Starting garlic

We wrangled some volunteers to plant garlic at our end-of-the-season potluck party in October. Super easy, even the kids helped out for this mini workshop. For starting garlic in fall, read instructions below.


  • Head of garlic (meant for planting, or simply with large cloves).
  • Compost.
  • Shovel, trowel, or rake.
  • Straw, mulch, or dried leaves.
  • Snippers to cut garlic scapes.
  • Digging fork to harvest garlic.


  • Make sure the head of garlic you’re using has large cloves. This is ideal to plant.
  • Break the head of garlic into cloves, but do not peel the paper off as though you were going to cook them. Then set them aside. You’ll plant garlic in our area (Zone 6b) around mid-October.
  • If you are planting a lot in a row and your soil is tilled or nice and loose, use your rake to go down the row and make a 6 inch deep channel. If you are only planting a few, or are in a smaller space, use your trowel to dig a hole for each clove at the same depth.
  • Cloves should be planted around 6 inches apart from one another. Make sure to dig your holes 6 inches apart, or mark your long row every 6 inches for where you will plant the cloves.
  • Place a clove in each hole and cover all with soil and compost. The pointy side of the bulb will face up, so the “butt” of the clove is at the bottom. This is a good time to boost your soil with the compost, composted manure, or a natural fertilizer.
  • Lay straw or chopped leaves over the area you planted to help insulate them and crowd out weeds. So, this gives you a few inches of soil, a few inches of compost, and a few inches of mulch.
  • Garlic will start to sprout (if you planted earlier), but have no fear: it will recover in the spring. If you planted later in the season, you might not see the sprout. The garlic will overwinter and will shoot up come spring. Continue watering and tending to the plants through the season.
  • Around late May/June, your plants will start growing garlic scapes (long curly-looking stems that will flower if not cut). Many people will chop these off and use in their kitchen (heavy garlic flavor!). Some say this helps the garlic focus its energy back to the bulb.
  • It’s time to harvest when the garlic plants look… kind of like they’re dying. When leaves are yellow/brown and wilting in June or July, take a digging fork and carefully dig under the bulb (don’t spear them!). Shake off the excess dirt.
  • Finally, you’ll hang the garlic from the stems to dry in a dark, well-ventilated space for around 5 weeks. And you’re ready: yum!