How to Grow Garlic in the Midwest


There are two main types of garlic:

Softneck – or artichoke garlic

These are usually found at the market and are the easiest to grow in the south, where the weather is mild. They store better than hardnecks, but they are less hardy to our area.

Hardneck – or top-setting garlic

These do best in the Midwest where there is a real winter. Within the hardneck family, there are nine sub-types of garlics:

  • Purple Stripe – Hardiest of group
  • Rocambole – Hardiest of group
  • Marbled Purple Stripe
  • Asiatic
  • Glazed Purple Stripe
  • Creole
  • Middle Eastern
  • Turban
  • Porcelain


Break up the garlic bulb into cloves. You don’t need to pull off the papery covering like in cooking. To get them off to a good start and protect them from fungal diseases, soak them in enough water to cover, containing one tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed for a few hours before planting. Garlic should be planted in the fall. Timing of planting should be within two weeks of the first frost (32°F) so they develop roots, but do not emerge above ground.

Cloves should be planted with the flat or root end down and pointed end up, 2 inches beneath the soil. Set the cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart. Top the soil with 6 inches of mulch; leaf, straw or dried grass clippings work well.


Garlic needs about an inch of water each week during the Spring growing season. Stop supplemental watering (sprinkler) by June 1 or when the leaves begin to yellow so the bulbs firm up.

Scape Harvest:


About mid-June, the garlic will sprout curly, flowery tops called scapes. These should be removed to encourage larger bulb growth. Don’t waste them, use them in soups, pestos or anything else needing a mild garlic flavor.


Start foliar-feeding (spraying the leaves) your garlic every two weeks when leaf growth begins in the spring (March for us Midwesterners) and continues until around May 15, when the bulbs begin to form. Use 1 tablespoon liquid seaweed mix and 1 tablespoon fish emulsion mixed into a gallon of water. If there’s less time in your schedule, side dress each plant with compost.


When most of the leaves turn yellow-brown, normally in late June or early July (depending on the weather), it’s time to harvest. Carefully dig up each bulb; do not pull, the leaves aren’t attached well enough for a clean removal. Tie the garlic together in bundles and hang them to cure for about four to six weeks in a shaded, dry, and preferably drafty area.

When the garlic is thoroughly dry, trim the roots, take care not to damage the outer skin. Cut off the stalks about 1½ inches above the bulb and keep the garlic in bags or use recycled mesh onion bags.

I’ll let you know how mine do next year. I’ll be planting them again soon.

Thanks for visiting & keep on planting!

15 thoughts on “How to Grow Garlic in the Midwest

  1. Pingback: Monday Memories 10-17-2016 | Midwestern Plants

    • Thanks for the question!
      I’m going to say no. Why? Because this is a truly raised bed, with no benefit of heat coming from the ground. The bed will freeze sooner than the ground and stay frozen longer in the spring.
      I have mine in a raised bed with wood on the ground, and this works.


        • You’ve got an uphill battle with the lead. Have you had your soil tested?
          The only other way I can think of is to use large pots, mostly buried in the ground. Then plant your garlic in the pots with safe soil. This will give the garlic the ‘ground temps’ they need without touching the contaminated soil.
          No on growing it in basement. .. You can’t ‘force’ garlic like folks do for bulbs in winter… although I have seen people try 😁


  2. Pingback: Monday Memories 10-30-2017 | Midwestern Plants

  3. We get fresh garlic from our farmers market, and it’s sooo good! I can’t believe how much better it is. I wish I could grow it at my house, but it would never work with my conditions. This was interesting to see though.

    Liked by 1 person

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