Garlic Is a Powerful Prepper Crop: How to Grow, Harvest and Store It

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Garlic is a welcome addition to home gardens and should be a basic crop in every survival garden. It is a miracle plant with many uses.

What are the primary uses of garlic? Garlic has a wide variety of benefits as a culinary herb, medicinal plant, insect repellant, companion plant, and is a source of vital nutrients. It is the perfect addition to every garden.

In this post, I’ll share some tips for growing garlic in your home garden and explore the benefits of this miracle plant. You will be hooked on garlic once you finish this article.

How to Grow Garlic in a Home Garden

Every home garden can benefit greatly by including garlic in your choice of crops. As a prepper, I grow garlic to improve the taste of my stored beans and grains as well as for its medicinal properties. Garlic is simple to successfully grow and increases the overall productivity of your garden.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Garlic

Garlic is incredibly easy to grow and isn’t picky about soil conditions. It does not grow well in soggy soil. Ideally, garlic likes a sandy loam with regular watering.

Garlic thrives in full sun. I like to plant it everywhere in the garden because by the time most plants get big enough to shade the garlic it is time to harvest it.

How to Plant Garlic

There are basically 3 ways to plant garlic. Garlic only needs to be purchased once and then you can easily produce garlic year after year.

The garlic varieties that I grow in my garden were given to me by friends and neighbors. I continue this thoughtful tradition and share my garlic starts with others.

Plant Garlic Cloves in the Fall

The most popular way to start garlic is by planting the cloves during the fall. The garlic cloves are planted root side down 1-3 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart.

As soon as the weather warms in the spring, you will have healthy garlic plants popping up through the soil.

Transplant Garlic Starts in Spring

My preferred method for planting garlic is transplanting volunteer garlic starts in the spring. Inevitably, we will miss several garlic bulbs when we harvest the garlic in the summer. These forgotten bulbs will produce beautiful clumps of garlic starts in the spring.

I dig up the cluster of plants with a shovel, and carefully separate the individual plants. I strategically replant them in my spring garden with the rest of the spring veggies.

Perpetual Beds of Garlic by Self-Seeding

I have found permaculture guilds to be an effective way of producing healthy, organic produce. It is like companion planting on steroids.

A friend gave me a few garlic bulbs from her yard. I planted those in with my blackberries and fruit trees for insect control. The garlic serves an important role as an insectary in the guild.

This variety produces a single clove with a delicious edible stock. I don’t harvest them every year because they serve as a companion plant in my food forest. Each year I allow them to go to seed. Every spring they produce a plethora of new little garlic plants that grow without any effort on my part.

This is a fantastic way to have a perpetual bed of garlic with very little work. I keep these under control by mowing them down or using them as an ingredient (tops and bulbs) in my organic pest sprays.

When and How to Harvest Garlic

Garlic is harvested in the summer when the tops of the plant start to turn brown. I usually snap off the garlic scape (green stock with a flower) to produce larger bulbs. Scapes can be used to add a delicious mild garlic flavor to recipes.

Garlic can’t be pulled by the stalk to harvest like you harvest onions. The garlic tops will break off, leaving the garlic bulb buried in the ground. I loosen the soil around each plant with a shovel and gently pull it out of the soil.

How to Cure Garlic for Storage

Garlic will store longer if it is cured correctly. Curing garlic is a very simple process.

  • Brush the loose soil off of the garlic.
  • Spread the garlic out on newspapers or a tarp in a shady, well-ventilated area.
  • Leave the garlic and allow it to cure for 2-4 weeks.
  • Garlic is cured when the outer skins are dry and crispy.

I like to use the table under our back porch or the floor in our garage to cure garlic. Sometimes I will braid the long stems shortly after harvesting and allow them to cure as a braid. I have a friend who cures her garlic by hanging it under a tree.

After the garlic is cured, I clean the bulbs by trimming off the tops and roots. I brush off any remaining dried soil.

I prefer to store the individual garlic bulbs in a basket in my store room rather than in a hanging braid. When I cut the garlic off the braid, little dried pieces of the plant break away and litter my store room floor. The basket of bulbs is just a little cleaner.

Best Varieties of Garlic for Growing in a Home Garden

Quite frankly, the best variety of garlic to grow in your area is probably what you can obtain from a neighboring gardener. That variety has been proven and acclimated to your area.

Softneck and Hardneck Garlic

There are two basic types of garlic: softneck and hardneck garlic. The “neck” is the stalk that grows up from the underground bulb. Just as the name indicates, softneck stalks are flexible and hardneck have a central woody stem when mature.

Hardneck garlic varieties tend to produce larger cloves and are easier to peel. They also produce a flower stock or scape while softnecks do not. Softneck garlic varieties often produce a bulb with a longer storage life. If you are going to braid garlic for storage, a softneck variety works best.

Garlic Variety Selection Considerations

Open any plant catalog, and you will discover an amazing variety of garlic seed that can be delivered right to your mailbox. They vary in size, color, and time to maturity. Some varieties are mellow while others are strong. Some varieties are sweeter and others are spicy. Some grow better in warm climates and others love the cold.

The best way to find out which you prefer is to plant several of them and then continue to produce the kind that you like best.

Garlic is a Magnificent Companion Plant in the Garden

Garlic does a great job of repelling insects along with gophers, voles, and moles in the garden. It can also be beneficial when planted by many garden vegetables.

Good Companion Plants for Garlic

Plant garlic everywhere in your garden. There are many plants that are great companion plants with garlic. Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, kale, spinach, lettuce, parsnips, beets, sweet peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, dill, savory, chamomile, strawberries and fruit trees are all benefited when garlic is grown nearby.

Don’t be afraid to tuck garlic plants all throughout your garden.

Bad Companion Plants for Garlic

There aren’t very many plants that don’t work well with garlic, but there are a few. You should avoid planting garlic near asparagus, parsley, peas and beans.

Garlic Repels Pests

Garlic repels a variety of pests including; spider mites, cabbage loopers, Japanese beetles, aphids, ants, onion flies, fungus gnats and codling moths. Garlic also discourages critters like gophers, rabbits, and deer.

Understanding the clever uses for garlic means that you can often harvest a successful crop without the need for chemicals in your garden.

Plant Garlic in Fruit Tree Guilds

Permaculture gardeners use the term “fruit tree guild” to refer to a design method where plants work together and produce healthy, disease-resistant fruit trees that produce delicious fruit without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. 

I have a row of apple trees that I planted on the border of our property using permaculture guild principles. I like to include a lot of flowers in my fruit tree guilds to attract pollinators and beneficial insects.

I strategically plant dynamic nutrient contributors such as comfrey and rhubarb to produce mulch and build the soil. The guild also includes plants, such as mint, chives, lavender, yarrow, and feverfew, that attract beneficial insects.

I always plant garlic around each of the trees to repel bugs and discourage gophers. I also plant nitrogen-fixing plants including clover, peas, and lupines to help feed the trees.

Garlic is a standard plant around the base of our peach trees in our chicken orchard to help deter peach borers. The chickens love to eat the tops off the garlic. I plant them once and never have to replant them.

Check out the photos of our apple tree guild with the garlic planted everywhere and the garlic at the base of the peach tree inside of the chicken wire for protection.

You might be interested in our post, How to Create a Survival Food Forest in Your Backyard along with the accompanying video below.

Garlic is a Valuable Ingredient in Organic Insecticide Sprays

Garlic’s wonderful power to repel or confuse insects makes it a standard ingredient in many homemade insecticide sprays.

Garlic Mint Vegetable Garden Spray

  • 3 whole bulbs of garlic (I like to include the top stalks if they are available)
  • 4 cups of mint leaves and stems
  • 1 tablespoon dry cayenne pepper
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tablespoon Dawn dishing liquid

Chop the garlic and mint in a food processor. Add the garlic-mint mixture along with cayenne pepper to a large pot filled with water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover and let sit overnight. Strain and add liquid soap. Transfer to spray bottles or garden sprayer. Apply to infected plants as needed.

Fertilizer Bug Deterrent Combo Spray

I like to add garlic stalks to a comfrey manure tea that I make to control pests and fertilize my plants. I harvest comfrey leaves and garlic plants. I chop them up and place them in a 5 gallon bucket. This is a great way to use some of the tops of my garlic plants at harvest.

Next, I pour boiling water over the top and loosely cover the bucket. I let the comfrey and garlic rot for a few days and then I strain it. It starts to smell like manure very quickly.

The plant chunks get put in the compost bin. The liquid is diluted and sprayed on my fruit trees, grapes and garden vegetables. There is a noticeable “greening” within a few days.

Garlic is a Source of Nutrition in a Healthy Diet

Garlic is highly nutritious, and is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, selenium, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin B1. Garlic is a popular ingredient in many recipes because of its delightful flavor. Nutritious and delicious, what more could you ask for?

Garlic is a Cooking Aromatic

Garlic is a wonderful aromatic for use in cooking, and is used to add flavor to basic bland ingredients. Adding a little bit of garlic can dramatically improve the flavor of many dishes.

Ten Great Ways to Extend the Storage Life of Fresh Garlic

Garlic is incredibly simple to grow, and the dried bulbs will store well.

Storing Fresh Garlic

The following tips will help create ideal storage conditions for fresh garlic.

  • Keep the garlic bulb intact. Breaking the bulb apart into individual cloves reduces storage life.
  • Dark location. Sunlight will encourage sprouting.
  • A dry area is important as moisture will promote the garlic cloves to sprout.
  • Cooler temperatures increase the storage life of garlic.
  • A well-ventilated container with good air circulation will allow garlic to breathe and last longer.

I store garlic in a small basket in my basement storage room. Garlic bulbs can store for 6 months or longer before they start to sprout in the correct environment.

I bring one bulb up from the storage room at a time. This allows me to have delicious fresh garlic throughout the long winter months.

Storing fresh garlic bulbs isn’t the only way to extend the storage life of garlic. You may want to experiment with some of these ideas for storing garlic.

#1 – Freeze Unpeeled Garlic Cloves

Clean unpeeled garlic cloves can be frozen in freezer bags, and will keep for up to a year in the freezer. Take the garlic cloves out of the bag and use them a few at a time.

#2 – Garlic Olive Oil Paste

Garlic can also be peeled and blended in a food processor with olive oil. Place the garlic mixture in small freezer containers and keep frozen for up to a year.

Take the containers out one at a time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. This is a great way to have garlic ready to sauté to add flavor to any dish.

#3 – Frozen Garlic Cubes

Blend peeled garlic with a little bit of water and freeze in ice cube trays. Remove the frozen cubes from the trays and store them in an airtight container in the freezer.

#4 – Roasted Garlic Bulbs

Roasting garlic cloves brings out the flavor, and is a fantastic way to preserve garlic. It mellows the flavor and saves the time and energy of peeling the garlic cloves.

Roast the entire bulb. Simply clean the bulbs and place on a lightly greased dish in a 350° oven. Roast about 45 minutes or until the garlic is soft. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, snip off the ends and squeeze out the delicious garlic middles.

Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a year. The roasted garlic will last in the refrigerator for about a week.

#5 – Dried or Dehydrated Garlic

Garlic will store for several years if you dehydrate it. Peel the garlic cloves, slice it thinly and dry it. You can use a solar dehydrator, electric dehydrator, or even dry it in your oven with the door cracked open just a little.

The garlic slices are dry enough to store once they are crisp and will snap in half. I like to store my dried garlic in a sealed mason jar.

#6 – Garlic Seasoning Salt

A personalized garlic salt is a fantastic way to enjoy your garden bounty all year long. Just place dried garlic in a food processor and blend until it forms a powder. A common ratio is 3 parts salt to 1 part garlic powder.

Create your own signature garlic salt by adding other dried spices such as parsley, onion, paprika, red pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, and oregano. Select the ingredients that work with your unique style.

#7 – Garlic Infused Oil

You can make an amazing garlic infused oil by placing fresh peeled garlic cloves in oil and storing it in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Do not store this long term, or at room temperature, as it creates the ideal environment to grow deadly botulism.

Put a small handful of dried garlic into a jar filled with your favorite cooking oil. This combination will store in the refrigerator for a few months and is a delicious oil for sautéing, cooking or making salad dressings. Using dried garlic is the key to increasing the safe shelf life.

#8 – Garlic Infused Vinegar

Place peeled garlic cloves in a glass canning jar and completely cover them with wine or vinegar. You may want to add dried herbs for a variety of flavors such as oregano, rosemary or red pepper flakes. Store the tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.  This creates a flavorful vinegar for salad dressings and cooking.

#9 – Pickled Garlic

I like to use peeled garlic cloves and dill to flavor my bottled pickles.  You can also simply pickle a bottle of garlic. Check with your local extension office for directions.

#10 – Fermented Garlic Paste

Fermented garlic goes through a process similar to turning cabbage into sauerkraut. The only ingredients you need is garlic and salt. Do a quick search on the internet for step-by-step instructions. The fermented paste will store for up to a year in the refrigerator.

The Medicinal Benefits of Garlic

Garlic is a medicinal powerhouse. It has proven antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties. These medicinal properties will boost the immune system and improve health.

Talk about a cure-all, garlic is it! Do a little research and discover just how valuable a commodity garlic is. You definitely want to grow some to live a healthier today, and to be prepared in the event modern medicine becomes unavailable. 

Growing Garlic is Simple and Delicious

There are hundreds of varieties of garlic to choose from. I love the elephant garlic because the giant sized cloves are easy to peel. All my garlic has been grown from starts my fellow gardeners have shared, but the seed catalogs are full of fun options also.

Garlic can even be grown in pots inside the house or outside. It is a valuable addition to your prepper survival garden, as well as to your everyday kitchen garden.

No more excuses! Remember the best source for an abundant supply of this miracle plant is in your own yard.   

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones

Kylene

Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.