Can I Plant Garlic From the Store?

Can You Grow Garlic From the Store?
(Last Updated On: November 2, 2023)

 

Introduction

Have you ever found yourself strolling through the produce aisle of your local grocery store, eyeing the garlic bulbs, and thinking, “Could I just plant these in my garden?” If you’re like me, a passionate gardener who loves fresh garlic’s unmistakable aroma and flavor, you’ve probably pondered this question at least once.

The question is more important than you might think. For home gardeners and hobbyists, growing plants from store-bought items offers an easy and cost-effective way to expand your garden’s offerings. 

Plus, there’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a full-grown plant that you’ve nurtured from something as simple as a grocery store clove.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the subject to bring you a definitive answer. We’ll explore the types of garlic commonly available in stores, weigh their pros and cons for planting, and provide step-by-step instructions on how to successfully plant and care for your store-bought garlic. So, let’s dig in and find out if your culinary dreams can become a garden reality.

Why Garlic?

Garlic isn’t just a staple in kitchens worldwide; it’s also a treasured addition to any garden. But why is this humble bulb so prized?

First, garlic is an incredibly versatile crop. It can thrive in various climates and soil types, making it accessible for gardeners in many regions. The plant also has a relatively short growing cycle, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your labor without a long wait.

Beyond its ease of cultivation, garlic plays a unique role in garden ecosystems. It’s known for its companion planting benefits; when planted alongside certain other crops like tomatoes and roses, garlic can help deter common pests. This natural pest control makes your gardening experience smoother and less reliant on synthetic pesticides.

Now, we can talk about why you’d want to grow garlic from a personal use perspective. Garlic is renowned for its medicinal properties. It’s rich in antioxidants and has natural antimicrobial effects. Many people swear by garlic as a home remedy for everything from the common cold to more severe conditions, attributing it to qualities that boost the immune system.

But let’s remember the culinary benefits of garlic. Its intense flavor enhances various dishes, from simple garlic bread to complex sauces and stews. The possibilities are endless, whether mincing it fresh, roasting entire cloves or incorporating it into a homemade spice blend. And there’s nothing quite like the taste of home-grown garlic; it has a depth and richness that store-bought varieties often can’t match.

So, with all these advantages and uses, who wouldn’t want to add garlic to their garden? The next question is, can you get this excellent plant started from cloves you buy at the grocery store? You can just read on to find out.

Can You Plant Garlic from the Store?

So, you’ve been inspired by the wonders of garlic and are eager to grow some in your garden. Can you dash to the grocery store, pick up a bulb, and start planting garlic bed now? The short answer is yes, you absolutely can. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.

Types of Garlic: Softneck vs. Hardneck

Before we delve into the specifics, it’s crucial to understand the two main types of garlic you’re likely to encounter in stores: Softneck and Hardneck.

Softneck Garlic

  • Characteristics: These are the types most commonly found in grocery stores. Softneck garlic typically has a softer, pliable stem, making it ideal for braiding. The cloves are often smaller and more numerous.

  • Growing Conditions: Softneck garlic generally prefers milder climates and is less winter-hardy than hardneck varieties.

  • Flavor Profile: They are usually less intense than hardneck varieties, making them versatile in cooking.

Hardneck Garlic

  • Characteristics: Hardneck garlic varieties have a rigid, woody stem in the center and fewer but bigger cloves.

  • Growing Conditions: They are more suited for colder climates as they require a winter chill to develop bulbs.

  • Flavor Profile: Hardnecks often have a more robust flavor and are excellent for roasting.

Each type has advantages and disadvantages, so your choice may depend on your needs, local climate, and culinary preferences.

When planting garlic from the store, remember that you might only know exactly which type you’re getting if it’s labeled. If you live in a region with harsh winters, there may be better options than softneck garlic from the store. Similarly, suppose you’re looking for a specific flavor profile. In that case, you might be better off sourcing garlic cloves meant for planting—often known as “seed garlic”—from the farmer’s market or a reputable nursery.

So yes, while you can plant garlic from the store, weighing the pros and cons and considering variables like climate and intended use for growing garlic is essential. Stay tuned as we delve into the advantages and potential pitfalls of using store-bought garlic for planting in the sections to come.

Now that you know it’s possible to plant garlic from the store, you might wonder why you should consider it. There are several compelling reasons why planting store-bought garlic can be a smart move for both novice and experienced gardeners.

Advantages of Planting Store-Bought Garlic

Cost-Effectiveness

One of the most appealing aspects of using store-bought garlic is the cost. A single bulb of garlic from the grocery or store can yield multiple cloves for planting, offering you the potential for a bountiful harvest without breaking the bank. The savings can be significant when you compare the cost of a garlic bulb from the store to specialized seed garlic. This can be particularly attractive if you’re gardening on a budget or starting and want to experiment without a big financial commitment.

Convenience

Let’s face it: only some have the time to search for specialized seed garlic, especially if you’re managing a busy schedule, like juggling gardening with parenting. The convenience of picking up a bulb of garlic while grocery shopping is a significant advantage. No special orders, no waiting for delivery—grab grocery garlic and go!

Variety

Grocery stores often stock different types of garlic, allowing you to experiment with various varieties. While it’s true that store-bought garlic is generally of the softneck variety, many stores also offer some organic garlic options or even specialty garlic, like elephant garlic. You can have fun trying different types and flavors, seeing which ones thrive in your garden and suit your culinary needs.

Availability

Unlike specialized seed garlic, which might be subject to seasonal availability, store-bought garlic is usually available year-round. This means you can start your garlic garden without planning too far in advance.  

So there you have it—plenty of reasons why planting store-bought garlic could be an excellent option for you. While there are some considerations to remember, which we’ll discuss in the next section, the advantages are compelling. Stay tuned as we explore the potential downsides and how to navigate them for a successful garlic-growing experience.

Disadvantages and Risks of Planting Store-Bought Garlic

While planting store-bought garlic has its perks, it’s not without its drawbacks. Before you start tucking those grocery-store cloves into the soil, let’s discuss some of the potential downsides and risks to consider.

Disease Risk

One of the most significant concerns with using store-bought garlic for planting is the potential disease risk. Unlike seed garlic, which is usually certified disease-free, store-bought garlic is not intended for planting and can harbor diseases. Planting infected store-bought garlic cloves could introduce soil-borne pathogens into your garden, posing a risk to other plants. For this reason, some gardeners prefer to stick with certified disease-free seed garlic.

Uncertainty About the Variety

When you buy garlic from a store, it often needs to be clarified what specific variety you’re getting. The supermarket garlic might be labeled as simply “garlic,” with no information about whether it’s a hardneck or softneck variety, flavor profile, or ideal growing conditions. This lack of information can make it challenging to tailor your planting and care practices to the specific needs of the garlic.

Treated Cloves

Garlic bulbs and garlic sold only in grocery stores are often treated to prolong shelf life and prevent sprouting. These treatments can include temperature-controlled storage or the application of growth inhibitors. While not all store-bought garlic is treated, there’s a chance that planted cloves may either fail to sprout or show poor growth if they have been treated. Always look for organic or untreated garlic when possible to mitigate this risk.

Not Acclimated to Your Local Soil and Climate

Finally, grocery store garlic is often grown in different regions or countries and may need to be better suited to your local soil and climate. Garlic varieties vary significantly in their cold hardiness, drought tolerance, and susceptibility to local pests and diseases. Using locally sourced seed garlic acclimating to your region can produce healthier garlic plants and better yields.

In summary, while planting garlic from the store is undoubtedly doable and offers several advantages, it’s essential to proceed cautiously. Weigh the risks of planting grocery store garlic against the benefits, and consider what you want to achieve with your garlic garden. In the following sections, we’ll walk you through the steps of planting store-bought garlic and offer tips for success to help you navigate these challenges.

Steps for Planting Store-Bought Garlic

Are you excited to give planting store-bought garlic a try? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate bulb selection to initial care. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your homegrown garlic.

Selection of Garlic Bulbs

The first step is, of course, selecting your garlic bulbs. Since you’re starting with store-bought organic garlic bulbs, here are some criteria to look for:

  • Plumpness: Choose full and plump bulbs, avoiding those that appear shriveled or dried out.

  • Firmness: The cloves should feel firm to the touch. Soft or mushy cloves are a sign of rot or disease.

  • Absence of Mold: Ensure the bulb and cloves show no signs of mold, discoloration, or other apparent diseases.

Preparation

Before you can plant, you’ll need to prepare the garlic cloves.

  • Remove loose, papery skin from the bulb, but keep the cloves encased in their wrappers.

  • Soak the cloves in a mixture of water and baking soda or water and hydrogen peroxide for a few hours. This step can help reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

Splitting the Bulb into Cloves

Carefully break apart the bulb to separate the individual cloves, not damaging them. Remember, each garlic clove alone will become a whole bulb of garlic, so choose the largest and healthiest-looking ones for planting.

Planting

Now comes the fun part—putting those cloves in the ground!

  • Depth: Plant each clove about 2-4 inches deep.

  • Spacing: Space the cloves about 6-8 inches apart in rows, with about 1 foot between each row.

  • Orientation: Plant the cloves pointy-end up. The flat or root end should be facing down into the soil.

Initial Care

After planting, your garlic will need some initial care to help it thrive:

  • Watering: Water the planting area thoroughly, but avoid waterlogging the soil. Garlic prefers well-drained soil, so be mindful of this during rainy seasons.

  • Fertilizing: A balanced fertilizer can be applied at planting time to boost the cloves’ nutrients. You can also top-dress the soil with compost for added organic matter.

  • Pest Control: If you’re concerned about pests, consider planting garlic near plants that it naturally protects due to its pest-repellent qualities, like tomatoes or roses. Organic insecticides can also be used if necessary.

There you have it—a comprehensive guide to planting store-bought garlic. While it may come with its challenges, the benefits of growing store-bought garlic, from cost-saving to convenience, often outweigh the drawbacks. Happy planting, and may your garden be filled with rows of flourishing garlic!

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