How to Grow Garlic in Pots

Garlic.

It’s one of the most useful tools in your kitchen, it stores well, and it can radically change the appeal of your cooking. But is it easy to grow on your own? 

The short answer is, yes. (Hooray!)

However, as is the case with all plants (except zucchini, that stuff grows everywhere!) you have to do things the right way if you want to make the work worth it.

Two things that can make the process easier are growing your own garlic in pots and growing garlic indoors.

This gives you control over the environment and can help keep pesky bugs and diseases from getting to the plants.

But don’t start setting up a garden bed in the middle of your living room just yet. We’ll give you the tips for how to grow garlic in pots, regardless of your space limitations.

A Brief History of Garlic

Have you ever wondered what garlic even is?

Well, for starters, while it tends to defy categorization, garlic is generally considered a vegetable not an herb or spice.

It grows as a bulb consisting of anywhere from a handful to dozens of cloves. There are hundreds of varieties of garlic, which are all lumped into two different categories:

  • Hardneck: These varieties have a stock (the “hard” neck) and a single layer of cloves circling it. They produce fewer cloves, which often go bad quicker.
  • Softneck: These varieties have braided layers of cloves and lack a stalk. Their cloves are numerous and usually store much longer.

Okay, so that’s what garlic is. But what about where it came from?

Once again the short answer is simple: from Asia.

From there garlic was brought westward to places like Europe and Africa a very long time ago.

Eventually, it found its way to the New World, making it a world traveler and culinary superpower in the process.

Here’s a video that gives a good overview about garlic, if you’re interested in learning more!

While there are numerous varieties of garlic, it grows very similarly regardless of the kind you’re working with, which makes breaking down the growing process very simple.

When Do You Plant Garlic?

As with most plants, it is essential to know when is the best time to put the seeds (or cloves, in this case) into the ground.

When growing outdoors, this is dependent on both where you are and what season it is. Here is a helpful resource to help figure that out.

However, when planting indoors, as long as you have water, sun, and a controlled climate, you should be able to plant garlic in spring, summer, fall, and winter!

Alright. Ready to plant some garlic?

Let’s do this!


What You’ll Need

What You Need

  • A Container at Least 8-10 Inches Deep
  • Potting Mix or an Appropriate Alternative
  • A Bulb of Garlic

A Container at Least 8-10 Inches Deep

The beauty of planting in a container is that you create a garden that is portable, functions year-round, and is space efficient!

While garlic doesn’t need to grow very deep into the soil, you still want to give the cloves a bit of extra space. Make sure your container is 8 inches deep at the minimum!

It is also essential that the container has drainage holes in the bottom, so the soil doesn’t get too wet.

Potting Mix or an Appropriate Alternative

It is best to avoid using straight soil for this kind of long-term, indoor garden.

Instead, try to use a soil-free potting mix or a 50/50 blend of soil and compost. (Check this out if you don’t have compost going yet).

A Bulb of Garlic

And then, of course, you’re going to need the garlic. After all, it takes garlic to grow garlic!

Some sites will tell you just to purchase a bulb from your local grocery store, but beware! Bulbs at the store are often treated to prevent sprouting.

Your best bet, especially if you are committed to healthy, sustainable gardening, is to head on over to a local nursery or farmers market to get a properly grown and treated bulb.

Once you have the garlic, break it apart into individual cloves. The larger the clove, the more likely you will end up with a larger bulb in the long run!

If you have any old garlic, you can start the process by sprouting it in water! The process of how to grow garlic in water is simple. Place the cloves point up at the bottom of a cup with water (preferably rainwater) covering them about a third of the way up. Within a few days, you should see them rehydrate and sprout! After a week (don’t leave them longer or they may start rotting) you can plant the sprouted cloves following the steps below.

Note: If you want to learn more about growing garlic indoors hydroponically, check out these resources on aquaponics in general or aquaponics in a small space.

Okay, now you’re ready to plant!


Step By Step Instructions

Here's an easy three-step process on how to grow your own garlic at home:

Step #1: Prepare the Container

Dampen your potting soil mixture and then fill the container, leaving just a few inches of room at the top.

If you want to add a bit more zest to your soil mixture, consider adding some nutrient rich compost, made right from your own apartment!

Step #2: Plant the Garlic

Note: We are planting garlic cloves, not seeds. While learning how to plant garlic seeds has its benefits, it is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

How deep do you plant the garlic cloves?

Anywhere from 2-5 inches will do. The key is to make sure that the tops of the cloves will end up around an inch below the surface. 

Place a single clove in each hole with the tip pointing upwards. The opposite end of the point is where the roots will grow, downward and out.

Make each hole four or five inches apart from the others and at least a few inches from the edge of the container.

If the hole is too deep to dig with your finger, use a trowel handle, a piece of bamboo, or some other stick-like tool to drill long, shaft-like holes that won’t disturb the rest of the bed.

Don’t forget to fill the holes back in!

Step #3: Caring for the Garlic

Place the container in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight, about 6-8 hours a day.

Keep the soil thoroughly moist. However, do not overwater it. Also, consider collecting and using rainwater when possible, as it can be more gentle than tap water!

Note: Click here for more information on collecting and using rainwater!

A good rule of thumb to follow: if the dirt is dry to the touch, water the plants.

If it is below freezing outside, even if the temperature is controlled, your house will have lower humidity than usual. Make sure to keep a closer eye on plants during these times so that they don’t dry out!

Finally, did you know that garlic plants flower? (Garlic? Who would’a thunk it!)

It’s a good idea to cut those flowers right off at their base before they bloom. It’s a sad loss, but it’ll help keep the nutrients flowing to the most valuable part of the plant: the bulb!


How Long Does it Take for Garlic to Grow

Growing garlic is a long process, which is part of why doing it indoors and in containers can be so useful to keep them safe and sound.

Depending on the variety, it can take anywhere from 3 months to double (or even triple!) that time.


Harvesting Garlic Grown in Pots

Early on the leafy shoots or “scapes” of the plant can be collected and used in cooking. Here are some DELICIOUS ideas if you need any inspiration!

However, don’t use too many of those scapes, as they are needed to keep the bulbs growing!

How do you know when they’re ready, then?

The best sign that garlic is ready to harvest is when the lower part of the scapes turn yellow and begin to die.

At that point, pull each one up and see how big of a garlic bulb you were able to grow!

Use a fork to help get an entire bulb out of the ground without damaging it or leaving anything behind.

And That’s It, You’re Done!

Once you’ve grown and harvested your garlic – keeping it safe and sound from the bugs, diseases, weather, and other perils of long term outdoor growing – there are many things you can use the garlic for.

Eating raw garlic can have many benefits, both as a preventative and treatment, for things like heart disease or cancer.

There are also many garlic benefits for the skin. Use it to get rid of acne and cold sores, or even as a bug repellent! ...unless you’re Dracula, of course, in which case you’re out of luck.

We figure if you made it down to here, then garlic is probably on your dinner menu!

But for some more green thumb activity why not check out these articles on how to grow tomatoes in containers or how to grow beets in containers for quick, easy inspiration.

Whether you’ve grown your own garlic in pots before or are planning to soon, share some of your thoughts, plans, and experiences in the comments section below!

Happy planting!

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