Growing Garlic Indoors and Outdoors: A Guide

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Growing garlic can be the best health decision you can make. It is one of the best natural supplements for your immune system and is a breeze to grow indoors and outdoors. You can even grow hydroponic garlic with the right setup.

One of the great benefits of growing garlic yourself is having a neverending supply of natural organic garlic at your disposal. This is especially helpful during those cold, wet winter months when you are more likely to get sick, and less likely to want to go out shopping.

In this article, we will take you through:

  1. What are the Benefits of Garlic?
  2. How Growing Your own Garlic Helps The Environment and Saves You Money
  3. Is it Easy to Grow Garlic Indoors?
  4. Hydroponic Garlic: How to Grow Garlic Without Soil
  5. What are the Different Types of Garlic?
  6. When is the Best Time to Plant and Grow Garlic?
  7. Our 10 Simple Steps to Grow Your Own Garlic

What are the Benefits of Garlic?

how to grow your own garlic
Garlic has many natural benefits – photo by Patrick Brentano

Garlic is a vegetable from the Allium family. Garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6, as well as other vitamins and minerals including Manganese, Selenium, vitamin C, and Allicin (an anti-oxidant).

Eating garlic regularly may help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as offering cancer-preventing properties.

Garlic as a flavor enhancer is definitely a healthier alternative than salt. Consuming raw fresh garlic is highly considered for fighting off infections, which may include the common cold.

If you are interested in other natural health supplements to help you beat colds and flu – check out my post on the benefits of Blackstrap Molasses.

Why Should I Grow My Own Garlic? How Does this Benefit Me and the Environment?

The first benefit of growing your own garlic is control. You will know where your garlic is being grown and what it is being fed.

Commercial growers, unless they are formally recognized as Organic farmers, are likely to use harmful pesticides to protect their precious crops. The laws regarding the use of these chemicals may vary greatly from country to country.

The second benefit is that Garlic is in demand all year round. As a result, it’s also a pretty expensive vegetable.

If the garlic cannot be grown locally (usually during the off-season) it will be imported from overseas, often increasing the price.

Shipping imported food also generates greenhouse gases from the burning of fuel to fly or ship the product to your local supermarket. All of these substances eventually end up in your food and in your body.

By growing your own garlic not only can you save money, but you can save your health and the environment as well.

How easy is it to grow garlic indoors? Can they grow in a container?

Garlic grows in small bulbs, therefore you don’t have the size restrictions you may face with tree or vine based produce like tomatoes or apples. This makes garlic ideal to grow indoors.

Planting in a garden with the correct soil does tend to produce the best yields, but you can definitely grow a good crop of garlic in a container garden or a raised garden bed. Growing your garlic indoors also protects your garlic crop from pests like onion thrips and root maggots.

I can’t emphasize how much garlic loves sunlight, so growing your crop in a window sill planter is a great space saving option.

Hydroponic Garlic: How to grow Garlic without Soil

Yes you can even grow garlic without using soil. Garlic shoots can be planted in water instead of soil, but to grow to full maturity it is easier to replant the shoots in soil so they can absorb all the nutrients they need.

It is possible to grow garlic purely in water, and many successful harvests can come from using a hydroponic gardening system. These systems are great for growing indoors, as you can control the flow and nutrients in the water (which is also acting as the soil) as well as the sunlight with artificial UV lights.

Garlic can be a bit tricky though if you’re a hydroponics amateur. This is because it prefers well-drained soil, and its leaves and roots grow quite long. The leaves may get plenty of sunlight as they grow upwards towards the light, but the roots may not get enough and start to rot.

Garlic chives are actually one of the most popular plants to grow in a hydroponic garden, as they require a lot more water than regular garlic to grow. If you just want to grow enough to add a bit of green garnish to your cooking, chives may be an easy alternative. Simply Hydro have a great tutorial on growing hydroponic chives here.

Are there different types of Garlic? Which one is best for me to grow?

There are many different types of Garlic available in the world. The best type will usually be the one that grows the most local to you. In North America, there are two common types:

Hardneck types

Hardneck Garlics get their name because they grow a Scape through the center of the garlic bulb. A Scape is a hard long stem which grows a flower at the end. The flower at the end of the scape can be cut off and re-planted to grow more garlic.

A bulb of hardneck garlic typically has between 4-12 cloves of garlic, depending on the species. These cloves are usually an even shape and size. The scape is edible as well.

growing garlic indoors
Inside a hardneck garlic bulb a Scape will grow down the centre – photo by Mother Earth News
Hardneck garlic scapes in the garden - photo by Anonymous Bosch
Hardneck garlic scapes in the garden – photo by Anonymous Bosch

Hardneck Garlic grows better in colder climates, with the scapes blooming in early summer. There are roughly three different sub-species of this kind of garlic – Rocambole, Purple Skin, and Porcelain.

Within these categories, you can find Spanish Rojas, German Reds, and Whites. Hardneck Garlic is considered by garlic aficionados to have a richer, spicier and more “garlicky” taste.

growing garlic indoors hardneck
Spanish Rojas are a common Hardneck Garlic – photo by Urban Farmer

Softneck Types

The softneck variety of garlic, as the name suggests, doesn’t grow a scape. This type of garlic is normally grown in warmer areas with more mild winters.

If you want to create some beautiful garlic braids, this is the variety for you. Softneck bulbs have a higher yield of cloves, but they may not be consistent in shape and size.

growing garlic indoors
Softneck garlic has no Scape – photo by Mother Earth News

Their skin is usually softer and harder to peel than hardneck garlic but can be delicious to cool and consume whole, for example in roast or a barbeque. Silverskins, Artichokes, and Creole garlic are examples of the soft neck types.

growing garlic indoors
Artichoke garlic is a Softneck garlic – photo by Log House Plants

When is the best time to plant and harvest Garlic?

Garlic is usually planted in the Autumn or Fall, and harvested in the Midsummer. You can usually start harvesting the scapes in early summer. Once you have harvested the bulb, you will need to be replant, as you will have harvested the whole plant.

Growing Garlic Indoors: 10 Simple Steps to Grow Your Own Garlic

Garlic can easily be grown indoors with the right setup. Here is a simple breakdown of the steps you need to follow to make it happen:

1. Pick The Right Spot

Once you have selected the type of garlic you wish to grow, the next step is to pick the best spot in your home to grow your garlic.  

Garlic loves sunlight, therefore growing garlic indoors works best if you can grow it on a windowsill. If this isn’t possible, try to pick the room which gets the most natural light.

During the winter months when the light is least plentiful you may want to consider setting up indoor UV grow lights inside your home to help the growing process.

As I mentioned before in this article, not all garlic grows best in the same climate. Therefore you will need to find a space that keeps a consistent temperature which is appropriate for your plants.

2. Growing Garlic Indoors in a Container

The best containers for growing garlic should around 12 inches deep to make space for the root of the garlic, and allow your plants to sit approximately 6-8 inches apart.

Make sure that the top of the container is nice and open to allow plenty of sunlight to come in. High humidity is not required for growing garlic, so a greenhouse cover is not required.

Proper drainage is important as well. This helps to prevent your garlic from getting Fusarium or other root rot diseases.  

Pick a container with plenty of drainage holes and remember to regularly tip out the drainage tray. You can select a plastic tray or ceramic pot for growing similar to this. This material will not affect the growth of your garlic.

3. Select the right soil

Well-drained fertile soil with a neutral pH is the best kind for growing garlic. Most garlic types prefer soil with a neutral pH reading from about 6.5-7.

If your soil is more acidic, you can make it more alkaline by mixing in a small amount of wood ash. Use a mature compost to add fertility to your soil when planting, and add organic mulch like hay or torn up leaves as a top layer.

4. How to Plant Garlic

You can plant garlic from a seed, or from a clove. Planting from a clove is less labor-intensive, and is the easier way to re-plant after your first harvest.

Garlic is a clever plant. Each generation of plant adapts slightly better to the environment it is grown in, so your bulbs and yield improve with each harvest. Wait right up until you are ready to plant before you start peeling your cloves.

growing garlic indoors
Plant with the pointy end upwards- photo by Preppers Resources

The soil you are planting into should already be mixed in well with approximately 1 inch of mature compost. This creates an inviting environment for your garlic to start growing.

Push the cloves into the soil about 4 inches deep and 8 inches apart and cover with organic mulch. The cloves should be planted in the soil the same way up as they sit in the bulb – with the pointy end at the top, and the flat end (where the roots come out) at the bottom.

5. Growing and Protecting from Indoor Pests

As I mentioned earlier, garlic has its own set of predators and diseases which may affect your plant’s growth.

The most common pests are Garlic Thrips. They are tiny bugs that make a small puncture in your garlic bulb to suck out the sap or juice of the bulb. This can weaken the plant and stunt its growth, as well as passing bacteria from the pest to the garlic.

You can spot a Thrip infestation by looking at the leaves of your garlic. If they look scarred or discolored you may have a pest problem.

If you are looking for a natural pest control solution, you can try out this natural pest spray recipe . It contains chili, and would you believe, garlic cloves, as the active ingredient.

Garlic can suffer at the roots as well. Garlic maggots which can start breeding after a few harvests or the roots can get soil-related diseases like Fusarium.

Keeping well-drained soil can help prevent both of these nasties. A sprinkle of Diatomaceous Earth can also help kill pests and create a drier environment for your plant to flourish.

growing garlic
Food grade Diatomaceous Earth can help get rid of pests.

Weeds are an annoyance for any plant owner, but they can be easily dug out in a small container. Just make sure to be delicate with your digging fork, as you don’t want to damage the roots of your garlic plants.

6. Watering Garlic

Garlic plants prefer a fairly dry environment. But they will require a light misting of water from time to time, perhaps once a week but not much more.

Keep an eye on your soil which should remain fairly dry. This will help you to decide if it is time to water. You can use a spray bottle to spray a light mist, or a garden hose on low pressure. You should stop watering your garlic a few weeks before it is time to harvest.

7. Mulching and Fertilizing Garlic

A nice layer of mulch on top of your soil makes a big difference to garlic plants.

It will provide protection from the elements, retain moisture, and maintain a good growing temperature for your plants. You can create your own mulch from items such as leaves and worm casings.

8. Harvesting Garlic

how to grow your own garlic indoors
Garlic bulbs washed but not clipped – photo by Rmxx Gmdr

If you planted in the fall, your garlic should be ready to go by early to mid-summer. Your garlic is ready to harvest when about a third of leaves have begun to go brown and wither, and the soil is dry.

Loosen up the soil with your hands or digging fork, and gently pull the plants up out of the soil. Being gentle is important as you don’t want to bruise or damage the delicate skin on the young garlic bulbs.

9. Replanting and Curing Garlic

Once you harvest your garlic plant, you can either cook and eat it straight away, replant or cure it. 

Curing is the process of drying the garlic for long term storage. This is so you can use it later or keep the bulbs for re-planting in the following fall season.  Curing your garlic ensures that the energy and minerals from the leaves move into the bulbs as they dry.

How To Cure Garlic

To cure your garlic, once you have harvested your plants lay them out in the open to dry. You need a warm airy spot with shelter from the rain and direct sunlight. Young garlic bulbs are surprisingly susceptible to sunburn.

Leave the plants here to dry for about a week, then dust off all the excess soil and clip the roots to about an inch long.

Do not wash your bulbs as the point is to dry them out. Leave them to dry for at least another week, sometimes a month if the weather is quite humid. Only then you can clip off the leaves or braid them ( braiding is only for softneck varieties).

Make sure not to remove the leaves whilst curing. This is because the bulbs draw away energy and nutrients from the leaves as part of the curing process, gradually drying them out. The leaves also protect the bulb from fungi and other bacteria during the process.

To finish, dust off the excess soil, and trim the leaves and roots to approx. ¼ to a ½ inch long. Peel off the excess skin until you are left with beautiful pure white (or red) bulbs. The largest and best-looking bulbs should be kept aside for re-planting next year’s garlic!

10. Keeping Garlic

braiding garlic growing garlic indoors
Braiding Garlic – photo by BC Living

Once you have finished all your curing, you can store your garlic in a number of ways. If you have planted softneck garlic, you can braid your garlic bulbs together and hang it up in your kitchen homestead style.

If you would prefer something a bit less labor-intensive, you can simply keep your bulbs in hanging mesh bags until you are ready to use them. Mesh bags are nice and soft and prevent bruising the delicate skin of your fresh homegrown garlic. They are also nice and breathable, to keep your garlic dry and prevent unwanted mold and sprouting.

Garlic is an awesome plant with so many health benefits in one small package. Growing your own garlic might be intimidating at first, but it is worth the effort, and it gets easier with every harvest. Hopefully I have inspired you to give growing garlic at home a go!

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3 thoughts on “Growing Garlic Indoors and Outdoors: A Guide”

  1. So is growing garlic possible hydroponically? I mean hydroponics is soil-less? So why does your guide use soil? Kinda confused

    • Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comment! It is possible grow garlic hydroponically, but this article is more of a general guide to growing garlic in the most traditional way in soil. There are some good links in the article you can look at if you are more interested in the specifics of growing garlic using a hydroponic setup. Thanks!


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