How To Grow Garlic In Pots: Step-by-Step Guide

A bulb of sprouting garlic.

Garlic growing is simple and easy if you plant it in well-drained soil. Other gardeners grow garlic with other plants not only because it takes very little space, but also because it is known to ward off unwanted pests in the garden.

But because growing garlic has a very long growing season and requires constant watering, others think it is quite challenging to grow garlic, particularly in container pots.

However, growing garlic in container pots isn’t that hard. There are only a few factors that you need to consider that are easy to meet like an enriched potting mix, adequate moisture, and knowing when is the right time to plant and harvest.

Here is our step-by-step guide on how to grow garlic successfully in container pots.

Planting Garlic

When Is The Perfect Time To Plant Garlic?

Planting garlic cloves in a container pot.
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  • Planting garlic in early spring is common because of warmer climates, but in colder climates, planting in the fall or early winter is not as common but recommended. Why?
  • Expert gardeners advise planting in the fall. It is when the garlic roots develop before the ground freezes, and in early spring, the foliage starts to appear.
  • Planting garlic two weeks after the first fall of the frost date is best before the ground freezes, especially in areas that get a hard frost.
  • Climate is the determinant when considering the perfect time for planting. (Its primary purpose is to allow sufficient time for the plants to establish roots before the ground freezes, but not to make the top form growth before the freezing temperatures set in.)
  • In areas with colder climates, planting garlic is usually between September and November.
  • In warmer areas with mild winters, you can plant garlic either in the fall, in late winter or early spring, usually from February to March.

Preparing A Planting Site

Growing garlic in container pots.
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  • Garlic loves the full sun, so it is best to place the container pots in an area directly hit by sunlight for a couple of hours during the day.
  • This plant loves fertile and well-aerated soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7. If your soil is thin and sandy, you can add soil amendments. (But before adding any amendments, you should know first what might there be in the soil.)
  • You can add soil amendments like compost and manure or a 5-10-10 fertilizer before planting the garlic.

What Type Of Garlic Should You Plant?

Two pieces sprouting garlic cloves.
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If you are a beginner and want to consider a garlic production, you will learn that there are hundreds of garlic varieties available out there, and choosing what is best for you can be a bit challenging.

Thanks to science, garlic growers provide reliable information about the garlic varieties, which are now the ten basic types.

It is the location, climate, and expertise of the gardener that helps determine the most valuable traits of the garlic. It takes about 90 days for garlic to harvest once it begins to grow.

Garlic has three types, which are:

  • Hardneck
  • Softneck
  • Great Headed

Hardneck garlic is tastier compared to the softneck. It also has a clover that is bigger and easier to peel.

It also produces a long flowering stem, known as a scape, which will develop into small bulbil at its top end later on.

Scape grows on a hardneck type of garlic only. Many growers harvest them to dry, freeze, and even turn them into pesto. Cutting off scapes will allow the plant to focus on clove development.

Bulbils are like mini-bulbs that can grow to be large bulbs if you left them like typical garlic cloves.

However, bulbils are not real flowers. Those are just clones from the mother plant. Its reproductive parts are not viable. Therefore, there is no cross-pollination.

The Softneck, on the other hand, has a longer shelf life and is easy to braid. This kind of garlic is the one you can usually find in the supermarket.

This variety is especially recommended for those in warmer climates because it is less winter hardy compared to others.

It has an intense flavor and tends to produce bigger bulbs because it does not produce bulblet to divert its energy.

Growers in the freezing winter weather usually have a higher rate of success with hardnecks. However, in regions with a warm winter, the softneck garlic does better than a hardneck.

Great Headed variety is also known as Elephant garlic. If you’re looking for a tasty garlic, this one is not for you.

This type of garlic has large bulbs and cloves with onion-like taste compared to typical garlic.

How To Plant Garlic In Container Pots

Because garlic takes up room to grow, growing them in containers can be a good option if you have limited space.

  • Pick a container at least 20 cm wide with equal depth to allow sufficient room for roots to grow.
    Choose a container that has holes for proper drainage.
  • Fill the container with potting mix.
    Add soil amendments like compost to enrich the media.
  • Get a fresh head of garlic and gently split the cloves.
  • Be careful not to damage the cloves when separating from their base, keeping the papery husks of individual cloves. Garlic with damage base won’t grow.
  • Place the cloves 2-4 inches apart and 2-inches deep, in their upright position in the soil.
  • Firm the soil gently on top of the garlic.
  • Top dress the container pots with mulch like dry leaves, grass clippings to protect the plants from cold weather, and well-rotted manure or compost to fertilize the plants.

The Right Way To Take Care Of Growing Garlic

Garlic bulbs in a basket.

  • To ensure proper overwintering, garlic growers in freezing winter should mulch heavily.
  • Remove mulch after the threat of frost has passed in the spring. Young garlic shoots can not survive in temperatures below 20°F /-6°C.
  • As the warm temperature begins in the spring, shoots start to come out from the ground.
  • It is best to cut the scape when the plants start to produce. It will decrease the potential quality-size of the bulb.
  • Fertilize the plants by tossing nitrogen-heavy fertilizer like blood meal, chicken manure or commercially sold pelleted fertilizer, particularly in the early spring.
  • Adding more fertilizer once the bulb starts to grow larger is ideal. Doing so will deal with the lengthening of daylight.
  • Garlic does not do well with competition as it requires a lot of nutrients, and keeping the soil weed-free will enable them to get all the nutrients they need from the soil.
  • Garlic plants love fertilizer, particularly an adequate level of nitrogen. Add more fertilizer if you find the leaves start yellowing.
  • When the plants start to produce a bulb, it is best to water every 3-5 days. However, in the dry climate from May to June, you can water the plants using a soaker hose every 8-10 days.

When To Harvest Garlic?

Newly harvested garlic laying on the ground.
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  • You can start harvesting the garlic if you find the lower leaves of your garlic starts to turn brown and they feel dried up, but don’t wait until they are completely dry as they will shred apart.
  • Also harvest, when the bulbs are big and mature enough, just before they begin to split apart and rot.
  • If you pull the garlic too early, it will result in a thin and disperse bulb wrapping.
  • On the other hand, garlic cloves will split apart if left in the ground for too long.
  • The wrap will also split apart, making the cloves susceptible to diseases that will affect the shelf life of the garlic when you store them.
  • Cut back watering two weeks before you harvest the garlic.

How To Harvest Garlic?

Hand holding newly harvest garlic.
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  • Carefully dig a clove out of the soil using a spade or a garden fork to see if it is mature enough to harvest.
  • Other garlic types are ready to harvest earlier than usual, so it is always best to dig up the bulb right before the tops completely turn to brown.
  • Do not pull the garlic out by the stem as this will damage to the bulb.
  • As you lift the plants, gently shake off the soil. Bundle the garlic by using a string in bunches of 4-6 and hang them upside down in an airy, shady spot for two weeks for the heads to cure.
  • Be careful not to scratch the newly harvested garlic and ensure all sides get adequate ventilation when you hang them, or else, it won’t store well.

How To Store Garlic The Right Way?

A bunch of garlic bulbs.

  • If you find the garlic roots dry and the wrappers are papery, the bulbs are cured and ready to store.
    The crown should be hard enough so that you can crack the cloves apart easily.
  • Once the garlic is cured and ready to store, remove the dirt and trim off remaining roots and leaves.
  • Remove the dirty top wrappers, leaving the clean wrappers on.
  • To store the garlic bulbs for several months, you have to keep them in a dry, dark place with an ideal temperature of 40°F / 4°C.
  • Do not store them in a moist basement or in the refrigerator.
  • If you store the garlic properly, it can last until the next harvest the following summer. Also, the flavor increases as the bulbs get completely dry.
  • When considering planting garlic again for the next season, you can try to save the best quality bulbs to plant back in the fall.

Pests & Diseases You Should be Aware Of When Growing Garlic

The good news is that garlic is a natural pest repellent, so there are only very few concerns you should keep an eye on. If you haven’t heard of white rot or allium rust then you are now. Allium rust isn’t too bad and occurs here and there but if you see white rot, you are in big trouble! So, be aware.

  • White Rot
White rot infected soil.
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White rot is a fungus that invades garlic in cold weather. First, you will notice that plant growth is smaller than usual. Next, the leaves start turning yellow earlier than they should, following the death of outer leaves. If neglected, the stem above the bulb will rot.

This disease is the nightmare of organic growers. Removing the infection from the soil is nearly impossible, and planting garlic is not even possible for about a decade.

Garlic growers that grow in containers won’t be affected as much as organic growers in the field. However,  cleaning up and rotating crops after harvesting garlic is also a great idea. With that being said, unless if you have unlimited space and soil to use, then growing in containers is the recommended option.

  • Allium Rust

Garlic leaves with allium rust disease.

Allium rust is an airborne soil virus, also referred to as leek rust. It will cause the leaves to turn yellow prematurely.
In most cases, it has minimal effect. However, it lessens the plant’s ability to convert the sunlight to energy, slowing the growth rate and making the plants susceptible to some diseases which could result in the leaves falling off.

Final Thoughts On Growing Garlic In Container Pots

Growing garlic is fun, easy, and can be the best project for starting growers. It is easy and cost-effective and does not require a lot of work.

If you are considering growing garlic in containers, you want the container to be deep enough and equally wide for each clove you plant. This will allow for the right amount of room for the roots to grow. While other gardeners have success by cramming in many cloves into one small pot, it is not ideal if you are planning for full bulbs.

The right planning and correct preparation will surely allow you to enjoy tasty garlic in your favorite recipes. I’m sure you family and friends will enjoy it as well.

Learning from various gardeners is always exciting! If you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions on ways to grow garlic, please don’t hesitate to share them in our comments section below.

About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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