Does Garlic Grow Underground?

By Paul Smart •  Updated: 03/20/22 •  8 min read

Does Garlic Grow Underground? Garlic is one of the most widely-eaten herbs in the world, it is used in nearly every type of cuisine in some way or form. It can be purchased in the local supermarket as minced garlic or as a fresh bulb. However, if you have never seen garlic growing you may be wondering does it grow underground or above ground and how is it produced?

Garlic is a bulb that is grown underground, however, like other bulbs such as tulips or daffodils, it also produces some green top growth as well which helps plants to produce energy through photosynthesis which is stored in the bulb itself. 

Garlic bulbs are relatively easy to grow as they require very little maintenance and effort to produce a crop. Additionally, garlic bulbs store very well which means that it is possible for an average home gardener to grow enough garlic to last them the entire year.

To produce a new crop you simply need to plant garlic cloves from an existing bulb and overtime this garlic clove will turn into a new bulb.

Can You Grow Your Own Garlic From Store-Bought Bulbs

It is possible to grow garlic from store-bought bulbs however generally the Trials that I have seen completed show that they do produce an inferior result to buying specific bulbs from your local garden center. 

A recent video by Charles Dowding looked at whether it was feasible to grow garlic from bulbs and generally found that the bulbs were not of great quality as such we do recommend that you buy garlic bulbs from a garden center if you are planning to try and produce a crop.

What Is The Best Time Of The Year To Plant Garlic?

Garlic is best planted in the Autumn as the weather is getting cooler. The reason for this is important is because for garlic to divide into new cloves it requires a period of cold during the winter. 

However, it is possible to plant garlic in spring, however, the way that you treat the garlic produced is significantly different and you will not get bulbs that you can replant in subsequent years. To read more about this click here.

If you live in an area that has cold winters the timing of the planting can be a little bit tricky. This is because the garlic will very quickly produce top growth when it is put into the soil and a snap of cold weather will destroy this top growth which is fine. However, if you plant the garlic too early and it produces a second lot of top growth which is again is destroyed by the weather it will affect the yield of the plants significantly.

To avoid this issue the general rule of thumb that is applied is to plant the garlic approximately 2 weeks after the first frost in your local area. This is generally considered the ideal time because the ground has not yet frozen solid allowing you to plant the cloves easily but the temperature is cooling rapidly which will reduce the chances of there being two lots of foliage produced by the bulb before the temperatures really drop-in midwinter.

How Long Does Garlic Take To Grow?

If you plant in autumn it is likely that you will be harvesting garlic in the last month of spring. The bulb will produce green top growth in early spring as the weather warms up and it will sit there for several months until it begins to yellow and droop. The yellowing of the garlic is an indication that the plant is ready to harvest.

At this stage the bulbs should be removed carefully from the soil by using a spade or trowel to lift the garlic from underneath this will avoid any chance of the bulbs being damaged which will ensure that they can be stored throughout the year and used as required.

How Many Garlic Bulbs Can You Grow From A Garlic Bulb?

Most garlic bulbs typically have around 10 to 12 cloves within them. Each one of can be used to grow a new garlic bulb theoretically. However, what I have found is that the best bulbs produced come from the largest cloves that exist within the bulb. If the cloves are relatively thin it is usually not worth planting them in the ground.

So if you are planning to try and grow an entire years’ worth of garlic I would generally recommend starting off with approximately four bulbs or garlic if you have a family of four or five.

How To Plant Garlic Cloves

The planting of garlic cloves is straightforward, start by breaking apart the bulb into separate cloves.  When you do this you will find that each individual clove has its own papery outer shell. It is not necessary to remove that layer they can be planted as-is. 

When placing the garlic into the ground the pointy end of the garlic should be facing upward and the garlic should be planted at a depth of approximately 1 inch. The depth is ideal if you can see the very tip of the bulb in the soil.

The bulb should be spaced approximately 6-inches apart to ensure that they have adequate space to develop properly.

Once the garlic is in the ground it is a good idea to apply a layer of mulch to the surrounding soil. The garlic can then largely be left to its own devices with the only real maintenance job being keeping the bed relatively weed-free.

In terms of soil conditions, I have generally found that garlic is not particularly fussy however garlic does prefer rich moist, and free-draining soil. To achieve this it is a good idea to dig in additional compost before planting. The main thing to avoid with planting garlic crops is boggy soil that remains wet for extended periods of time as this increases the chances of the bulb rotting.

Selecting Bulbs For Next Year’s Crop

To ensure that you have an ongoing supply of garlic one of the most important things to do is select the bulbs that you were going to use to grow next year’s crop. It is a good idea as soon as you harvest the crop to select the best bulbs for the subsequent years’ crop. 

Do not wait until the following year to select the bulbs as you often find that the best ones have been eaten and you are left with poor quality bulbs to grow.

At this point is also a good idea to take note of how many bulbs that you actually use in your planting because you may choose to increase or reduce the amount of garlic that you plant based on whether you were able to last the entire year without going to the supermarket to purchase any garlic.

Storing The Garlic Crop

Garlic crops are relatively easy to store the first important step in this process is to harvest the garlic and then lay it in a dry area to allow it to dry out for a week or two. Once the garlic is fully dry then it can be packed away into a cool dark and well-ventilated area. 

The other option to store garlic is to braid it into strings which can be stored in the garage or shed at home. To braid the garlic it is important to make sure that you leave the dried stems on the bulbs. To start the bottom of the braid off start by tying the string to a rafter and tie one garlic bulb to the end of the string.

Find two garlic bulbs of similar size and then tie the stem together ensuring the bulbs are approximately 2 inches of apart. This section of the stem can then be wound around the string and pushed down onto the first bulb to create the first layer. This process can then be repeated multiple times to build up a string of garlic bulbs that can be pulled off as required when you need them.

I hope you found this article useful and you have great success with your garlic bulbs, if you have any additional questions or comments please leave them in the section below.

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Paul Smart