Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


Flowers &
Indoor Plants

Fruits & Nuts



Special Topics



Cornell University

Allium sativum
(all-ee-um sat-ee-vum)

garlic plants  garlic plants
Click on thumbnails for larger image.
garlic bulb

What about it?

Unlike many vegetables, garlic is usually planted in the fall of the year since it is such a long season crop. This "stinking rose" is a member of the onion family. The garlic bulb divides into separate cloves, from 8 to 20 depending on the variety. For thousands of years garlic has been honored for its healing and preventive properties.

What is it used for?

Garlic can be used for seasoning in a wide variety of recipes. It also, as noted above, is believed to have medicinal value.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Garlic is relatively easy to grow, as long as the site is fertile and well-drained. Garlic plants like lots of sunshine. Plant garlic in the fall, around the time of the first frost.

Divide a bulb of garlic into cloves, and set each clove several inches apart, in rows that are at least 8 inches apart. If you plant too early, they may grow too much and be hurt by winter cold. Keep the bed free of weeds.

What are its primary problems?

Garlic may need additional wafter during a hot dry spring or early summer. Pests are not typically a problem.

How do we harvest and store it?

Most garlic will be milder if harvested young, but it won't keep as well. Yellowing leaves are the first indication that harvest time is approaching. Do not wait until the leaves die. Test dig several bulbs when the leaves turn yellow and see if they look plump. The papery sheath protects the garlic bulb, keeping disease-causing organisms out and moisture in. Avoid letting garlic overmature, because once the bulbs have broken the outer sheath they are unattractive and keep poorly.

Garlic should be dug from the ground, not pulled out by its leaves and neck. Rub the soil from the bulb and roots and let the plant dry in a well ventilated space protected from sun and rain.

Garlic bulbs should be kept at room temperature for brief storage periods and at cool temperatures for longer storage. They keep well when refrigerated, but deteriorate quickly when brought to room temperature. Do not store bulbs in plastic bags, rather, use paper or mesh bags and store in a ventilated area. High moisture will cause the garlic to rot.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.