If you’re planning to grow your own garlic this year, you might be surprised to learn about a simple yet powerful technique that helps enhance growth and increase yields – presoaking the cloves before planting.

It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it. Professional garlic growers swear by presoaking, and this could be a game-changer for you if you’ve had disappointing harvests in the past.

Key Takeaways

Soaking your garlic cloves in a nutrient-rich solution of water, fish fertilizer, and baking soda gives them a boost which jump-starts the growing process. This soak is followed by a quick immersion in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which sterilizes the cloves and kills any mites hiding inside.

A pile of garlic cloves ready for presoaking prior to planting.

Before we get into the specifics of how to presoak garlic, let’s look at why it’s such a good idea.

Presoaking Garlic Improves Germination Rates

Presoaking garlic cloves kickstarts the germination process by hydrating the cloves and reducing the time it takes for them to break dormancy and sprout.

After presoaking you’ll see green shoots emerging from the soil sooner, setting the stage for a robust garlic crop

A Presoak Benefits Garlic Root Development

Strong roots are essential for nutrient absorption and optimal garlic growth.

With plenty of moisture in the clove, root development will get a headstart. Instead of needing to absorb water from the soil, your cloves can get to work forming roots as soon as they’re planted.

If you’re planting garlic in the fall and you’ve left it a little late, then a presoak will help you claw back those lost days.

By presoaking, your garlic gets a helping hand to establish a well-developed root structure, which ultimately leads to more vigorous growth and more resilient garlic plants.

Presoaking Provides Increased Disease Resistance

A garlic presoak that includes antifungal and antibacterial agents like baking soda, vodka, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide helps protect the garlic from mold and soil-borne diseases like white rot and rust.

Presoaking acts in two ways. First, it kills off pathogens on the cloves. Second, it acts as a preventative measure, creating a less hospitable environment for potential pathogens. Both contribute to a healthier garlic crop and reduce the risk of disease-related setbacks.

Related: Are you making these garlic-growing mistakes?

Presoaking Aids Nutrient Uptake

Soaking garlic cloves helps activate enzymes within the cloves, promoting better nutrient absorption once planted.

Garlic is a heavy feeder, needing adequate nutrients for optimal growth. By presoaking, you create the best conditions for nutrient uptake and ensure your garlic plants can readily absorb the elements they need to thrive.

Presoaking Gives Garlic A Headstart Leading To Faster Maturity

We’ve already covered how presoaking garlic gives your plants a headstart on root development. In areas with shorter growing seasons, presoaking your spring planted garlic will get you to harvest time a little sooner.

The Two Garlic Presoaks

Many professional garlic growers use 2 presoaks for their garlic cloves.

The first presoak provides moisture and nutrients.

The second presoak kills off pathogens. This is of great benefit for fall-planted garlic where any disease organisms that survive the winter will cause trouble in the spring.

First Garlic Presoak

This presoak takes 8 – 24 hours. Eight hours will get the job done, but it won’t hurt the garlic to stay in the solution for up to 24 hours if that’s more convenient for you.

To make the presoak nutrient solution use warm water, fish emulsion or liquid seaweed, and baking soda.

This mixture will smell pretty ripe and you won’t want to mess up your plastic kitchen bowls. Use stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl. Or use a clean bucket that you keep for garden use.

Prepare the presoak solution by mixing:

  • 1 gallon lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon fish emulsion/fertilizer, OR
  • 1 tablespoon liquid seaweed
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda

Break the heads of garlic into separate cloves. Don’t remove the skins!

Gently place the cloves in the solution and leave them to soak. When the cloves are ready, you’ll notice they’re bigger because they’ve absorbed water and nutrients.

Drain the garlic in a colander or remove it from the solution using a slotted spoon.

Second Garlic Presoak

This is a quick, very simple 10-minute soak to kill off pathogens.

Place your garlic cloves in a bowl or large canning jar and cover them with any of the following:

  • Vodka
  • Rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol 50-70%)
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Wait for 10 minutes, then drain. Plant garlic cloves within 1 hour of the second soak.

Note: If you use isopropyl alcohol, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated space.

Final Thoughts

Presoaking garlic isn’t essential but it’s certainly beneficial. A presoak gets garlic off to a strong start thanks to the added moisture and nutrients. And with increased disease resistance, your garlic will reap a long-term reward.

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Kate Prince

Hey there! I’m a small scale homesteader sharing what I know about the off-grid life. I grow fruits and vegetables, raise chickens and goats, and produce my own power, heat, and clean water.   Feel free to send me a message.