How to Grow Garlic in Pots

If you think of garlic as an edible flowering bulb like daffodils or tulips, growing it in pots immediately makes sense. You can plant it in spring or fall and have the choice of different kinds (hardneck or softneck) and varieties of garlic. Hardneck garlic gives you two crops – cloves and scapes – in a limited space.


Choosing Varieties

There are literally hundreds of varieties, although some are rare and hard to find. Here are some possibilities:

  • Asian Rose – early, strong-flavored hardneck.
  • Chesnok Red – Excellent taste; valued for baking.
  • Inchelium Red – Native American hardneck with longer storage than most.
  • Siskiyou Purple – softneck that does well in hot climates.
  • Spanish Roja – Northwest heirloom hardneck with large cloves and strong flavor.

Soil for Containers

Garlic is a heavy feeder and soil quality is of prime importance. Use garden soil or potting mix that has been amended with well-rotted leaves or aged manure. Add sand to promote drainage. Mix in one tablespoon of organic 10-10-10 fertilizer per plant and fertilize while plants are growing with seaweed or fish emulsion. Cut back on nitrogen once cloves start to develop.

Watering Garlic

Garlic needs plenty of water, but this must be balanced with excellent drainage. Soil that is constantly wet (as opposed to moist) can prompt the growth of molds or rot the cloves. Your containers should have adequate drainage. Full a pot with soil, water well and let it drain for about 10 minutes. Then turn out the soil; if still saturated, you need more drainage.

Planting Depth and Spacing

Although garlic makes a lot of top growth, it’s actually fairly shallow-rooted. However, it’s better to have greater depth than short the plants on growing room. Your pots must be at least six inches deep and eight to twelve inches is better. Plants need at least four inches of space. Again, more is better if possible. In cold climates, plant cloves more deeply and use flexible pots to withstand freezing.

Harvesting Garlic in Containers

Fall-planted garlic usually takes about 240 days to reach maturity. Spring-planted garlic may be ready as early as 90 days. The appearance of scapes(flowering stalks) from hardneck garlic is a signal that it’s only about four to six weeks until harvest. When about half the leaves are dry, garlic is usually ready to harvest.

Curing Garlic

Garlic must be cured before storing to prevent rot. Pull the plants and hang with bulbs down in a warm, dry area with good air circulation. Inside, use a fan to move air and hang plants in groups of two or three rather than 10 or 12. It takes about four weeks to cure garlic (more if the weather is rainy).