Growing garlic for beginners

garlic on a tray
There are several hundred varieties of garlic to choose from, including Georgian fire, German extra hardy, chesnok red or red toch. Photo by Robert Moore, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.

The rewards of homegrown garlic can be delicious. Homegrown garlic has a better flavor profile than what you find in a grocery store.

I had a few cloves leftover from my last grocery run and wanted to find out if they would grow. As a beginning gardener, it can be easy to get excited and forget a plan of action, as I did. I wanted to get the garlic into the ground as soon as possible. Little did I know, garlic is a cool season crop usually planted in the fall. I planted my cloves upside down, smack dab in the middle of the summer. It didn’t work.

Garlic is one of 700 species in the onion (Allium) family, which also includes leeks, chives and shallots. There are two major categories of garlic. Hardneck varieties produce twisting leafless flower stalks called scapes, which, unless removed, result in smaller cloves. Softneck varieties do not produce scapes. They yield a greater number of cloves than hardneck varieties and can be stored for a longer period. When choosing your garlic variety, steer away from garlic bought from grocery stores, as these bulbs might have been grown in a climate vastly different from Nevada’s. Check with your local nursery for varieties that will grow in your environment.

The recommended time of year to plant garlic is in the fall when they have time to develop a good root system before the ground freezes, giving them a head start on spring topgrowth. Garlic enjoys well-drained fertile soil. Incorporating well-composted organic matter will help your garlic reach its growth potential. Plant your garlic where it will get full sun.

Before planting, make sure to separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves. Plant these in rows spaced 6 to 10 inches apart. Each clove should be planted with the pointed side up, 2 to 3 inches from the soil surface and about 6 inches from one another.

When watering, make sure to soak the soil thoroughly to a depth of at least 3 inches. Weed your garlic bed frequently, as garlic plants do not grow well with competition.

Harvesting garlic can be tricky. Harvesting too early may result in smaller bulbs, and harvesting too late can result in sprouting cloves. Collect the garlic when at least 50 percent of the green portion has turned brown. Usually, this occurs mid-June to early July. Also, remove scapes from hardneck varieties as they emerge and start to coil. But don’t discard the scapes. They can be used in recipes in place of onions or garlic for a mild flavor. When properly stored in a cool, dark place with good air circulation, garlic should last for several months.

Once you harvest, enjoy creating delicious recipes in the kitchen, and make sure to keep some cloves for the next planting season.


Leilani Konyshev is the Master Gardener Program assistant for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Washoe County. Have questions about your plants? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or, or visit