In order to grow large garlic bulbs, you need to select the right bulbs, prepare the garden beds, and properly time your plantings. Beyond that, be sure to give your plants enough space to grow. A strict watering schedule and regular fertilizer treatments can help, too. Remove the scapes as well or your garlic will forget about growing large bulbs. Your garlic bulbs could end up smaller than expected if you skip any of these steps.
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7 Tips for Growing Big Garlic Bulbs
Use these seven tips to harvest the biggest garlic bulbs possible each growing season.
- Select the right garlic type and only plant the largest cloves.
- Prepare your garden beds with high-quality soil.
- Plant your garlic cloves at the right time for your area.
- Give your plants enough space to grow large bulbs.
- Follow a strict watering schedule to promote good growth.
- Fertilize your garlic bulbs with the correct nutrient combos.
- Snip off all the scapes to avoid stunted bulbs.
At the end of the season, harvest your garlic when the leaves turn completely brown. As you pull up each bulb, take note of its size. You’ll likely find that the garlic comes out much bigger than prior years’ harvests.
Carefully Select the Right Type
Select types of garlic known for growing large bulbs while keeping your climate in mind. In climates with cold temperatures, grow hardneck varieties, like Georgia Crystal, Parvin, or Chesnok Red. If you’re in a warm climate, try Lorz Italian or Thermadrone softneck varieties instead. Not all garlic varieties grow well in every area. So, plan to experiment a bit to see what works best in your garden. Also, remember to only plant the largest individual cloves. The smaller ones will not grow as big.
Prepare the Garden Beds
Garlic grows best in full sun garden beds with high-quality, fertile soil. Use this soil meter to make sure the pH is between 5.5 and 7.0. Mix a 5-10-10 fertilizer or bone meal into the beds. The rich soil should not have any rocks, sticks, or other debris that can impede growth. Keep the bed completely free of weeds throughout the growing season. Otherwise, invasive plants will crowd out the garlic and prevent it from reaching its full potential.
Time Your Plantings Right
Plan to plant your garlic in the late fall. Aim to plant about a month before the first frost. This will give the roots enough time to get established before the cold winter. Garlic needs exposure to cold weather to split its one clove into many. Avoid planting the garlic early. If you do, the plant could start to grow its vegetation and suffer frost damage.
Give Your Plants Enough Space
Every garlic plant needs at least 6 inches (15 cm) of space. Create rows for your garlic that are 12 inches (30 cm) apart. Then, create 2-inch-deep (5 cm) holes every 6 inches (15 cm) along the rows. Plant a single garlic clove in each hole with the pointy end up. Cover the cloves with soil and put straw mulch over the top. Water gently to avoid disturbing the ground.
Stick to a Strict Watering Schedule
Garlic plants need 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of water per week. Water the cloves immediately after planting. Then, keep the soil moist for about one month. After the first frost, your cloves will go dormant until spring. So, you can stop watering them for several months. Resume watering when you start to see the stems poking out of the soil. Stop watering your garlic altogether about two weeks before the growing season ends.
Fertilize Your Garlic Regularly
Fertilize your garlic at the beginning of the spring growing season. Start by adding more fertilizer right after the last frost. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, like pelleted chicken manure or blood meal. Repeat the fertilizer application about one month later. Do not fertilize again. Fertilizing too much will encourage too much top growth and will not result in larger bulbs.
Snip Off All the Scapes
Snip off the garlic scapes right as they start to grow to redirect energy to bulb growth. Scapes are round stems growing among the leaves of the garlic plant. In addition, scapes typically have a bulb or “arrowhead” shape toward the end, so they’re easily spotted. Scapes only grow on hardneck garlic varieties. So, don’t worry about this step when growing softneck varieties. The scapes are delicious, so go ahead and eat them if they’re big enough. Ideally, you’ll remove them far before they grow out enough to eat.
Which Fertilizer is Best for Garlic?
Garlic prefers fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Bone meal, blood meal, and pelleted chicken manure work best. Mix the fertilizer deep into the soil before planting the cloves.
- Always use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer when growing garlic.
- Choose pelleted chicken manure, bone meal, or blood meal for best results.
- Mix the soil into the garden beds before planting your garlic cloves.
- Reapply the fertilizer in the spring by side dressing your plants.
- Broadcasting the fertilizer across the soil can work as well.
When applying fertilizer in the spring, always try to side-dress the plants. To do that, work the fertilizer 1 inch (2.5 cm) down into the soil about 4 inches (10 cm) away from each plant. Broadcasting the fertilizer can work, too. But it doesn’t guarantee every plant gets equal amounts of nutrients.
Why are Your Garlic Bulbs So Small?
Bulbs of garlic often end up small if you do not take the right approach. You must select the right garlic type, properly prepare the soil, and time the plantings just right.
- Growing large garlic bulbs depends on taking the right approach.
- You must select the right garlic type, prepare the soil, and perfectly time your plantings.
- Garlic needs lots of space, regular water, and nitrogen-rich fertilizer as well.
- Always cut the scapes off hardneck garlic varieties to maximize bulb growth.
The plants also need enough space to grow large. Plus, they should get regular water and nitrogen-rich fertilizer applications. Allowing the scapes to grow can decrease the bulb size, too.
Tips for Growing the Biggest Garlic Bulbs
Take the right approach and you can grow the biggest garlic bulbs around. Make sure to select the ideal garlic type and prepare the soil in your garden beds. Then, plant garlic in late fall while spacing it out just right.
- Select the garlic varieties known for growing huge bulbs.
- Properly prepare your garden beds with high-quality soil.
- Time your planting schedule just right to get garlic growing great.
- Make sure every plant has enough space to grow large.
- Give your plants 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) of water per week.
- Regularly add nitrogen-rich fertilizer to your soil.
- Remove the scapes to keep your garlic growing big bulbs.
By the time harvest time rolls around, you’ll be impressed with your garlic bulb size. You may need to experiment with different garlic varieties, however, to find a clear winner. So, plant a few different types in the fall to see what performs best in your garden.