Planting Garlic In Iowa

Garlic is a versatile and flavorful addition to many dishes. It can also be easily grown in Iowa, with the right conditions.

Planting garlic in Iowa can be done in the late summer or early fall for an early harvest the following summer months. The soil should be well-drained and fertile, and the garlic will benefit from the addition of organic matter such as compost, manure, and peat moss. Garlic needs a lot of sunlight and water, so it should be planted in an area that gets at least 8 hours of full sun per day.

Planting garlic in Iowa can be a rewarding experience, as it is easy to grow and can produce a large, flavorful harvest.

Benefits of Planting Garlic in Iowa

Planting garlic in Iowa has a wealth of benefits that extends beyond just providing you with a fresh and organic supply of this flavorful vegetable. Let’s delve into these benefits:

1. Climate Compatibility: Garlic is a cool-season crop that thrives well in climates with a cold winter, like Iowa. The hardneck varieties suitable for Iowa can withstand the winter chill, giving gardeners a plant that stays active throughout the year.

2. Soil Suitability: Iowa’s loamy, well-draining soil is excellent for garlic cultivation. These soil conditions promote robust growth, contributing to a healthier, more bountiful yield.

3. Natural Pest Deterrent: Garlic has the advantage of deterring garden pests. Its strong aroma can discourage pests like aphids, thereby protecting other plants in your garden from pest infestation.

4. Health Benefits: Growing your own garlic ensures you have an organic, chemical-free source of this healthy vegetable. Garlic is renowned for its health benefits, including boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and improving cholesterol levels.

5. Culinary Uses: Fresh garlic from your garden can elevate your culinary adventures. Garlic adds a distinctive flavor to a wide array of dishes, and nothing compares to the taste of home-grown garlic.

6. Economic Benefit: Growing garlic can save you money over time. Given the yield that a single garlic clove can produce, you can significantly reduce grocery expenses while ensuring a constant supply.

7. Environmental Benefits: By growing garlic locally, you contribute to reducing the carbon footprint linked with the transport of store-bought garlic. Plus, when grown organically, your garlic cultivation can promote healthier soil and biodiversity in your garden

Types of Garlic Suitable for Iowa

In Iowa, where winter temperatures can be quite low, hardneck varieties of garlic are ideal as they’re better adapted to the cold. These varieties produce a stalk, or ‘scape’, that can also be harvested for its delicious flavor. Here are some of the hardneck varieties that thrive particularly well in Iowa:

1. Rocambole Garlic: Rocambole garlic is prized for its exceptional flavor and large, easy-to-peel cloves. The bulbs typically have two layers of cloves around the central stalk. Rocambole garlic is hardy and well-suited for Iowa’s climate. Its scapes coil into a full loop or two before harvest time.

2. Purple Stripe Garlic: This variety has beautiful bulbs with bright purple streaks and blotches on the wrappers. Purple Stripe garlic often wins taste tests and is excellent for roasting. The bulbs contain 8-12 tall, slender cloves that are easy to peel.

3. Porcelain Garlic: Porcelain garlic varieties are robust and one of the best for growing in cold climates, making them a good choice for Iowa gardens. They have a strong and robust flavor and, despite their large size, have usually only 4-6 cloves per bulb.

4. Marbled Purple Stripe Garlic: A subtype of Purple Stripe garlic, Marbled Purple Stripe varieties have a more robust flavor and produce large bulbs with fewer, but bigger, cloves. They are also known for their hardiness in cold climates.

Remember, when growing garlic in Iowa, purchasing your garlic bulbs from a local nursery or seed supplier can be advantageous. These suppliers will typically carry the varieties best suited to your specific area, improving your chances of a successful harvest.

Soil Requirements for Garlic in Iowa

Garlic is a crop that prefers fertile, well-drained soil. It thrives particularly well in loamy or sandy loam soils, which are prevalent in many parts of Iowa. Here are some key factors to consider when preparing your soil for garlic in Iowa:

1. Soil Texture: Garlic prefers well-drained soil. Loamy and sandy loam soils are perfect for garlic cultivation as they allow for good drainage and prevent waterlogging, which can cause the garlic bulbs to rot.

2. Soil pH: Garlic grows best in slightly acidic to neutral pH levels, typically between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil’s pH is below this range, adding lime can help increase it. Conversely, if it’s above this range, adding sulfur can help decrease it.

3. Soil Fertility: Garlic is a heavy feeder and requires nutrient-rich soil to thrive. A soil rich in organic matter will provide the nutrients necessary for robust garlic growth. Prior to planting, it’s beneficial to amend your soil with compost or well-rotted manure to increase its fertility.

4. Soil Preparation: Before planting garlic, loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches to allow for easy root penetration. Clear your garden bed of any rocks, roots, or other debris that might hinder garlic growth.

5. Soil Temperature: Garlic needs a period of cold to form bulbs properly. Fortunately, Iowa’s cold winters provide a natural vernalization process, making it suitable for growing hardneck varieties of garlic.

6. Crop Rotation: To prevent the build-up of soil-borne diseases, it’s a good practice not to plant garlic in the same spot more than once every three years. Crop rotation with unrelated vegetables can help maintain healthy, disease-free soil.

By paying close attention to these soil requirements, you can optimize your garlic’s health and yield in Iowa. Remember, the key to successful garlic cultivation begins with a well-prepared garden bed.

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Planting Instructions for Garlic in Iowa

Growing garlic in Iowa is straightforward if you follow the right steps at the right time. Here is a step-by-step guide for planting garlic in Iowa:

1. Select the Right Variety: Choose hardneck garlic varieties such as Rocambole, Purple Stripe, and Porcelain, which are better suited to withstand Iowa’s cold winters.

2. Prepare the Soil: Garlic prefers well-drained, fertile soil. Incorporate plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted compost or manure into your soil a few weeks before planting.

3. Choose the Right Time: In Iowa, the best time to plant garlic is in late September or early October. This allows the garlic to establish roots before the winter freeze sets in, without having significant top growth that could be damaged by winter cold.

4. Plant the Cloves: Break up the garlic bulb into individual cloves right before you’re ready to plant, as they can dry out quickly. Plant each clove pointed end up, about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. Rows should be 12-18 inches apart.

5. Mulch: After planting, cover the bed with about 4-6 inches of straw mulch. This helps insulate the soil over winter, suppresses weed growth, and retains soil moisture.

6. Spring Maintenance: Once the soil warms in the spring, remove the mulch to let the sun heat the soil more directly. Water regularly, especially during dry spells, and weed regularly to prevent competition.

7. Scapes: In early summer, the plants will produce a flower stalk, known as a ‘scape.’ Cut these off to encourage the plant to put more energy into bulb development.

8. Harvest Time: Garlic is usually ready to harvest in mid to late summer, typically July or August in Iowa. A good sign that it’s time to harvest is when the lower third to half of the leaves have turned brown.

Remember, garlic is a crop that enjoys cooler weather and develops its bulbs in response to lengthening daylight hours, making it perfectly suited to Iowa’s climate. With careful attention to these planting instructions, you can look forward to a plentiful garlic harvest from your Iowa garden.

Caring for Garlic in Iowa

Garlic is an essential ingredient in many dishes, and Iowa is no exception. Caring for garlic in Iowa is an important task for any home gardener.

The key to successful garlic cultivation is understanding the climate of Iowa, and how to best care for garlic plants. This includes proper irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. Garlic needs plenty of sun to thrive, so it’s important to choose a location for your garden that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day.

Additionally, soil should be well-drained and amended with organic matter to provide nutrients for the garlic cloves. Finally, regular pest control is important to keep garlic free from disease. With the right care and attention, your Iowa garlic will be thriving in no time!

Harvesting Garlic in Iowa

Knowing the right time to harvest garlic is crucial to ensure the quality and longevity of your stored bulbs. Here are some key guidelines for harvesting garlic in Iowa:

1. Identifying Harvest Time: Garlic is generally ready for harvest in mid to late summer, typically around July or August in Iowa. A good indication that garlic is ready to harvest is when the lower third to half of the leaves have turned brown. However, it’s essential not to wait until all the leaves have browned, as the bulb may split, reducing its storage life.

2. Testing a Bulb: If you’re unsure whether it’s the right time to harvest, dig up one bulb to check its progress. If the cloves fill out the skins and the bulb looks well-formed, it’s ready to be harvested.

3. Harvesting: To harvest, gently loosen the soil around the bulb with a fork or spade, being careful not to bruise or cut the bulbs. Pull up the bulbs, shake off any loose soil, but do not wash them.

4. Curing: After harvest, garlic needs to be cured or dried for storage. Lay the harvested bulbs out in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. An airy, shady spot like a shed, garage, or covered porch is perfect. Leave the garlic to cure for about 3-4 weeks.

5. Cleaning and Storing: Once the bulbs are cured, brush off any remaining soil and trim the roots. You can also trim the stalks to about 1 inch above the bulb. Do not remove the papery skin. Store the cured garlic in a cool, dry place. Bulbs can be stored in mesh bags or loosely woven baskets for good air circulation.

Harvesting garlic in Iowa requires patience and good timing. Remember, the goal is to allow your garlic to mature fully, but also to harvest it before it becomes overripe. With these tips in hand, you’ll be well-prepared for a successful garlic harvest in Iowa.

FAQs About the Planting Garlic In Iowa

How deep should I plant garlic cloves in Iowa?

Answer: Garlic cloves should be planted 1 to 2 inches deep in the soil in Iowa.

What type of soil is best for planting garlic in Iowa?

Answer: Well-draining soil that is high in organic matter is best for garlic. The soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Can I grow garlic in Iowa from grocery store bulbs?

Answer: While possible, it’s not recommended because grocery store garlic may not be suited for Iowa’s climate and could carry diseases. Instead, buy garlic bulbs from a reputable local nursery.

When should I fertilize my garlic in Iowa?

Answer: The best time to fertilize garlic in Iowa is in early spring, once the ground has thawed and the plants have started to grow.

What pests or diseases affect garlic in Iowa?

Answer: Garlic can be affected by diseases like white rot, botrytis rot, and penicillium decay. Pests such as nematodes and thrips can also pose a threat.


Garlic is a popular crop in Iowa that is easy to grow and offers a wide variety of benefits. It is a cold-hardy vegetable that is relatively easy to care for and can be harvested for many months of the year. In addition, garlic is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals and can be used in a variety of dishes. Planting garlic in Iowa is a great way to get a steady supply of fresh garlic for your family.


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