You don’t need to have an entire garden bed dedicated to garlic to have homegrown garlic bulbs each year. All you have to do is learn how to grow garlic in a container; the effort is worth the rewards.
While many plants grow easily in a container, growing garlic can be a bit tricky because they have such a long growing season and particular watering needs. On the other hand, growing garlic at home allows you to grow harder to find varieties, and the taste is magnificent.
Tips on how to grow Lots Of garlic in a containers
If you’re a garlic lover (who isn’t) who appreciates the flavor it adds to your dishes, growing garlic in a pot in your garden or balcony can taste even better than the store-bought bulbs. Here is how to get started.
Garlic is part of the Allium family, including other plants such as shallots, chives, leeks, onions, and scallions. All have similar tastes and can be used to flavor delicious dishes.
There are two main types of garlic that you can grow in containers:
Softneck – A. Sativum
This variety has a floppy stalk. It’s easy to grow, and the mature bulbs can be cured or dried to provide it with a long shelf life. This variety thrives in USDA zones eight and up.
Hardneck – A. Sativum Var. Ophioscorodon
On the other hand, the hardneck variety grows a stiff stalk that stays upright; it won’t flop over. Hardneck varieties tend to have more complex flavors and produce larger cloves.
They work better for gardeners in USDA zones seven and below because they need at least 6-8 weeks of cold exposure. The temperatures need to go below 45℉ before sprouting.
How to Grow Garlic in a Container
Growing garlic in a container takes patience – a whole lot of it. Here is how you get started.
1. Know When To Plant Garlic In A Container
First, planting garlic at the right time is crucial. If you don’t do so, you won’t end up with the proper harvest. Garlic in containers needs to be planted around the same time that you would plant bulbs in the ground.
Plant your garlic in the fall after the first frost; you’ll know that soil is cooled, but nothing is frozen. Depending on where you live, that means you can plant garlic between September and November.
2. Pick The Right Container For Growing Garlic
When it comes to the pot needed to grow garlic, the one thing you should remember is that you need a large pot.
Using a bigger pot helps to keep the garlic bulbs well-watered. Larger pots hold more soil, which means that there is more moisture to retain.
3. Fill It With The Best Soil Medium For Potted Garlic Plants
You want to fill your container with a potting mix. Preferably, for potted garlic plants the mixture should include a slow-release fertilizer. You have two options for soil to grow garlic.
Overall, you want to aim for a loose, well-draining, rich, loamy soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.5. If you aren’t sure of your pH level, you can use a soil test.
Most importantly, don’t plant garlic where any other plant from the Alliums because pests or fungi could be living there that are attracted to the same plants. Some fungi can live in the soil for years.
4. Figure Out Where To Put The Container
Now that you have your container and soil, you have to find the perfect spot. Your garlic pot should be placed in a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
5. Buy Your Garlic Bulbs
When it’s time to plant garlic, you can either pick bulbs from a local farmer’s market or a local garden nursery.
The other option is to order them online, but finding varieties that you know work well for your climate is the ideal choice.
You can grow bulbs from supermarket garlic, but these are often treated to prevent sprouting.
6. Planting Garlic In Containers
Planting your garlic bulbs in a container is so easy! Here are the simple steps.
You must plant the pointy side down. The roots grow out of the clove’s bottom, so if you plant them upside, the roots will go upwards.
Caring for Garlic Growing in a Container
Your care for these plants will take the entire growing season. You have to pay attention to the amount of moisture provided to each plant.
1. Keep It Well Watered
As mentioned before, potted garlic has quite a long growing season – from the fall to the summer -, and it needs to start well-watered the entire time. It can be tedious.
2. Fertilize When Needed
When the garlic greens start to sprout out of the soil in the spring, you can begin to fertilize your plants every few weeks. Try using a 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer.
3. Cover With Mulch
It’s a great idea to cover your garlic plants with an inch of mulch. It helps to keep the moisture locked into the soil, especially during the fall and winter months. You can remove it, if you want, in the spring.
It’s a good idea to add a lighter color mulch in the spring, such as straw, because it reflects the heat away from your plants as the summer heat arrives.
Know When To Harvest Garlic Scapes
If you’re growing hardneck garlic varieties, you have the added benefit of being able to harvest garlic scapes, when are the long, blue-green shoots that come out of the soil in the spring. Scapes have a delicious, fresh, mildly-garlic taste.
When To Harvest Garlic Growing In Containers
Harvesting the garlic bulbs isn’t as easy to determine as other plants. There is a period between the garlic bulb’s maturity and the time when they’ll split apart and rot. Here is the rule that you need to remember.
Curing is an essential part of harvesting and storing your garlic. The purpose is to let all of the moisture out of the leaves and stalks. It prevents them from spoiling as you store them. Uncured garlic can fall prey to mold, fungi, and viruses.
Common Pests & Diseases That Bother Garlic
Growing garlic in pots means that you don’t have to worry about as many pests or diseases, especially about that might come from existing soil or plants.
With this fungal disease, you’ll find a grey-purple fuzzy growth on the leaf surface. Over time, the leaves can turn pale and, eventually, yellow. It tends to emerge in the cold temperatures and during periods of wetness.
To avoid downy mildew, you should rotate crops, not using the same area for 3-4 years. Keep your garlic bulbs in a well-draining container or garden bed, and never overcrowd the plants.
You can try to apply a foliar fungicide to get rid of the disease, but you’ll need to destroy all infected crop debris in most cases.
You’ll find small, water-soaked lesions on the leaves and stalk of your plants. Over time, the lesions will enlarge, changing to brown, then purple, as the tissue dies between the lesions and the leaf tip. In severe cases, this fungal infection causes severely infected foliage and plants.
You do need to practice crop rotation and make sure to use well-draining soil. Some fungicides can be effective at eliminating purple botch, but there is no guarantee.
Over time, you’ll see the older leaves on the garlic sprouts turning yellow and stunted growth. As the fungal infection gets worse, all of the leaves can die, and you might find a fluffy white growth at the base of the bulb.
Unfortunately, once white-rot starts, it means that the soil is unusable for garlic production because it can live in the soil for 20 years!
It’s one of the most damaging diseases for garlic and family members. Fungicide treatments aren’t typically effective. You should treat seeds with hot water before planting, and focus on long-term rotation with non-allium crops in between.
An infestation of bulb mites leads to stunted plant growth and bulbs rotting in the ground. Bulb mites are cream-white, measuring less than 1mm in length. They look similar to a little pearl with legs.
The plants’ damage by these pests can also cause a secondary problem, such as a pathogen. Make sure you don’t plant allium family members together in the same location. Treat the seeds with hot water to reduce mite populations.
These pests lead to stunted or wilted seedlings. They can cause the plant to break at the soil line if you try to pull the garlic bulb. The bulbs will be deformed and vulnerable to other diseases.
It’s essential to remove all bulbs at the end of the season. You can use insecticide sprays, and a floating row cover should be used to protect your plants and stop female insects from laying eggs around the plants.
This infestation can lead to discolored, distorted tissue, and plants with a silvery appearance. Thrips are small, measuring around 1.5mm, either pale yellow or light brown.
If you have a thrip problem, try introducing a natural enemy, such as predatory mite, pirate bug, or lacewings. You should apply insecticides, such as Neem oil, if you see thrip, and avoid plants’ overhead irrigation, which can increase thrips numbers.
For gardeners, learning how to grow garlic in a pot is easy. While it does take time for the garlic to grow and reach maturity, it’s worth the work to taste delicious homegrown garlic. Even if you don’t have space for a garlic garden bed, garlic grows well in containers.
Bethany is a suburban homesteader, growing over half of the vegetables, fruit, and herbs that her family of six needs each year. She raises chickens and homeschools her children. When she isn’t spending time tending to her garden, you can find her reading, crocheting, and canning.