Garlic Growing Information:

Garlic grows very well in Calgary’s climate. All 16 hardneck garlic varieties we planted at the McClure community garden last Fall grew and matured by the end of August. Garlic adapts to to the environment it’s grown in so its performance will improve over the years as it adjusts to your garden.

Soil: Loose, rich soil with good drainage is best. Amending the soil with compost or organic fertilizers is recommended before planting. Fertilizing with a liquid, organic fertilizer in early spring can help the garlic get off to a good start. Stop fertilizing by June.


Garlic can be planted from bulbils, rounds, cloves and bulbs and requires full sun.

If a bulbil, a small aerial clove contained in the bulbil capsule (left), is planted, it will grow into a round, a single clove, the first year (middle). If the round is replanted or left in the ground, it will grow into either a bigger round or a bulb the second year (right). Well suited for growing in containers.
Plant bulbils one inch deep. Space small bulbils (grain-of-rice size) 1 to 1 ½ inches apart. Space larger bulbils (pea-sized) 1 ½ to 2 inches apart.
Planting bulbils in a row is recommended to help with weeding. Young garlic sprouts look very much like blades of grass so they’re easier to identify if they’re lined up in a row. Bulbils also grow well in containers.  If using the square-foot method, dig up and set aside the top one inch of soil from the square(s). Space bulbils evenly in the square then replace soil.

If a large round or clove is planted, it will mature into a bulb. Smaller rounds and cloves will grow into a big round. Plant cloves and rounds 3-4 inches deep, pointy end up. Space cloves/rounds 6-12 inches apart. (One to four per square foot if using the square-foot-gardening method). The larger Porcelain varieties like Music and German White would benefit from the larger recommended spacing. Larger spacing also works better with poor soils. If big bulbs are desired, space further apart.

Bulbs with fewer cloves (2-6) can be planted whole.  Each clove will send up a garlic plant and you will have several plants growing closely together in a clump (right). If you’re integrating garlic into your ornamental/flower beds, a clump may be a more attractive form than a single plant. You will still get bulbs, but they will be smaller and some may be flattened on the side where they push up against the other bulbs. If you leave a bulb in the ground unharvested, it will likely come back next year as a clump. Planting bulbs greatly reduces planting time. Scape removal is highly recommended since bulb size is reduced in such close plantings if the scape is left on.

Garlic is usually planted in the Fall 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes – mid Sep. to mid. October – and harvested the following summer. Spring planting in early April is also possible if the garlic hasn’t dried out by then. Spring-planted garlic harvests later than Fall-planted garlic. Some may need to stay in the ground until frost.

If you’re growing garlic sprouts, greens or scallions, plant anytime. You can even grow these indoors with sufficient light.


After the ground freezes hard in November, cover the garlic with 2-3 inches of mulch. If the mulch is prone to matting (i.e. leaves), remove at the beginning of April. Otherwise, the garlic will grow through and the mulch can be left on for the rest of the season. Remove mulch in spring for bulbil plantings. Plant deeper, 4-6 inches, if not using mulch.


All parts of the garlic plant, except the roots, are edible. If planted deeply enough and mulched, garlic is perennial in our climate. If you don’t harvest it, it will simply come back next year.

Garlic greens – pinch off the garlic leaves and use as needed. Pinching only one leaf from each plant will help the garlic grow back faster. Harvesting the leaves will reduce bulb size so we recommend harvesting from plants grown specifically for greens. Bubils, small rounds and tiny cloves work well for growing garlic greens.

Garlic scallions – pull up the entire young garlic plant and trim off the roots. Use as you would a scallion. Useful for thinning out bulbil/small clove plantings.

Scapes – appear in the second half of June. They’re best for eating when they’re still curled (left). Once they start straightening out, they become woody. Cut off the scapes an inch above the top leaf. The bulb on the left had the scape removed in June (right). Leaving the scapes on will tend to significantly reduce bulb size – especially in close plantings. The bulb on the right had the scape left on.

Bulbs - When 3-4 of the bottom leaves have withered, it’s time to dig up the bulb. Most of the garlic will be ready for harvest from mid July to the end of August. Stop watering a week or two before harvest so the soil can dry out a little. Each leaf corresponds to a layer of bulb wrapper. As each leaf dies, the bulb wrapper layer decays. If you wait too long to harvest, all of the bulb wrappers and even the clove wrappers will have decayed. Garlic in this condition is not suited for storage, but can be eaten right away or preserved (i.e. dried for garlic powder, frozen or pickled) or used as planting stock in the Fall.

Bulbils – to harvest, let the scapes grow until the capsule covering the bubils, the spathe, has split (left). Hang to dry. Bulbils are edible. Try them sprinkled on foods or smash them and use in dressings, rubs, pickles, etc.

Rounds – dig up rounds once the bottom leaf has withered or when the plant falls over.  Use the largest ones for replanting. You can also leave the rounds in the ground to grow into bulbs the following year.  Thin out some of the rounds to make space for the bulbs to develop. Use rounds as you would cloves. They come in different sizes so it’s easy to select just the right amount of garlic to use.

Curing and Storage:

Brush the dirt off the bulb or wash it off with a hose (optional). Cure the bulbs by tying them in small bunches and hanging them to dry for 2-3 weeks. You can also lay them out in a single layer to dry. When dry, you can trim the garlic by cutting the stalk an inch or two above the bulb. Dirty bulb wrappers and roots can be removed if you like.

Store at room temperature, or slightly cooler, in open air. Hanging in bunches or in a netted bag works well. If storing in paper bags, leave the tops open or punch some air holes. Keep away from direct sunlight. Rounds tend to store longer than bulbs. Bulbils store the longest.

The variety, growing conditions, the number of bulb wrappers remaining, and curing conditions will all affect how long the garlic will store.  In general, Rocambole varieties are shorter storing, Purple Stripes varieties are medium storing and Porcelains are longest storing. When the garlic starts to shrivel in their clove wrappers, you can either use them up quickly or try preserving them (drying, freezing, pickling) to extend their usefulness.

Seed Garlic:

Seed saving for garlic is easy. Select the best bulbils, rounds, cloves and bulbs that you grew and replant in the Fall. 

Purple Stripe - The oldest group of the garlic family and closest to its wild origins. These garlics are very flavorful and good at retaining flavour after cooking. The plants are smaller, with more slender leaves, but the bulbs can grow quite large.

Belarus (Early) Starts off sweet and mild and the heat builds to medium. Lingering, warm taste.
Chesnok Red (Mid to Late) Very productive. Can grow quite large if growing conditions are favorable. More cloves per bulb so cloves are closer to regular garlic clove sizes. Good for roasting.
Persian Star (Mid) Produced very well. Has more cloves per bulb. Building heat. Very striking looking cloves. Spicy raw and good for roasting.

Glazed Purple Stripe – The bulbs have a glazed appearance with a metallic sheen. The cloves are shiny and more squat than the Purple Stripes. Glazed purple stripes have good flavour and bake up sweet.

Purple Glazer (Early to Mid) A favorite for eating raw. It’s fairly mild and the flavour and heat develops gently over time and lingers for a while. Adds a subtle richness to cooked foods.

Rocambole – Prized for flavour. These garlics produce squat cloves that peel very easily but don’t store very long. They produce scapes with 1-3 tight coils.

Russian Red (Late) Available in rounds only. A highly aromatic garlic with deep layers of flavours and a sweet finish. This garlic can grow very large in good growing conditions.
Ontario Purple Trillium (Early) Hot, direct garlic flavour that does not linger long.

Porcelain – Big, brawny plants with scapes that can grow over 5 feet tall if you leave them on. The cloves tend to be few (4-6) and large. The bulbs are usually white and symmetrical which gives them an elegant look even though they are hefty. The flavours are strong but not necessarily hot. These large plants will produce better if given more space.

German White (Mid) Best enjoyed raw. Mild to medium heat. Large bulbs with very few cloves.
Music (Mid to Late) Very large cloves (4-6). The most commonly grown hardneck variety in Canada. Brought to Canada in the 80’s from Italy.
Northern Quebec (Mid to Late) Available in bulbils only. Hot. Grows easily.
Yugoslavian (Mid to Late) Available in bulbils only. Hot. Heirloom commonly grown in B.C.

Unclassified Hardneck Garlics

Fireball (Mid to Late) The name refers to the colourful bulb wrappers. It’s hot, but not too hot and the heat is short-lived and there’s very little aftertaste.
Kazakhstan (Very Early) Available in bulbils only. Smells great and has a hot, lively, garlicky flavour. Blazingly fast to mature so harvest sooner rather than later.