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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Growing Garlic for the First Time

Updated: Jan 16

Picture this: you, a gardening newbie, armed with a shovel and a whisper of ambition, staring down a bag of curious-looking bulbs. They're not your average supermarket garlic cloves, these are hardneck heroes, ready to embark on a wild ride, and you're at the helm. Welcome to the world of first-time hardneck garlic!

First, ditch the "plant and pray" routine. These guys crave a bit of drama. A cold cuddle with winter is their secret sauce, a 4-8 week freezer slumber party that unlocks their inner rockstars. So, tuck them in your crisper drawer and let that frosty air tickle their toes.

But spring! Oh, the glorious spring! As the sun stretches and yawns, those bulbs erupt like confetti cannons, flinging up sturdy stalks and juicy cloves. And here's the beauty: they're not shy about sharing. Each stalk sends up little bulbils, like garlic babies waving from atop the green towers. Harvest time becomes a treasure hunt, unearthing not just plump cloves for your kitchen, but tiny adventurers for future gardens.

But the learning doesn't stop there. These hardnecks whisper tales of diversity. Experiment with different varieties, each with its own personality: the fiery Rocambole, the mellow Georgian Fire, the porcelain-skinned Music. You're not just growing garlic, you're cultivating a garlic opera!

So, embrace the unknown, the chilly snuggles, and the harvest bounty. Share your garlic tales, trade cloves with fellow adventurers, and watch your garden morph into a saga of flavor and resilience. And remember, even the greenest newbie can conquer the world of hardneck garlic, one curious bulb at a time. Now, go forth and let the garlic revolution begin!

Growing Hardneck Garlic for the First Time

Garlic is delicious and can be grown in many different climates. Hardneck garlic is a type of garlic that is known for its amazing flavor and garlic scapes, which are the long, flowering stalks that emerge from the plant in late spring. If you're thinking about growing hardneck garlic for the first time, here are a few things you need to know.

Hardneck garlic Harvest
Hardneck Garlic Harvest.

Hardneck or Softneck?

There are several factors to consider when choosing between hardneck and softneck garlic, including:

  • Climate: Hardneck garlic is generally more cold-tolerant than softneck garlic, so it is a better choice for gardeners in colder climates. Softneck garlic, on the other hand, is more tolerant of heat and humidity, so it is a better choice for gardeners in warmer climates.

  • Taste: Hardneck garlic has a more complex flavor than softneck garlic, and it is often described as having a "bite" or "kick." Softneck garlic, on the other hand, has a milder flavor.

  • Storage: Hardneck garlic stores very well as does softneck garlic. Do not store garlic in the refrigerator.

Ultimately, the best way to determine which type of garlic to plant is to consider your climate, your personal preferences, and how you plan to use the garlic.

When to Plant Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic should be planted in the fall, about 6-8 weeks before the first frost. At our farm in Montana, we plant garlic right around Halloween. This will give the planted cloves time to establish roots before the ground freezes. If you live in a warm climate, you may be able to plant hardneck garlic later in the fall or even in early Winter, but it's best to err on the side of caution and plant in the fall.

Where to Plant Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. If your soil is made up of clay, you will need to amend it with compost, well-composted organic matter and/ or sand to improve drainage. Hardneck garlic also does well in raised beds.

Preparing The Garden Space and Soil for the Hardneck Garlic Crop

If you are planning to grow a large crop of garlic, you will require a large space. In simple terms, if you want to grow 100 garlic plants, you will need to plant 100 - 110 garlic cloves, 6 inches apart. One row of 100 plants would require approximately 600 inches or a 50-foot row. Not all garlic cloves survive the winter. You can prepare a new space or garden for your garlic by tilling the area (2-3 times especially if the space currently has sod or other grasses), or you can build raised beds.
Hardneck Garlic Harvest in Bozeman Montana

If you till a fresh new area, be sure to perform a soil test to determine what nutruents your soil is lacking. You will likely need to Add organic matter to the soil. This can be done by adding compost, manure, or other organic materials.

Organic matter will help to improve the soil structure and drainage, and it will also provide nutrients to the garlic plants. Till the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. This will help to break up the soil and incorporate the organic matter. Remove any weeds or debris from the area. Weeds will compete with the garlic plants for water and nutrients. Level the soil. This will help to ensure that the garlic plants are planted at the same depth. Apply a balanced fertilizer. This will help to provide the garlic plants with the nutrients they need to grow and produce a good crop. It is not necessary to have a soil test done before planting garlic. However, if you are concerned about the quality of your soil, you can have it tested by a local extension office. A soil test will tell you the pH level of your soil and the levels of nutrients present. This information can help you to determine if you need to add any amendments to the soil before planting.

Garlic can be planted in a raised bed. In fact, raised beds are a great way to grow garlic because they provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Improved drainage: Raised beds are typically filled with a well-draining potting mix, which is ideal for garlic.

  • Better soil quality: Raised beds can be amended with compost and other organic matter to improve the soil quality, which can lead to larger, healthier garlic bulbs.

  • Easier weed control: Raised beds are easier to weed than traditional gardens, which can save you time and effort.

  • Less pests and diseases: Raised beds are often less susceptible to pests and diseases than traditional gardens, which can help to protect your garlic crop.

Purchase Seed Garlic for Planting

Seed garlic is garlic that is specifically intended for planting. It is typically larger and more uniform than garlic which is sold for eating, and it is grown in a specific way to ensure that it is healthy and vigorous. Seed garlic is usually more expensive than garlic that is sold for eating, but it is worth the investment if you are serious about growing your own garlic. There are many places where you can purchase garlic. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Farmers markets: Farmers markets are a great place to find fresh, local garlic. There are farmers markets held all over Montana throughout the year.

  • GroEat Garlic Farm: This is a Montana garlic farm that grows hardneck garlic varieties for seed and for culinary. You can usually find a wide variety of garlic varieties to choose from. GroEat Farm offers "Direct from the Grower" purchasing, so you can purchase garlic directly from them. This is a great way to support local farmers and get the freshest garlic possible.

  • Other Online retailers: There are many online retailers that sell garlic. You can usually find a wide variety of garlic varieties to choose from.

groeat farm twins garlic harvest
Twin Kids helping harvest hardneck garlic

How to Plant Hardneck Garlic

To plant hardneck garlic, separate the individual cloves from the garlic bulb. Simply push the cloves into the soil, while wearing light gloves. Push the clove into the soil about 2-4 inches deep. Be sure to plant the clove pointed end up, and cover it with soil. Space the cloves about 6 inches apart either in a grid pattern or in rows. The distance between rows are your choice, though many growers leave enough room between rows for walking.

How to Care for Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic is relatively easy to care for. Water the plants regularly, especially during dry periods. You may also want to fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer once a month. Ideally, perform a soil test and use the recommendations from the soil laboratory when it comes to fertilizer applications.

Harvest Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the long, flowering stalks that emerge from hardneck garlic plants. Harvest scapes regularly to encourage the plant to produce larger bulbs. They are edible and have a mild garlic flavor. Scapes can be harvested at any time, but they are best when they are young and tender. To harvest a garlic scape, simply cut it off at the base of the plant, just below the lowest set of leaves. You can use a sharp knife or garden shears.

Here are some tips for harvesting garlic scapes:

  • Harvest scapes when they are young and tender, before they flower.

  • Cut the scapes at the base of the plant, just below the lowest set of leaves.

  • Use a sharp knife or garden shears, or simply snap the scape from the plant using your fingers.

Harvesting garlic at Groeat Farm in Bozeman
harvesting garlic at Groeat Farm in bozeman

When to Harvest Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlic is ready to harvest when the bottom few leaves have turned brown and the leaves are drooping over. To harvest garlic, use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the bulbs. Then, gently lift the bulbs out of the ground. Be careful not to damage the bulbs. It is okay to damage the leaves. Then, let the garlic cure for a few weeks in a cool, dry place. This will help the garlic to dry out and store well. Once you have cured the garlic, remove the leaves and roots. Here are some additional tips for harvesting and storing garlic:

  • Harvest garlic on a dry day. This will help to prevent the bulbs from rotting. The garlic should be dry when extracted from the soil, not damp or wet.

  • You do not need to harvest all of the garlic at once. Take your time and plan to extract the bulbs in a fairly short period of time.

  • Early morning or evening are a good time to harvest, so the extracted bulbs are not in direct sunlight.

  • Be sure to hand the bulbs gently as they are susceptible to bruising.

Curing Garlic

Once your hardneck garlic is harvested, it will need to cure or dry for about a month. Be sure to hand the bulbs gently as they are susceptible to bruising. Curing garlic is a process of drying the bulbs to prevent them from rotting and it increases storage life. It is an important step in storing garlic for long periods. There are several methods for curing garlic, but the most common is to hang the bulbs in a cool, dry place. To cure garlic, you will need:

  • A bunch of garlic, leaves, stems and bulbs

  • A piece of string or plastic zip ties

  • A cool, dry place


  1. Tie the garlic plants together with a piece of string or zip ties.

  2. Hang the garlic bulbs in a cool, dry place.

  3. Let the garlic cure for 2-4 weeks.

  4. Choose a cool, dry place to hang the garlic. The ideal temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  5. Turn the garlic bulbs every few days to ensure that they dry evenly.

  6. Tighten the string or zip ties as the garlic leaves loose moisture and dry.

  7. Avoid hanging the garlic in direct sunlight or in a humid environment.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: I Recently Moved from the Country to the City: How to Make the Most of A Small Garden?

ANSWER: Moving from the country to the city can be a big change, especially if you're used to having a large garden. But don't worry, you can still have a beautiful and productive garden in a small space. With a little planning and care, you can have a beautiful and productive garden in even the smallest space. So get out there and start gardening! Here are a few tips:

1. Choose the right location for your garden.

The first step is to choose the right location for your garden. If you have a sunny spot on your balcony or patio, that's perfect. If not, you can still grow plants in a shady spot, but you'll need to choose plants that are tolerant of shade.

2. Use vertical space.

If you don't have a lot of horizontal space, you can use vertical space to your advantage. You can grow plants on trellises, fences, or even walls. This is a great way to save space and add interest to your garden.

3. Choose the right plants.

When choosing plants for your small garden, it's important to choose plants that are compact and don't take up a lot of space. You can also choose plants that grow vertically, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans.

4. Use containers.

If you don't have a lot of space, you can use containers to grow your plants. Containers are a great way to add variety to your garden and make it easy to move your plants around.

5. Take care of your plants.

Just like any garden, your small garden will need regular care. This includes watering, fertilizing, and weeding. Be sure to water your plants regularly, especially during hot weather. You should also fertilize your plants every few weeks. And don't forget to weed! Weeds can quickly take over a small garden, so removing them regularly is important.

QUESTION: Are Raised Beds Good for Growing Garlic?

ANSWER: Yes, raised beds are good for growing garlic. They offer a number of advantages over traditional gardening methods, including:

  • Improved drainage: Raised beds are typically filled with a well-draining potting mix, which helps to prevent garlic from rotting.

  • Better soil quality: Raised beds can be filled with a high-quality potting mix that is specifically designed for growing garlic. This helps to ensure that the garlic has access to the nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy.

  • Easier weed control: Raised beds are easier to weed than traditional gardens because the soil is loose and easy to work with. This makes it easier to remove weeds before they have a chance to take root.

  • Increased yields: Raised beds can produce larger yields of garlic than traditional gardens because the plants have more space to grow.

If you are thinking about growing garlic, I would recommend using a raised bed. It is a great way to improve the drainage, soil quality, and weed control in your garden, and it can help you to produce larger yields of garlic.

QUESTION: I work a lot and am away from home a lot. Can I still grow garlic?

ANSWER: Yes, you can still grow garlic even if you work a lot and are away from home a lot. Here are a few tips:

  • Choose a low-maintenance variety of garlic. There are many different varieties of garlic, and some are more low-maintenance than others. Choose a variety that is known to be easy to grow and that doesn't require a lot of care.

  • Grow your garlic in a raised bed. Raised beds are easier to maintain than traditional gardens, and they can help to improve drainage and soil quality.

  • Use a drip irrigation system. A drip irrigation system is a great way to water your garlic plants without having to be home every day.

  • Mulch your garlic beds. Mulch helps to retain moisture and suppress weeds, so you'll have to water and weed less often.

  • Fertilize your garlic plants regularly. Garlic plants need a balanced fertilizer to grow strong and healthy.

  • Harvest your garlic when it's ready. Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves have turned brown and the stalks have begun to dry up.

QUESTION: is it better to buy garlic from the store or grow it myself?

ANSWER: Whether it is better to buy garlic from the store or grow it yourself depends on your preferences and circumstances.

Buying garlic from the store

There are a number of advantages to buying garlic from the store. First, it is convenient. You can simply go to the store and buy the garlic that you need. Second, it is relatively inexpensive. Garlic is a relatively affordable food item, and you can usually find it at a good price at the store. Third, you can find a variety of garlic varieties at the store. There are many different types of garlic, and you can usually find the type that you like at the store.

Growing garlic yourself

There are also a number of advantages to growing garlic yourself. First, it is rewarding. There is nothing quite like harvesting your own garlic and knowing that you grew it yourself. Second, it is healthier. When you grow your own garlic, you know exactly what is in it. There are no pesticides or herbicides, and you can be sure that your garlic is fresh and healthy. Third, it is more affordable. Growing your own garlic can save you money in the long run.

Ultimately, the best way to get garlic is the way that works best for you. If you are short on time or space, buying garlic from the store is a great option. If you are looking for a rewarding and healthy way to get garlic, growing it yourself is a great option.

QUESTION: I Live in a Location Where the Soil is Just Terrible. What Should I do if I want to grow garlic here?

ANSWER: If you live in a place where the soil is terrible, you can still grow garlic by amending the soil. There are a number of ways to amend soil, including:

  • Adding compost

  • Adding manure

  • Adding sand

  • Adding peat moss

  • Adding perlite

The best way to amend your soil will depend on the specific problems with your soil. If your soil is heavy clay, you will need to add sand and perlite to improve drainage. If your soil is sandy, you will need to add compost and manure to improve fertility. If your soil is acidic, you will need to add lime to raise the pH.

Once you have amended your soil, you can plant your garlic. Be sure to plant your garlic in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. You should also water your garlic regularly, especially during dry weather.

With a little care and attention, you can grow garlic even in poor soil.

QUESTION: I am a FIRST TIME Garlic gardener. Do you have any tips to get started?

ANSWER: That is a great question. Here are 10 Tips for First-Time Garlic Gardeners. Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but it can also be a lot of work. If you're new to gardening, there are a few things you can do to make the experience easier and more successful.

1. Choose the right Garlic Variety for you Location.

Not all garlic plants are created equal. Some plant varieties do well in cold climates and others do well in warmer climates. In other words, begin with seed garlic that are better suited for your certain climates and conditions. Do some research to choose plants that are right for your gardening zone and experience level.

2. Prepare your soil.

Healthy soil is essential for healthy plants. Before you plant anything, take some time to prepare your soil by adding compost or other organic matter. This will help to improve drainage, aeration, and nutrient availability.

3. Plant at the right time.

The best time to plant your garden will vary depending on the plants you're growing and your climate. Be sure to plant your plants at the right time of year for your area. For garlic, plant the cloves in the fall before the first big freeze.

4. Water regularly.

One of the most important things you can do for your plants is to water them regularly. Water deeply and infrequently, rather than shallowly and frequently.

5. Fertilize your plants.

Most plants need some fertilizer to thrive. Be sure to fertilize your plants according to the directions on the fertilizer label.

6. Weed regularly.

Weeds can compete with your plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight. Be sure to weed your garden regularly to give your plants the best chance of success.

7. Protect your plants from pests and diseases.

Pests and diseases can be a problem for any gardener. Be sure to inspect your plants regularly for signs of pests or diseases. If you see any problems, take steps to control them immediately.

8. Harvest your crops.

When your plants are ready to harvest, be sure to do so promptly. This will help to ensure that your plants produce the best possible yield. Hand the harvested garlic with tender loving care as the garlic bulbs can bruise easily.

9. Enjoy your harvest!

One of the best things about gardening is enjoying the fruits of your labor - or the bulbs of your labor. Be sure to savor your harvest and share it with your friends and family.

10. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

If you have any questions or problems, don't be afraid to ask for help from a local nursery, garden center, or experienced gardener. There are many people who are willing to help new gardeners succeed. Gardening is a great way to get exercise, fresh air, and connect with nature. It's also a rewarding way to save money on food and add beauty to your home. So what are you waiting for? Get started gardening today!

GroEat Farm, LLC is a small, sustainable family farm located in Bozeman, Montana.  We’re located in the beautiful Hyalite foothills, below the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that grow at our farm (Ophioscorodon) flourish here, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range (comprised of Archean metamorphics, Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, and Eocene volcanics).  Not only are the GroEat Hardneck garlic healthy and beautiful, the flavor’s are robust and delicate.

Groeat Garlic Farm Montana
Groeat Garlic Farm Montana

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