Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden. If you want to get started growing garlic, you might be thinking about taking some of the garlic in your kitchen and planting it. Or perhaps you’ve already seen some of your garlic sprouting already in the bulb and considered planting it. Can you plant it and get more garlic from it?
Garlic cloves from the grocery store can be planted, but getting full-sized bulbs may not be consistent compared to planting seed garlic bought from a seed store or nursery. A lot of the garlic you buy is sprayed with a sprout inhibitor that will reduce their chance of sprouting in the ground. In addition, most grocery store garlic is grown in China, and could be kept in a warehouse for months or even a year before it lands on the shelves. Older garlic is also less likely to sprout. Plant organic garlic if possible. If you have success with, save some bulbs to replant again in the fall. Garlic from the grocery store may be a better option for growing garlic greens instead of bulbs.
Will Garlic from the Grocery Store Grow?
Yes and no. A lot of commercially grown garlic, especially if it’s not organic, is sprayed with a sprout inhibitor before being shipped to warehouses and grocery stores. This keeps the garlic from sprouting prematurely, but it also means it’s less likely to grow if you plant it.
Another problem is that the store-bought garlic may be stored for many months or even a year in a warehouse before being put on the shelf at the grocery store – lot of supermarket garlic is grown in and shipped from China. Old garlic cloves are less likely to sprout into a healthy plant.
When you grow your own garlic, it’s often only a few months between harvesting last year’s crop and planting (in my area, I usually harvest in July and plant more garlic in late September up to mid October).
If you do decide to try growing garlic from the grocery store, always buy organic garlic to maximize your chance of success.
One more thing: If you are growing garlic for the green tops, grocery store garlic can definitely work, if it sprouts.
My Experience Growing Garlic from the Grocery Store
I’ve planted garlic from the supermarket once and had modest results. I planted the cloves in the fall (more on when to plant below) but half of them didn’t grow the following spring. The ones that did grow never actually split to form a new bulb; when I harvested them, they were only single 1-inch cloves. I now grow and replant my own garlic, but I may try growing garlic from the grocery store again.
Why Buying Seed Garlic Is Better than Garlic from the Grocery Store
Seed garlic is garlic which is sold for planting. This garlic is harvested the same year you plant it, and is not sprayed with any sprout inhibitors, so you know the garlic will sprout. After trying to grow garlic from the grocery store, I bought some seed garlic and planted that instead. Out of 12 cloves planted, 11 sprouted, and they produced full bulbs with multiple cloves.
Buying seed garlic also means you can plant different varieties that you won’t find at the grocery store. For example, Red Russian garlic, which grows well in places with frigid winters, has purple streaks on the skin and has a very strong taste. In my garden, I’m growing Italian Hardneck garlic, which pretty much grows on its own with little effort on my part, and produces gorgeous, pungent cloves.
When to Plant Garlic from the Grocery Store
I’ve written in much more detail about when to plant and harvest garlic, but I’ll briefly recap here.
Garlic can be divided into two types: softneck and hardneck garlic. Softneck garlic does better in warmer climates while hardneck garlic is preferred for climates with harsh winters (think the Northeast US, Canada, northern Europe, etc.) but both can be grown in most temperate climates. Most grocery store garlic is actually softneck garlic because it’s easier to grow outside of places with very harsh winters.
All garlic grows best if planted in the fall, about one month before your average first frost date. Garlic needs a period of cold temperatures in order to properly split into new cloves. But softneck garlic, like those from the grocery store, can be planted in very early spring, as soon as the soil is workable.
Harvest your garlic after the first few leaves start turning yellow and dying back. In my case, they are usually ready sometime in July.
Pro-Tip: Save Some Harvested Bulbs to Replant in Fall
If you’ve planted garlic from the grocery store and had a successful harvest, congratulations! There’s nothing better than eating garlic from your own garden.
If you want to keep growing your own garlic, you can set aside some of your bulbs to replant in the fall without having to buy any more. Just separate the biggest cloves and plant them (pointy side up) 1 to 2 inches into the ground, 3 to 5 inches apart, and you can multiply your harvest for next year. This is exactly what I did. I took a couple of those 11 bulbs I harvested and planted 15 cloves for the following year.