Why You Shouldn't Plant Grocery Store Garlic
It is not uncommon for a home gardener to try and plant garlic that they bought from the grocery store at some point. Most often, they are disappointed with the outcome because the garlic produces very small bulbs, or even worse it doesn't grow at all.
Sometimes a grower will have success and they are able to harvest healthy garlic. This is usually green garlic (similar to green onions) where the garlic plants are eaten when they are still young and a bulb is not required.
If you want to plant grocery store garlic, there are three things you should consider first before planting that may change your mind.
Grocery store garlic tends to be in fairly poor conditions once it is made available to customers. It has usually been stored for a very long time (sometimes over a year) before being sold, is very dry and is sometimes sprayed with chemicals in order to delay sprouting or to control pests.
This means that it makes for very poor quality seed stock. Cloves that are planted are often weak and struggle to grow large plants. This leads to small bulbs (often single cloved bulbs can rounds) and a disappointing harvest.
(2) Pests and Disease
Most grocery store garlic is also grown in China or California where they have issues with diseases, viruses and parasites (nematodes) that could potentially invade your soil. The garlic bulbs might look ok, however, these microscopic invaders can easily stay hidden until the right conditions arise.
Many of these garlic pests can enter your soil once the garlic seed is planted and infect your growing plants. Once present, it can take many years (even decades) for some of these pathogens and parasites to disappear from your soil.
(3) Growing Region
In addition, California and China have much warmer climates than many of the locations where gardeners grow garlic. This means that the grocery store garlic is often not adapted to the local growing conditions and will most likely grow poorly. Not growing the right garlic for your climate, often results in a waste of time and a huge disappointment when it comes time to harvest.
When possible, it's best to stick with trusted garlic seed sources that you know will work for your region and climate. If you want to try growing grocery store garlic anyway, plant it in an area that is isolated and won't have garlic or onions again in the future. That way if some pest or disease does arrive, you will still be able to plant garlic in another clean location in the future.
About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who have been farming the same land for over 140 years. As an agronomist and experienced farmer, he helps other growers learn how to grow garlic successfully. He has written many articles and is the author of The Master Guide to Growing Big Garlic.