Growing garlic indoors may seem like an impossible feat, but with the right care and conditions growing indoor garlic is not only possible but rewarding. Planting garlic bulbs in pots for indoor growing makes an attractive house plant and you can grow it over the winter when it usually lies dormant in the garden.
You can also snip the occasional green for your favorite recipe, and the superior flavor of home-grown garlic bulbs will be well worth the wait.
While garlic is an easy vegetable to cultivate, growing it indoors is a long term project with special considerations if you want to grow the best bulbs. Here are 6 steps to growing your own garlic indoors in pots.
Step 1: Choosing The Container
The first step to growing garlic indoors is to prepare the container for planting. You can use any container you want for growing garlic.
You can choose an ornate pot that matches your home décor, or you can use a recycled plastic ice cream bucket.
Here are a few things to consider when you are deciding which pot to use, and what kind of soil to fill it with.
1. Select a container that is about 20 cm (8 inches) wide with at least the same depth.
A pot this size will comfortably accommodate a single bulb. If you want to grow more bulbs choose a pot that will allow you to have at least 10 cm to 12 cm (4 to 5 inches) between each bulb.
A minimum depth of 20 cm (8 inches) is ideal to give the bulbs space to form underground without becoming root-bound. If possible, a depth of 30 cm (12 inches) is even better as this will allow more space for the bulbs.
2. Make sure that it has adequate drainage holes.
Garlic bulbs will easily rot if the soil is too wet, so it is important that excess water has a way to drain.
If you purchase a plan pot, it will most likely already have drainage holes in the bottom. If you re-purpose another container, make sure to drill several holes in the bottom to facilitate drainage.
Be very careful if you decide to use an old glass container. Drilling holes in glass can be very difficult without the know-how or the right tools and it can be very dangerous.
Don’t forget to put a shallow-sided tray under your plant pot to catch any water that drains out.
Step 2: Filling The Pot With Soil
The growing medium you choose is a very important decision as it will support your garlic for the next 9 months.
1: Bags of potting soil are ideally suited for growing your garlic.
Potting soil has a good texture and won’t compact, retains water nicely, and is readily available from many stores.
Topsoil is not recommended for container growing, as it easily compacts in the pots, trapping water and creating a less than ideal growing environment. You can use soil from your own garden, but make sure you mix it with a healthy dose of compost.
2: Feed your garlic by adding compost.
Since your garlic is going to be in the pot for a long time, adding compost is a worthwhile investment.
Compost will improve the texture and quality of the soil, as well as provide valuable food for the hungry bulbs. If you decide to use soil from your own garden, compost is even more important.
3: Fill your pot with a mix of about 1/3 compost with 2/3 potting soil.
Fill the pot so it is about 2 cm to 3 cm (1 inch) below the rim. This extra space will allow you to water the garlic without spilling muddy water all over your counter.
Next, water your soil until excess water drains out the holes and starts filling the drip tray. Let the pot stand in the water for about an hour. This will ensure that the soil has absorbed enough water so it has a good moisture level for the next step: planting.
Step 3: Choosing The Best Garlic To Grow Indoors
You can either buy your garlic from a reputable seed company, or you can grow from bulbs that you bought at the grocery store.
1: Garlic from seed companies has the advantage that it is certified seed.
This garlic will probably have superior germination and growth. If you buy from a local nursery, you also have the advantage of buying garlic that is well suited for your particular climate.
2: Garlic from the store is good because it is usually cheaper and readily available.
Make sure to buy certified organic bulbs, as conventional garlic is often treated to inhibit sprouting and it will not grow. Alternatively, if you reach into the back of your fridge and find an old sprouted garlic clove, you can plant this and produce a good harvest.
Bear in mind that store-bought garlic cloves might not grow into as impressive a bulb like the one you bought in the first place.
There are two main classifications of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hard neckgarlic will generally produce fewer bulbs that are larger, and will grow a tall flower stalk (which can be an attractive feature for your “house plant.”
Softneck garlic will store better and has a soft stem that can be braided together. Either type will grow well indoors, but I personally prefer softneck varieties for indoor growing.
Step 4: Planting Garlic In Pots
Now that you have your garlic and your pot is ready to go, it is time to plant your garlic. Here’s are some tips for planting garlic for successful indoor growing.
1: Expose your garlic to cold temperatures prior to planting.
In most places, garlic is planted in the fall. This is because most garlic grows best when it has been chilled for a few months in a process called vernalization.
Without this exposure to cold, most garlic cloves will not develop properly, and you will not get nice bulbs.
It is imperative to cold-expose hard neck varieties prior to planting. Soft neck varieties will also benefit from vernalization, but this isn’t always necessary.
To simulate vernalization, place your garlic cloves in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks, but up to 2 months is even better. Again, if you pull a sprouted clove out of the back of your fridge, you are ready to go!
2: Separate the bulbs into individual cloves.
You can remove any loose papery skins, but make sure to leave the husks on each clove as this will protect the clove during growing.
The largest cloves will produce the largest bulbs. This is because the larger the bulb, the more nutrients and extra energy to produce healthy roots and strong growth.
3: Plant each clove so the top is 2 cm to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) below the soil.
Make hole a hole that is 5 cm to 7 cm (2 to 3 inches) deep for each clove you are planting. Place the clove into the hole with the flat side down.
Cover the garlic clove with soil, and gently pack it down.
Step 5: Caring For Indoor Garlic
Now it is time to cultivate your garlic and watch it grow. Garlic is fairly easy to grow indoors, but here are few things to ensure a healthy plant and a bountiful harvest.
1: Make sure your garlic has adequate lighting.
Garlic requires full sun to grow, or at least 6 to 8 hours of light per day.
Preferably, you want to place your garlic in a bright window to receive as much natural sunlight as possible. However, light filtering through a window is not nearly as strong, especially if you are growing your garlic over winter when the sun’s rays are at their weakest.
In this case, you want to supplement your garlic with artificial light. There are many inexpensive grow lights you can buy, or you can make your own with LED daylight bulbs or fluorescent lights.
2: Water your garlic regularly.
How much and how often you need to water your garlic will depend on a number of factors, such as your local climate, how much sunlight it gets, and how warm your house is.
Remember that soil in pots dries out a lot faster than soil in the garden, so you don’t want your soil to dry out or the garlic to wither and die.
But you don’t want to overwater the garlic either or it can rot. A good rule of thumb is to water your garlic when the top 2.5 cm (1 inch) of soil is dry. Add just enough water until the excess starts coming out of the drainage holes.
3: Watch out for insects infesting your garlic.
Since you are growing indoors, your garlic is safe from most pests that invade your garden. Furthermore, the pungent odor of garlic deters most insects and rodents that might make their way into your home.
However, garlic is not immune from pests so if you do see signs of infestations, deal with them quickly before they become a problem.
Step 6: Harvest Growing Garlic Indoor
After three-quarters of a year of careful cultivation, you are ready to harvest your garlic bulbs and reap the rewards of your labour.
1: You can eat garlic greens, but don’t eat too many or your bulbs will suffer.
Garlic greens are completely edible and can replace green onions in your favorite dishes. You can snip off the occasional green as your garlic is growing to have fresh greens for dinner. These greens will continually regrow.
However, do this sparingly (or not at all) if you want to produce a large garlic bulb.
Many people think that by trimming the greens, you are forcing all the energy into the roots to grow a bigger bulb, but this is not true.
By trimming the greens, you are taking away the life-giving leaves and depriving the plant of valuable nutrients. The bigger and healthier the garlic greens are, the bigger and healthier the bulb will be.
2: Harvest your bulbs after 9 months.
Once the green tops begin to dry and die back, the bulbs should be ready to harvest. Pull up the bulbs and bruch off any extra dirt that is clinging to them.
Allow them to dry in the air, also called curing, by laying them on the counter for 7 to 10 days. Alternatively, you can hang them in your kitchen for a nice aesthetic.
Once the bulbs are dry, you can store them in a dry, well-ventilated area for around 6 months (if you don’t eat them first).
Growing garlic indoors is a long process, but is well worth the effort. It is always a joy to grow your own food, even if it is a single garlic plant on your kitchen cupboard. You are one step closer to being self-sufficiency, and the superior taste of your own garlic will astound you.
Every time you grow a new bulb, you can save a clove to replant and you will have a never-ending supply of fresh, home-grown garlic.
Maya is a freelance content writer and avid gardener currently based in Sweden. She gained her BA in Environment and Geography in Canada, which is also where she first learnt about the detriments of the industrialized agricultural system. During the summer she began farming through the WWOOF program, and over the next six years has continued to grow and learn at a number of organic farms and gardens across the US and Canada. She is passionate about the role of regenerative agriculture in wildlife conservation and climate change mitigation, and thinks growing your own food is a key part of revolutionizing the system. In her free time she likes to read, garden, and pet nice dogs.