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10 Simple Garlic Growing Mistakes You Need To Know

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Garlic takes nine months to grow, which is a significant time investment. Nothing is worse than lifting garlic to find tiny bulbs after all the time you put in.

But you don’t need to settle for small bulbs, and in this video, I will give you ten garlic-growing mistakes you need to know so you can get larger bulbs.

Table of Contents

There are some fundamentals when growing garlic, and I have a more in-depth video on everything you need to grow it in an older video;

I will link to that at the end, but here I want to give you the ten mistakes most people make that result in small bulbs and how you can avoid them.

Mistake number 1. Garlic Spacing

Spacing. Garlic does not make perfect neighbors. They hate being in crowded conditions, even with their kind. So you need to plant them far enough apart so that their roots do not compete but close enough together not to waste ground.

The ideal spacing for Garlic is between 4 and 9 inches. I find 6” is a great distance to provide enough space for large bulbs to form without compromising on the amount of ground this vegetable takes up.

Mistake Number 2. Planting Depth

Planting Depth. This is where a lot of people get it wrong. Some people plant the garlic clove just below the surface, so the top of the bulb is sticking out.

At this time of year, the birds think these tops are worms, and you can return to see your garlic cloves sitting on the soil where they have been pulled out.

Also, cloves can be pushed out of the soil as the ground heaves from the constant freezing and thawing process.

Planting too deep is also an issue because the clove wastes energy trying to push its leaves through the surface.

I think the best depth is around 2 inches or twice the depth of the clove you are planting. Stick to this, and you won’t go far wrong.

Mistake Number 3. Soil Condition

The soil condition. Garlic requires rich, free-draining soils. This will prevent the bulb from sitting in water throughout the winter and provide all the nutrition it needs as it grows.

Garlic will struggle in heavy or clay soils that don’t drain well; It makes it difficult for the bulb to expand and can cause the bulb to rot.

If you have clay soil, dig in a lot of organic matter to lighten it, and even consider digging a trench and laying some horticultural grit in the trench to aid drainage.

Mistake Number 4. Nutrient Balance

Nutrient Balance. I have seen a lot of people feeding their garlic with products like chicken manure pellets or nettle tea. This should be avoided as it is too much nitrogen, which only provides leafy growth. 

This looks fantastic during the growing season but provides tiny bulbs come harvest. Well-balanced feed that contains Phosphorous and Potassium is what garlic requires for good-sized bulbs. 

Dont overfeed, or you can cause nutrient locking. This is where a plant takes up too much of one nutrient and then cannot take up what the plant requires as it shuts down the cells from nutrient uptake.

If in doubt, you can’t beat homemade compost. This will provide everything garlic needs to grow large bulbs.

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Mistake Number 5. Types Of Garlic

Types of Garlic. Some folks plant the wrong kind of garlic at the wrong times. There are two types that you can grow at home. Hard-neck garlic and soft-neck garlic.

Hard-neck garlic is typically planted in the fall. It produces scapes and is far superior in flavor to soft-neck garlic.

Soft neck garlic can be planted until late spring, the flavor is not as robust, and the bulbs won’t get as significant due to the smaller clove size.

So if you are looking for larger bulbs with better flavor, hard-neck should be your choice.

One drawback with hard-neck garlic is it cant be plaited or braided like soft-neck due to the central stalk hard-neck has; soft-neck has central leaves and no stalk.

Mistake Number 6. Clove Size

Clove Size. One of the biggest reasons people only get small bulbs is because they plant small cloves of garlic at planting time.

When you split the bulb, you should only plant the largest cloves if you want big bulbs.

Mistake Number 7. Competition

As I alluded to earlier, Garlic does not like competition. It is essential to remove all the weeds from around the garlic.

It is a competition to the plant, but these weeds can touch the garlic when wet or even raise the humidity around it, causing diseases like rust.

If your garlic gets rust caused by damp, humid conditions, it will also stop growing, so ensure to keep those weeds at bay in your garlic beds.

Mistake Number 8. Garlic Scapes

When growing hard-neck garlic, you will see a scape form as the garlic plant tries to put out a flower stalk which will then turn to seed. This is wasted energy that the plant could use to produce a larger garlic bulb for you.

It is essential to remove these scapes as soon as you see them; some people will make pesto from them, so don’t throw them away but make sure to remove them.

Mistake Number 9. Planting Correct Way Up

Planting cloves the correct way up. Now I don’t want to insult you, but how many folks get this wrong amazes me. The root will come from the garlic clove’s flat base, the basal plate. The tip is where the leaves will come from, so ensure to plant the correct way.

If you happen to plant the wrong way, the plant has to try and turn itself as it grows; this will produce a much weaker plant as too much energy is wasted. Some garlic won’t even pass this stage if planted incorrectly.

Mistake Number 10. Planting Times

Planting times. People take it as gospel when you hear you can plant garlic from fall until spring. However, hard-neck garlic should be planted in the fall, and only soft-neck can be planted in the spring.

We have already established that hard-neck garlic is superior in size, but it needs around 45 days of vernalization, temperatures between 34 and 45˚F or 1 to 7˚C.


By avoiding these ten mistakes, I have no doubt you will get much larger bulbs of garlic next year.

Plant garlic at the correct time and give it the cold it requires, and you will soon be pulling some brilliant-sized bulbs at home.

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