Growing Garlic From Cloves in My Minnesota Garden

garlic cloves and bulb 1

I love garlic. I use garlic in the majority of my cooking and it is often one of those crops I suggest to people showing interest in a market garden as it is usually a decent high value crop and was often one of the lesser sold things you could find at a booth.

Since moving I have more of an interest in cultivating some wild ramps on a property over usual garlic with the intent to sell part and conserve them as I’m worried that the irresponsible foragers might clean them out. I will still dedicate a small part to one of my favorite crops.

It is one of those plants that seems to thrive on neglect and will work in the smallest of spaces. I won’t be getting my garlic in until fall, but I’m definitely getting prepared.

Some varieties I’ve been recommended are:

  • Chesnok Red
  • Georgian Crystal
  • Krasnador Red
  • Georgia Fire

I’m going to try to grow Sicilian as it is what I usually grow though I will have to check back with results for that one.

If everything work well they should be maturing between July-August and I’m going to get an order in early so they arrive at a good time. 

Growing Garlic From A Clove


The nice part about garlic is you can grow them from garlic clove segments. I usually sourced my seed garlic from another small local farmer or I’d specially order some in. Sometimes the store garlic works as well though it has proven less reliable. The general idea is you get a garlic head and break it down into the smaller parts called cloves.

Each clove has the potential to develop into a whole garlic head and you can get a lot of garlic out of this arrangement from the original bulb or bulbs. It helps to overplant though because some harvests I’d end up with a ton of garlic and some years no matter what it seemed like the forces of nature were against me, though this goes with gardening any plant.

I would always figure out my target amount I was going for and then triple my planting. In the good years, I’d have triple the crops and in bad years I’d have the crop amount I wanted after bugs or animals snacking, drought, and acts of God had taken their cut.

How Long Does It Take

Garlic usually takes around 9 months before it is ready to pull out from the planting date. Though depending on the year I might give them more or less time. If you are planting for a market garden you will want to factor in the couple weeks it takes to cure them after a harvest.

For curing you can braid the garlic up and hang it somewhere to dry and store. The process is simple as you just braid the top end of the garlic stems after they wilt a bit (though not dried out and brittle) so all the bulbs hang down in an attractive manner. As the bulbs dry you can remove the outer layer to make the garlic bulbs pleasing to look at.

Garlic Types

Since I’m in a cold zone, my best bet would be a hardneck garlic that is decently adapted to cold climates. Harnecks are all good about making those highly praised curled scapes that all the foodie chefs rave about.

Another type is known as softneck garlic. This garlic is usually good for tolerating cold to zone 5 and most varieties don’t make scapes.

The last type is known as mild-tasting elephant garlic. This type of garlic is known for being really large. It is also good for tolerating cold to zone 5 though usually more protections need to be done like black covers and deep mulch.

Growing Garlic From Cloves in My Minnesota Garden

Notes About Grocery Store Garlic

Generally it is better to buy seed garlic from another farm or a source meant to be seed garlic. Grocery store garlic varies from place to place depending on who they buy from. I had a couple stores great for buying garlic as they bought locally and didn’t treat the garlic with anything. Other stores ship the garlic in and that garlic is often treated with some inhibitors.

Sometimes the organic garlic for sale is viable, though that doesn’t seem to be guaranteed either at times.

When to Plant Garlic

I used to live in zone 7b so I basically planted any fall month I wanted usually around the same time the baby frosting started, though it didn’t seem to matter.

Now I’m dealing with Minnesota conditions. The advice there is still to plant in the fall, but do so about 2 weeks or so before the first frost of the season. The hard freeze won’t affect the roots and shoots of the cloves though the cloves will be safely underground until the temperatures get a bit warmer in spring. Some gardeners like to plant more like 6 weeks before frost.

If you need reference, then you want to look up the USDA map for your hardiness zone.

If you don’t know your plant hardiness zone, you can look it up on this map from the USDA.

How to Plant the Garlic Cloves

Again you want to go by the rule of 3 most of the time with a garden. Plant 3 times the target amount you want so you have a sensible buffer if your harvest isn’t good that year.

  • Prepare your garlic by breaking apart the cloves from the bulb before planting and let them rest a bit overnight or a full day. Keep their papery coverings on them.
  • Plant the cloves where the root side is down and the pointy top part is up. Ideal spacing is around 7″ deep and 4″ apart
  • Then you want to cover your planted cloves with a decent layer of compost and mulch. I would often find free sources for this either produced on my land or by asking around locally. Usually, I’d throw down maybe 2″ though it wasn’t exact. Just give it a good layer of compost and a good layer of mulch to tuck it all in.
  • Water your garlic beds for the first few weeks until you hit the first frost. Be sure to harvest scapes that emerge in spring so you can get the delicacy for cooking, but also because it enhances the bulb growth.
  • You harvest when a large chunk of the stalk looks brown, then braid and allow to cure as mentioned above. Do not store braided garlic in the sun and keep it dry.

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