From left to right: Softneck, hardneck, and elephant garlic. Illustrations by Margaret Sloan.

Whether it’s for fresh green garlic pulled early next spring, pungent cloves next summer, or just to keep the vampires away—you’ve got to grow your own garlic.

For all you planners out there: this is a good time to buy your garlic seed to plant next month. Buying from a nursery (we love Irish Eyes Garden SeedsThe Garlic Store, and Peaceful Valley Farm Supply) ensures you'll start with disease-free, viable stock.

Hardneck varieties, including ‘Korean Red’, ‘Music’, and ‘Spanish Roja’, have larger outside cloves, thrive in colder climates, are typically spicier, and produce scapes—an edible flower stalk that coils at the top. Snip them off before the flower blooms and use them in cooking as you would a green onion. They're delicious—mild and sweet with a hint of garlic flavor.

Garlic scapes.
Photo courtesy of

Softneck varieties, including ‘California Early’, ‘Silver Rose’, and “Silverskin’, have layers of smaller cloves, do better in mild climates, and have a milder flavor. They also have a longer shelf and can be stored for months if kept in a cool, dark place.

Elephant garlic is a misnomer—the giant cloves are technically leeks, and what you get on size, you lose in flavor (it’s mild) and storability (it has none).

Got it? Ok, here's how to plant it:[youtube


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