How to Grow Lots of Garlic In Containers: Complete Guide from Planting to Harvest

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

  • To Grow garlic in pots you need a container that is at least 8 to 10 inches deep deep and has excellent drainage
  • Plant the garlic bulbs in the fall, between September and November 
  • Separate the cloves from the garlic bulb, and plant garlic 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart into the soil, pointy sound down 
  • The container’s soil needs to be kept moist at most times, but it shouldn’t be soggy
  • Position the pot so that it gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day
  • Harvest your container grown garlic bulbs when the greens start to turn yellow

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 Basics

Garlic Basics

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

Know When to Plant Garlic

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

Pick The Right Container

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. 

  • For container gardening garlic aim to get a container that is at least 8-10 inches deep. That gives the garlic roots plenty of space to grow and extend.
  • A 24-inch long, 8-inch deep container holds 4-6 plants, which is sufficient for many families.
  • Instead, you can pick several smaller containers, planting 1-2 cloves in each. Smaller containers make it much easier to move them around.
  • Stay away from terra cotta because it allows the soil to dry out more quickly. A durable plastic pot is awesome.
  • Be sure that the garlic planted in container has plenty of drainage holes. You can add some gravel at the bottom to allow water to drain away easily.

3. Fill It With The Best Soil Medium For Potted Garlic Plants

Fill It With The Best Soil

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.

  • Pick a loose potting soil mixed with a 10-10-10 fertilizer when planting garlic in pots. Make sure you reach the instructions on the fertilizer package to avoid accidentally burning your plants. 
  • Use garlic soil that you filter with a mesh or sieve to remove clumps. Then, amend at a 50-50 ratio with either compost or well-rotted manure.
  • Pick a loose potting soil mixed with a 10-10-10 fertilizer when planting garlic in pots. Make sure you reach the instructions on the fertilizer package to avoid accidentally burning your plants. 
  • Use garlic soil that you filter with a mesh or sieve to remove clumps. Then, amend at a 50-50 ratio with either compost or well-rotted manure.

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

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

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 Garlic

Planting your garlic bulbs in a container is so easy! Here are the simple steps.

  • Fill up your pot, leaving 3 inches from the top of the container.
  • Take the head of garlic and separate the cloves from each other. Make sure you leave the papery skin on the cloves when you break them apart. The skin is meant to protect the cloves and keeps infections away.
  • Find the pointy end of each clove, and push each of the cloves into the soil. If you live in a warmer area, you can cover the cloves with about 1 inch of ground, but the cloves need to be covered with 2 inches of soil for those who live in colder regions.
  • Make sure you space each clove, at least 3 inches apart. Once all of the garlic cloves are planted, firmly pat the soil in place.

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

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

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. 

  • The container’s soil needs to be kept moist at most times, but it shouldn’t be soggy.
  • They need to be provided ½ to 1 inch of water each week. If you aren’t sure if the plants need to be watered, put your finger into the dirt. If it’s moist three inches down, it’s not time to water just yet.
  • You must maintain the moisture in the soil when you fertilize the plants.
  • If you face serious rainy days, you need to make sure you move the container. That’s one of the benefits of growing in pots. After a day or two of rain, you can move your plant to safety. Garlic doesn’t want to be soggy or water-logged.

2. Fertilize When Needed

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.

  • Look at the package and follow the instruction closely. Never add more than what is instructed because you can burn your plants.
  • Sprinkle the granules around your plants and mix them into the soil with your hand.
  • Another option is to use a water-soluble fertilizer and water your plants with the fertilizer.

3. Cover With Mulch

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

Harvesting Garlic

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.

  • Garlic scapes can be turned into a garlic pest or used to flavor dishes. You can toss them into mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a meat dish.
  • It would be best if you harvested the scapes when they’re young and tender. When they start to curl in a circle, you know it’s time to pick them.
  • Picking scapes helps your garlic! It makes the garlic plants grow for a more extended period.

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. 

  • You should harvest container grown garlic when the leaves start to turn yellow, but the only way to determine if it’s ready is by digging up a clove to see if it’s ready.
  • Never pull the garlic bulb from the stem. You need to dig each one out individually, being cautious not to damage the bulb.
  • Once harvested, brush off the dirt gently, and leaves the leaves on the bulb. You can bundle the garlic loosely together, hanging them to cure, or spreading them out individually for the same purpose.
  • It takes 2-4 weeks for the skin to get papery, and that’s when you need to cut off the tops and roots of the bulb.
  • Garlic bulbs need to be stored in a cool, dry place.

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 

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. 

Downy Mildew

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.

Purple Blotch

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. 

White Rot

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.

Bulb Mites

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. 

Onion Maggot

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. 

Thrips

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Updated on by Amber Noyes

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