Growing garlic indoors is a great way to have a constant supply of this flavorful herb. Garlic is relatively easy to grow and doesn’t require a lot of space, making it an excellent option for indoor growing.
Many studies have confirmed that allicin, the active compound in garlic, uses the exact mechanism as the blood pressure-lowering drugs called ACE inhibitors.
Garlic also prevents the formation of the hormone angiotensin 2. It helps relax the blood vessels and is also very effective in controlling the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
So with all this goodness, how could you not want to start growing garlic indoors?
Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow garlic indoors.
Is it hard to grow garlic indoors?
Many people don’t realize that it’s possible to grow garlic indoors. They think that because garlic is such a pungent herb, it would be too smelly to have inside the house.
But that’s not the case at all! Garlic is quite easy to grow indoors and doesn’t take up much space. You can easily grow garlic indoors all year round, but you’ll need to start with a few cloves of garlic. You can find these at your local grocery store or farmers’ market.
Get to know the terms
Before learning how to grow garlic indoors, you’ll need to understand a few terms. You’ll deal with bulbs, cloves, roots, and stalks when growing garlic. Here’s a quick breakdown of each:
The round part of the garlic you purchase from the store is called the garlic bulb. This is sometimes also referred to as a head of garlic.
The bulb is separated into numerous cloves. People often mistakenly call the cloves bulbs.
Extending from the bottom of the bulb are the roots. These are trimmed before the bulb makes it to the supermarket or as part of cleaning homegrown garlic.
Attached to the top of the bulb is the stalk. Garlic leaves grow from the stalk and are edible—similar to green onions but with a more delicate flavor.
Some types of garlic will grow a fleshy bud in the spring called a scape or garlic shoots. This seasonal delicacy gets cut off so the plant can put more energy into growing a bulb.
If the scape isn’t cut off, it will mature into a flower that eventually produces bulbils—tiny garlic clones that can be planted like seeds. However, it’s much faster to grow garlic from cloves.
What You’ll Need for Growing Garlic Indoors
For growing garlic indoors, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Potting soil – The type of soil you use is crucial for a healthy plant. Be sure to acquire well-draining and permeable soil, or alternatively, make your own potting medium. Soil-less potting mix works best, which you can create by mixing together peat or coconut coir (coconut fiber), compost or manure, perlite or vermiculite (if you only have one element, use sand) in equal parts.
- A pot that is at least 6 inches deep and has drainage holes in the bottom
- Garlic cloves
- A sunny windowsill or grow light
- Liquid Fertilizer
Choosing Garlic Cloves Variety
There are two types of garlic to choose from when growing indoors: hardneck and softneck.
- Hardneck garlic is the more traditional variety, with a stiff stalk and cloves that grow in a spiral around the stalk.
- Softneck garlic has a softer stalk and the cloves grow in a bunch at the top.
The type of garlic you choose depends on your climate and how you plan to use the garlic.
- If you live in colder temperatures or want to store your garlic for long periods of time, hardneck is the better choice.
- If you live in a warm climate and want to use your garlic fresh, then softneck is the better choice.
Softneck varieties are the best type of garlic to grow indoors. They’re more tolerant of fluctuating temperatures than hardneck varieties and don’t need as much daylight.
Some suitable softneck garlic varieties for indoor growing include ‘Inchelium Red’ and ‘Nootka Rose’.
Should you go for organic garlic?
Getting organic garlic bulbs from the local farmer’s market or grocery store is better. If you cannot find organic, then conventionally grown is fine. You can also grow garlic from individual cloves that you save from a head of garlic.
The reason is that most commercially grown garlic is treated with a chemical called ethephon, which makes the garlic easier to harvest by machine.
Ethephon also inhibits sprouting, so cloves of garlic that have been treated with it may not grow well.
If you can’t find organic garlic bulbs, soak the cloves in a vinegar solution for 20 minutes before planting them. This will help to remove any residual pesticides that might be on the garlic cloves.
How to grow garlic indoors – Step by Step
The next step is to plant your garlic cloves.
If you want to grow garlic bulbs
If you’re looking to start growing bulbs, be sure to chill hardneck varieties before planting. However, bulb chilling is unnecessary if you want a quick crop of leaves or scallion-like garlic greens.
To chill garlic for planting, place the cloves in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks before planting. This will help to break their dormancy, so they’ll sprout more quickly.
- Fill the container/pot with a high-quality potting mix, leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) from the top of the pot.
- Water it well. Allow the excess water to leave through the drainage holes out before moving on to the next step.
- Use the largest cloves for planting, and save the smaller ones to cook with. Make a small hole in the soil with your finger and insert one clove of garlic, pointed side up, about 4-6 inches apart and 2 inches deep, ensuring that the pointed end is facing up.
- Gently press the planted cloves into the soil.
- Water garlic plants until the soil is evenly moistened. Be careful not to overwater, as this can cause the roots to rot.
- Place your pot in a sunny spot near a south or west facing window. Use artificial light if you don’t have a sunny windowsill.
If you want to grow garlic greens
If you’re more interested in growing garlic greens, also known as green garlic, you don’t need to chill the cloves before planting. You can plant the garlic cloves as described above, with the only difference being that you can plant the cloves closely. You will start seeing fresh garlic shoots coming out within a week or so.
- You should not plant garlic in an outdoor garden until nighttime temperatures are consistently above freezing. If you live in an area with a short outdoor gardening season, it’s best to start your garlic indoors and transplant it outdoors in the spring.
- Also, you should not plant garlic in the same spot where you grew onions, leeks, or chives the previous year. All of these plants are in the Allium family and can spread diseases to each other.
Care for Your Garlic Plants
Once your planted garlic is in the potting soil, they don’t require much care. Just make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy and give them plenty of direct sunlight.
It would be best if you also fertilized your plants every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer like seaweed or fish emulsion or diluted liquid from under a worm bin. When the leaves start to yellow and die back, stop fertilizing. This is a sign that the garlic plant is getting ready to bulb up.
Growing garlic bulbs needs about 6-8 hours of sunlight per day to grow properly. Plant one garlic clove per container to develop full garlic bulbs. Place the containers in the sunniest location, typically a South-facing window, so the cloves get full sun all day.
Harvesting Your Garlic
For harvesting the full bulb, wait until the bottom leaves of the plant turn brown. This is a sign that the garlic bulb is ready to harvest. You may have harvestable bulbs within 6-8 months.
To harvest, gently dig around the plant with your hands and pull it out of the soil. Be careful not to damage the garlic bulbs while digging them up.
Once you’ve harvested your garlic bulbs, brush off any dirt and let them dry in a warm, sunny spot for a few days.
After they’ve dried, cut off the roots and green leaves and store the garlic bulbs in a cool, dark place.
If you want to harvest garlic greens instead of waiting for full bulbs, simply snip off the green shoots as needed for cooking. The green tops should be large enough before you begin snipping them off for cooking. These can be used just like chives in many recipes.
When you keep harvesting the plant’s outer leaves, it will continue to grow until all the energy in the clove is gone. To have an endless supply of this plant, you must continuously allow the inner leaves to provide energy by growing themselves.
If you love cooking with garlic but hate running to the store every time you need it, then growing garlic indoors is a great solution! It’s relatively easy to do and doesn’t require a lot of space or special equipment. Plus, you’ll always have fresh garlic on hand for cooking. Just follow these simple steps for how to grow garlic indoors, and you’ll be harvesting your own garlic in no time!