have braidable stems and tend to store better than hardneck garlic. 

Cultivar Type Comments
Music Hardneck Rich aromatic flavor that makes it one of the most sought after varieties. Plant in full sun. Averages six cloves per bulb.
Elephant Hardneck Bulbs weigh up to 1 pound and have a mild flavor. Bulbs are 4 inches wide and 3 inches long. Averages two cloves per bulb. 
Asian Tempest Hardneck Sweet and tangy flavor when used for cooking. Suitable for cold weather. Averages five to seven cloves per bulb.
Idaho Silverskin Softneck Creamy white garlic on the outside with pink cloves. Large heads, long-storing and well adapted for growing in cold climates. Averages 14 to 24 cloves per bulb.
Inchelium Red Softneck Mild at harvest, but increases flavor during storage, touch of heat. Averages 10 cloves per bulb.

Garlic Production

Soils and Fertilization

Garlic grows best in deep, well-drained soils with full sun and a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Lime may be needed if the soil pH is below 5.8. Garlic performs best in soil with high organic matter and loam or sandy loam texture. Although, garlic can be grown in clay soils with the addition of composted organic matter (OM). For soils low in organic matter, it is recommended to apply compost at a rate of 100 pounds per 100 square feet. A green manure or cover crop may be used to improve OM and should be killed and incorporated into the soil at least two weeks prior to planting. Test your soil and apply the appropriate amendments. Contact your local WVU Extension office for more information on soil testing. Garlic is an ideal crop for growing in raised beds, where you have control over soil or growth medium texture. By adding plenty of composted material and mixing it with the soil or growth medium, a perfect growth substrate could be achieved. Garlic will have nice, lose medium to grow and develop large bulbs.

Garlic is a medium to heavy feeder of nitrogen. At planting, one-third of the nitrogen recommendation should be applied and the remaining as a top dress when shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall. Do not apply any nitrogen to your garlic after May 1, as it could delay bulb formation (bulbing). Nitrogen deficiency is expressed as yellowing of older leaves and leaf tips, poor bulb formation and low yields. 

Phosphorus and potassium needs should be determined through soil testing. All phosphorus and potassium should be applied prior to planting and incorporated into the soil. Phosphorus deficiency includes dark green or purple leaves and stunted growth; potassium deficiency will be shown as scorching of outer leaf tips.  

Calcium and magnesium are needed in small quantities. These nutrients are usually met with the application of a liming material. Sulfur is believed to add to the flavor and medicinal properties of garlic; however, sulfur does not increase yield. Please consult your local WVU Extension office for fertilizer recommendations.  


Garlic is planted from each individual clove, so one bulb of garlic should yield eight to 10 plants. Always purchase your bulbs from a reputable source to ensure survivability. Avoid using garlic purchased from the grocery store since they are sprayed to suppress growth. Garlic requires a six- to eight-week cold period to initiate bulbing – for this reason, garlic is typically planted in the fall one or two weeks after the first killing frost. It takes about nine months between planting and harvesting. Garlic will be harvested in June or July the following summer, so be sure to plant in a location that will not be disturbed. It is important to remove all the flower stalks from the individual plants. Flowers will only rob the plant from the energy required for bulb formation.

Do not break bulbs into individual cloves until you are ready to plant and do not peel garlic cloves. Only large, unbroken cloves should be used for planting. The only tool needed to determine the planting spacing for garlic is your hand and thumb. Plant the cloves thumb deep and the length of your palm apart. If you want to be more technical about it, in-row spacing between the cloves is 4 to 6 inches, while the rows are spaced 6 to 12 inches apart. Plant the individual cloves with the flat side down and the pointy side up at 1 to 3 inches depth. Planting cloves the wrong way will result in a poor crop. 

Water Needs

Like with all plants, proper watering is just as important to your garlic plants. During the growing season, you want to soak the soil thoroughly – at least an inch each week. Frequency of watering will depend on the type of soil you have. Generally, under dry conditions, you may need to water your garlic every two to three days. To encourage large bulb development, prevent disease and staining of your garlic bulbs, stop watering two weeks prior to harvest. 

Mulching and Weed Control

At planting, cover garlic with 2 to 4 inches of leaves, straw mulch or grass clippings to assist with moisture control and protect against winter cold and fluctuating temperatures. In the spring, after the threat of freezing has passed, mulch can be pushed back slightly to help the soil warm quicker and assist with weed control. 

Weeds can easily take over your young garlic plants. To help reduce annual weed growth in your garlic patch, you can mulch with straw, just make sure that it is free from weed seeds. Before applying your mulch in the spring, shallow cultivation will be beneficial in reducing weed populations. 

Insects and Diseases 

Garlic does not have major insect problems. For most insects and vertebrate pests, garlic is a deterrent. The most serious potential insect problem is the onion maggot. Onion maggots will bore into plant stems causing them to turn yellow and wilt. In poorly drained soils, bulb rot will become an issue. 

To minimize disease, only plant healthy cloves, practice crop rotation and keep the bed weed-free. It is strongly recommended to avoid planting garlic in an area that has been planted with onions, chives, leeks or shallots within the last four years. Please consult your local WVU Extension office for proper control measures. 

Harvesting, Curing and Storage

Timing of harvest is very critical. Harvesting too early could result in small bulbs, and the late harvest could result in cloves becoming so large that they separate from the bulb. In most parts of West Virginia, garlic can be harvested from the end of June to the end of July. Harvest should begin when the leaves start to yellow and half of the leaves start to die and bend downwards. A fork should be used to loosen the soil and lift the bulbs, showing care not to damage the garlic or stems. This is especially important if the stems are to be braided together. Yields of 4 pounds or more per 10-foot row should be expected.

After the harvest, leave the shoots and bulbs attached. Knock off any soil and put plants in a warm, dark and dry place for four weeks to cure. Curing is complete when the stem is dry and the skins are dry, brittle and flaky. After curing, cut the shoots an inch above the bulbs and trim the roots.

Store garlic in a dark environment with good air circulation; temperature fluctuations and freezing should be avoided. Ideal storage is in a mesh bag that is placed in an old cupboard or cellar house at 70% humidity. Garlic not being used should stay out of direct sunlight to prevent   sprouting and prolong shelf life. It is not recommended to store whole bulbs in the refrigerator; bulbs should be separated, peeled and stored in an airtight container. 

Garlic cloves can be saved for the following year's seed stock. Choose only healthy and large-size bulbs to plant for the next year’s crop.  


This crop can be easily preserved for later use. Methods of preserving garlic include freezing, drying or infusing with oil. 


The easiest way to preserve garlic for later use is to freeze it. Simply place unpeeled garlic cloves into freezer bags. Minced garlic also can be frozen in oil. The most common method is to freeze it in ice cube trays and use the cubes as needed. This method leaves the garlic a little mushy, but the flavor is not affected. Use this garlic for soups, stir-fries and sauces.


Garlic cloves can be peeled, halved and dried in a food dehydrator following manufacturer instructions. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, the oven can be used. Place the oven at 140°F and allow garlic to bake for two hours or until the garlic is completely dry. Once dried, it can be stored in an airtight container or ground into powder. This powder can be mixed with salt or butter. 

Infused Oil

If you choose to store your raw garlic in oil, it must be refrigerated and used within four days. For longer storage, freeze into cubes, these cubes can be stored for four to six months. 


Garlic is an herb that is fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free. It is an excellent source of selenium, manganese, vitamin B6 and sulfur. Garlic also aids in making the iron in your body available to use. It is essential in Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian dishes, salad dressings, stir-fires and so much more. It can be used fresh or dried – crushed, minced or powdered.


Garlic cloves - grow garlic plants - vegetable seeds and root. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2021, from

Garlic, music. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2021, from

Jett, Campbell, Murray. (2015). Evaluation of Softneck and Hardneck Garlic Produced Within or Without High Tunnels. 

Rosen, C. J., & Tong, C. (2018). Growing garlic in home gardens. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from

McLaurin, Wayne. Adams, David. Eaker, Taft. (2015). Garlic Production for the Gardner. The University of Georgia. Retrieved from

Authors:  Jody Carpenter, WVU Extension Agent - Barbour and Randolph Counties;  Natasha Harris, former WVU Extension Agent; and  Jesica Streets, former WVU Extension Agent - Tucker County.

Last Reviewed: March 2021