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How To Grow Garlic Indoors

How To Grow Garlic Indoors

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Garlic is a delicious vegetable that’s also pretty easy to grow indoors. And there’s nothing better than Garlic is a delicious vegetable that’s also pretty easy to grow as indoor plants. And there’s nothing better than having fresh garlic at your fingertips. Not only this, but garlic greens look great in a kitchen and can double as cute houseplants. Today, let’s go through the steps and challenges of growing and planting garlic indoors. It’s simple to plant, grow and harvest your own garlic. And it’s a great entry into the world of indoor gardening.

Garlic Bulbs and Green Garlic Shoots: The Indoor Controversy

Before we dive in, we should note that there’s a lot of disagreement in the gardening community on what can and cannot be grown indoors when it comes to garlic. The cold weather – which garlic plants in many climates would normally experience outside – is a big factor in garlic bulb development. Because of this, a lot of growers say it’s not possible to grow garlic indoors. This isn’t true, but I can see where they’re coming from.

In this article, we’ll do two things. First, we’ll show you the right way to grow garlic bulbs indoors and then provide you with options for harvesting shoots as a countertop herb.

How Is Garlic Grown Outside? And Why Is That Important For Us?

It’s important to first understand how garlic grows outside. This way, we can mimic the growing cycle when we bring our bulbs indoors.

Outdoors, in cooler regions, the best time for garlic planting is in the fall, typically around September or mid-October. This should be before the first frost.

The reason they’re grown at this time is to begin establishing the root bulb without generating substantial growth of the shoots. 

The garlic then goes dormant until early spring. At this point, the root continues to grow for 3-4 months and reaches full size. At this point in the plant’s life cyce, the shootsl start to die, and the plant is ready to be harvested.

So to recap, there are four steps to growing outside:

  • The garlic is planted cool weather to start the roots – but only minimal shoot production
  • Cold winter months make the plant dormant
  • The bulb reaches maturity in the spring
  • When the lower shoots start to brown, it’s time to harvest

From this process, we can pick up some tricks about how to grow garlic.

How To Grow Garlic Bulbs Indoors: Vernalization

The most important part of growing a true garlic bulb indoors is to subject your garlic bulbs to a process called vernalization. This just means that you need to make the environment around the garlic cold. In other words, you’re simulating winter for your garlic.

The best way to do this is to put your full bulbs in the fridge for 4-6 weeks to properly chill the plant.

While this step isn’t explicitly necessary, vernalization helps you produce optimum growth of your garlic bulbs.

Container Gardening

For growing garlic bulbs indoors, you don’t necessarily need a wide container. It just needs to be at least 8-10 inches deep to allow for proper root development

Drainage is incredibly important for garlic plants, which can rot or develop mold if they’re in too much water. Be sure to include a few drainage holes at the bottom of the container to support good drainage.

Potting Mix For Growing Garlic Indoors

While you can grow garlic in regular potting soil, it’s best to grow indoor garlic in a soil-less potting mix. You can either buy a potting mix, or you can create your own with a combination of vermiculite (puffed clay), perlite (puffed quartz), coconut fiber, peat moss, bark and fertilizer. These soil-less potting mixes will provide excellent drainage, which is important for preventing a fungal root disease.

Garlic Bulbs

While it’s possible to grow with garlic from a grocery store, there’s a good chance this garlic has been While it’s possible to grow with a head of garlic from a grocery store, there’s a good chance this garlic has been chemically treated (so it will last longer), and it won’t sprout well (or at all). Instead, purchase an organically grown garlic bulb – you can purchase these either on Amazon or at your local nursery. Be sure to keep the garlic bulb in tack until you’re ready to plant the garlic cloves.

Garlic Varieties

There are two primary types of garlic (although, some people put Elephant garlic in a third category) called hardneck and softneck varieties.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic is known for having a flavor that’s more intense than softneck garlic. For this reason, it’s a common favorite among chefs and cooks. It’s also known for having skin that’s easy to peel. The main downside of hardneck garlic is that it has a short shelf life. It will typically only last four to five months. One of the most popular hardneck garlic varieties is called Rocambole.

Softneck Garlic

 While not as flavorful as hardneck garlic, softneck garlic is probably the garlic type that you’re most familiar with. It’s commonly found in a grocery store – likely the artichoke or silverskin garlic varieties. It has a longer shelf life and typically produces a higher yield with larger bulbs, which makes it a great option for grocery stores. 

Garlic Knowledge is Garlic Power: garlic is a species in the Allium genus, which means it’s relatives with scallions, chives, and onions.

Preparing the Garlic

Now that you’ve gotten your garlic bulbs, and your container is filled with the right potting mix, you’re ready to prepare the garlic cloves. Gently break the garlic bulb apart and take out the garlic cloves. You’ll want to take the biggest and healthiest looking cloves, and you’ll want to leave the white/grey paper-like material around the clove.

When you find smaller cloves within the bulb, just set those aside for flavoring your food. Smaller cloves often produce smaller bulbs when grown.

Plant Garlic

When planting your individual cloves, you should plant with the flat end down and the pointed side up. The blunt side is where the roots will grow, while the pointed tip will produce the leaves. 

Push the cloves at least 2-3 inches deep in the potting mix. You’ll also want about an inch of soil on top of the clove. Each of the garlic cloves should be about four inches apart.

Watering Garlic

Immediately after planting, you should water your garlic. After the initial watering, you only need to water when the first couple inches of soil start to feel dry. This will help keep the growing medium evenly moist. You want to make sure you’re not overwatering it, though, which can cause things like mold and fungus to grow.

Lighting And Placement

Now that your garlic is planted, you’ll want to place it somewhere that receives6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day, such as a south-facing windowsill. If that’s not an option for you (our Chicago condo only receives a couple hours of sunlight a day), you’ll need to look at grow lights, which can simulate real sunlight.

In terms of artificial lights, we typically recommend that you use LEDs, which do a pretty good job of mimicking the full-spectrum light your garlic would receive under direct sun.

Here are some small grow light options we recommend.

Fertilizing Garlic Plants

Before you even plant your cloves of garlic, you should consider adding some compost to the growing medium to give your garlic cloves an initial feeding.

During the growing months of spring, you should then apply fertilizer 1-2 times a month. If you want to grow organic garlic, I recommend you use a simple organic fertilizer. If that’s not something you’re worried about, a traditional granular fertilizer should be fine.

Here are some good fertilizer options for growing garlic, including fish fertilizer options:

Photo Title Price Buy
Liqui-Dirt Nano Powder...image Liqui-Dirt Nano Powder All-Purpose Organic Complete Plant Food for Indoor or Outdoor Use (Makes over 50 gallons) 18 Balanced Super Foods -Balanced Blend of Vitamins Minerals Micro-Fungi and Bio-Organisms $39.95
Neptune's Harvest Fish...image Neptune's Harvest Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 2-3-1 (Gallon) $47.04
Miracle-Gro Performance Organics...image Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules - 2.5 lb., Organic, All-Purpose Plant Food for Vegetables, Flowers and Herbs, Feeds up to 240 sq. ft. $14.88
Dr. Earth Organic...image Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer Poly Bag $10.19

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Harvesting Garlic

If you’re planning to harvest the garlic bulb, it can take up to 10 months for it to be ready. You’ll notice that the previously green shoots will begin to turn brown. Dig the garlic bulbs up from the ground and then let them dry in a spot with good air circulation for approximately two weeks. Store garlic in a place away from the sunlight and on a newspaper to absorb the water.

At soon as the skin becomes paper-like, you’re ready to start using your fresh garlic!

Growing Garlic For Shoots

Now that we’ve discussed how to grow the bulb, the rest of this post will largely be about growing garlic shoots – which eventually become garlic scapes on hardneck varieties- which have a slightly more mild form of garlic, and they’re a great way to garnish food. These garlic greens are incredibly simple to grow, and you will begin seeing garlic sprouts just 7-10 days after planting them.

What You’ll Need To Grow Garlic Indoors

Here are the essentials you’ll need:

  • Container
  • soil-less potting mix
  • Light source (grow light or access to direct sunlight)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • watering can
  • Water

Growing garlic for the shoots is the same as growing garlic for the bulb, but you don’t need to put your bulb through the vernalization process. You can simply take the garlic cloves and plant them in your container. In a matter of weeks, you will start seeing new shoots appear that work well as an herb.

Your garlic greens should start sprouting – assuming your plants have had the appropriate amounts of sun and water – within the next 7-10 days. After a couple weeks, they should be around 5″ tall, which is when you’ll want to start harvesting them. Make sure you keep at least an inch of the garlic greens in place so your plant can regrow again.

In a well-ventilated space, you can expect to keep your plant for up to eight months.

DIY Garlic

Garlic is one of the most versatile vegetables available, and now you can grow it in the comfort of your Garlic is one of the most versatile vegetables available, and now you can grow it in the comfort of your own home. If you have access to an outdoor garden, it may make sense to grow garlic bulbs outside. But in a pinch, you can easily grow garlic greens inside. We’ll work on growing the garlic bulb indoors and let you know our results as soon as we have them!

Let's grow together!