Growing Garlic: How and Why You Should Soak Before Planting

It’s that time of year again…when you start seeing garlic planting How-Tos popping up all over Pinterest and in your news feed. That, and pumpkin…everything. Seriously, everything. But what a great time of year it is! For many, the gardening season is winding down and you’re left feeling one of two ways:

“That was fun! Let’s do it again!”


“Thank GOD. I need a nap.”

Or maybe a little bit of both? No matter the case, you gotta- I mean just GOTTA– commit to planting yourself some garlic. You will be so glad you did when you see those green shoots popping up next spring, while everything else is barren and waiting to be planted. It’s so rewarding. And sooo good.

Check out this list of garlic growers to find a farm selling certified stock near you! Ordering from someone in a similar climate will help you determine which types of garlic to grow in your own garden.

Soaking Garlic Before Planting- Yellow Birch Hobby Farm

But before you run out the door and stick those cloves in the ground, let’s consider some insurance for your crop.

Let’s talk about garlic soaking.

First off, if you’ve never done this before and have had perfectly fine results with your garlic, great! I have too. But being a good gardener means remaining open minded to new ideas- even if we’ve always done something one way. And today’s idea is something that certainly won’t hurt anything, but could definitely help- and perhaps even prevent a huge disaster.

What is garlic soaking- and why should we be doing it?

Soaking your garlic cloves in a solution of water, organic fish fertilizer, and baking soda is like giving your seed a vaccination of sorts- against the various fungal diseases that can affect garlic. Additionally, it gives them a nice boost of energy to jump start the growing process. This soak is followed up by a bath of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which will sterilize the cloves and kill any mites that may be hiding- dirty little creatures that can lay their eggs, survive the winter, and wreak havoc on your precious plants next spring. Introducing any such detriments to your soil could affect that soil for years- even decades- to come.

How exactly do I do this soaking thing?

It’s pretty simple. Separate the cloves of your garlic, but don’t peel them. In a large stock pot or bucket, combine:

  • 1 gallon of lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon of organic fish fertilizer
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking soda.

Add your garlic cloves and soak for at least 15 minutes, up to several hours- but no more than 16 hours. Drain.

Then place your garlic into a container (I used quart size canning jars) and cover with either Isopropyl Alcohol 70%, Hydrogen Peroxide, or even Vodka. Soak for 20 minutes and drain. Plant within 1 hour of the second soak. (**If you’re planting more than one kind of garlic, be sure to mark them and soak them separately so you don’t get them mixed up!)

Soaking Garlic Before Planting- Yellow Birch Hobby Farm

How to plant?

I like to prepare my beds with plenty of manure and compost, which I mix in with the soil by hand, loosening it down to about 6 inches. I then take a metal rake and drag it along the length of my bed to create a row that’s a few inches deep. Plant the cloves with the pointed side up, 6″ apart, and cover with a couple inches of soil. Then cover with a thick layer of mulch such as straw, hay, or leaves- to about 4″ in depth for colder regions.

Soaking Garlic Before Planting- Yellow Birch Hobby Farm

You are now set up for a great garlic season next year. Proper preparation is the best prevention…and you’ve prepared well.

Now get out there and get that garlic in the ground! And take care of yourself too.

See you soon.

Growing Garlic- How and Why You Should Soak Before Planting- Yellow Birch Hobby Farm

Shared at:

The Art of Homemaking Mondays #73

About yellowbirchhobbyfarm

Hi! I'm Erin, a 19th-century homesteader at heart. Here at Yellow Birch Hobby Farm we practice self-sustainable living by way of organic gardening, canning & preserving, raising a variety of livestock, hunting, foraging, and cooking from scratch. And here at our blog, we share it all with you! So glad you've found us.

23 comments on “Growing Garlic: How and Why You Should Soak Before Planting

  1. Thanks for the post! Got my garlic in the other day, zone 10, so waited till November πŸ™‚

    I soaked more garlic than I was able to plant, and I did use isopropyl alcohol for the 2nd part — if I rinse the extras off well are they ok to eat (the planted ones obviously went through the same process, but I guess I’m concerned since they were soaked in it so recently)? (had tons of small little cloves, so planted the big ones!)

  2. Here in Duluth the ground still isn’t frozen, on December 9th! Do you think it’s worth plopping a few garlic bulbs in the soil this late in the season? Here by Lake Superior it looks like we still have a few more of these crazy warm days. Walking past my new hugel bed each day, on my way to the chickens, just has me obsessing. Is it too late to scratch this itch? I think I’d like the suckers and get them into the ground today. Any thoughts? Yeah, I’m unemployed, should be writing, and have perhaps too much time on my hands. Nothing like getting into the dirt for being more grounded….

      • Ha ha. Too late! I went ahead and did it. Staying in December’s single digits was important to me. I’ll let you know if they come up in spring. Thanks again for all you do. It means a lot to have somebody doing this stuff in a climate even colder than my own. Plus, for those of us in the city it’s fun to glean some skills that we can use in our little lots. Have a good’n!

        • Hi, Eddy! Sorry to not get back sooner- busy day here :). I’m glad you went ahead and did it…what’s there to lose? πŸ™‚ Typically you want to give the garlic a chance to set out some roots before heading into dormancy for the winter, but the way this winter is going- who knows? I tell you what, considering it’s normally -20 to -30 or colder this time of year, this crazy warm weather is a welcome break! Enjoy it- and let me know what happens come spring! That garlic just might show up :). Just make sure to mulch it really well with straw- 6 inches at least.

          So glad you’re doing hugelkultur. That’s awesome. And yes- anyone can do it, whether you live in town or in the country. Good for you for making good use of your space!

          Take care and thanks so much for reading πŸ™‚


  3. Hi, I have been growing garlic for closes to 40 years, and the last couple of years after storing it some of it has developed a brown stain on the gloves. In some cases the whole bulb was brown stains on it and in other cases the whole bulb was almost disintegrated.
    I am hoping that the process of socking my garlic will solves my problem.
    Any idea as to what is causing this?
    Thanks, Levi

    • That’s interesting, Levi. You have far more experience than I, but it will be interesting to see if soaking might prevent this problem. I haven’t had staining. It could have something to do with the moisture/humidity/temperature of where you are storing your garlic. Other than that, I’m not sure….

      Thanks so much for visiting! Happy planting! πŸ™‚

  4. I’m a beginner gardener and I want to plant onion bulbs and lots of garlic in hopes of keeping bad bugs and rabbits and deer OUT of my garden…Any suggestions? Thanks! Janna

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