Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow, and learning how to grow garlic is simple. Even better, once you’ve grown it, you can regrow garlic year after year from your own bulbs.
Keep reading for tips for how to grow garlic in any climate, including hot climates like the low desert of Arizona.
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10 Tips for How to Grow Garlic
1. Choose the best garlic variety for your climate
To grow garlic successfully, it is important to choose the variety best-suited to your climate.
Hardneck varieties of garlic are cold-hardy and a good choice for those in cold climates. This type produces a flower stem or “scape” which must be removed for bulbs to fully form. The scape is edible and delicious.
Hardnecks do not store as well as softneck varieties.
Softneck varieties are the best types to grow if you live in a warm climate (like the low desert of Arizona). Softneck types store well and are often braided for storage. The flavor may be less intense than hardneck types.
2. Plan ahead and order garlic early
When it is time to plant garlic, many growers are often already sold out. It’s best to plan ahead and order garlic months before it is time to plant.
- If possible, look for a local grower; they will sell varieties well-suited to your climate.
- Check the ship date of whoever you order garlic from to ensure they ship in time for your preferred planting date. (Note the time needed for vernalization of hardneck varieties in warm climates — see below).
- Many companies begin selling garlic in May and are often sold out by August. Plan ahead and order early.
I’ve had the most success with garlic from Forever Young Farms. They sell softneck varieties well-suited to growing in the low desert of Arizona, and they ship it in time to plant.
It’s best not to grow grocery store garlic. The garlic may not be a good variety for your area and may have been treated with a growth inhibitor.
3. Prepare garlic before planting
If you live in a warm climate and you are growing a hardneck variety of garlic, the bulbs must be vernalized. Vernalize garlic cloves by putting them in the fridge (cloves intact) in a closed paper sack for at least 6 weeks.
Softneck varieties also benefit from vernalization, but it isn’t as critical as for the hardneck types.
If you live in a cold climate and plant in the fall, the bulbs will naturally be exposed to the needed cooler temperatures. No artificial vernalization is necessary.
4. Plant garlic at the right time
Garlic is usually planted in the fall — from September through November. Plant garlic about a month before the soil freezes in cold climates.
The best time to plant garlic in the low desert of Arizona is during the month of October.
5. Choose the best location for planting garlic
Choose an area that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.
Garlic grows best in loose, well-draining soil. Prepare the soil by loosening soil to a depth of several inches.
Raised beds or containers that are at least 6” deep are excellent choices for growing garlic.
Garlic is a heavy feeder. Amend the planting area with compost and a balanced organic fertilizer.
6. Plant garlic correctly
Break apart the bulbs, and soak in a solution of fish and kelp fertilizer and baking soda (1 T of each per gallon of water) for at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
The baking soda has antibacterial benefits and the fertilizer stimulates growth.
Plant with the flat side (roots) facing down and the pointy side (sprouting side) facing up.
Plant cloves 2-3” deep and 4-6” apart. For square foot gardening, plant 9 per square.
Mulch planting area well, especially in cold climates.
7. Care for garlic as it grows
Water well when new leaves are forming. When leaves begin to die back, water less often. It’s best to water garlic deeply, less often.
Garlic is a heavy feeder. Feed monthly with an organic fertilizer while garlic is actively growing.
Cut off flower shoots (scapes) as they emerge to encourage bulb development.
8. Harvest garlic at the right time
Garlic is ready to harvest when about half the lower leaves are brown and the cloves are plump and well-formed. Garlic left in the ground too long will begin to split and the garlic will not store well.
In the low desert of Arizona, garlic is often ready to harvest during the month of May.
Stop watering when the lower 3-4 leaves brown. Dig up a test bulb to check on size.
About a week later, harvest the garlic by gently lifting with a fork rather than pulling.
Do not rinse or trim roots and stems after harvesting.
9. Cure harvested garlic for longer storage
Allow the harvested garlic to cure in a shady well-ventilated area. The ideal temperature for curing is around 75-80°F (this may need to be inside if you live in a hot summer climate like me). Provide a slight breeze with a fan (if possible) if it is indoors.
Softneck garlic can also braided and hung up to cure.
Lay the garlic out in a single layer on a rack or floor, or braid the stems of softneck varieties.
Allow the garlic stems to wither and the papery skins to tighten around the cloves.
Trim roots and trim stems to about 1″ when the necks are moisture-free and completely tight and dry.
10. Store cured garlic properly
- Store bulbs in a dry cool place. A great way to store garlic is in mesh net bags (I use these mesh bags from Amazon) hung up in a cool place.
- Check cloves regularly, and use any soft ones right away. Softneck varieties will store longer than hardneck varieties.
- Save the largest cloves for planting next year. Leave the stored cloves intact.
Roasted Garlic Recipe
Looking for more information about gardening in Arizona? This blog post shares 7 tips for how to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona.