Well, we harvested garlic this last Wednesday at the Master Gardening Vegetable Demo Garden. We had planted 4 varieties last fall, I believe in October.
It is now ‘curing’ on my outside table in the shade of our portal where it is protected from the rain (what rain?) or should I say, potential rain.
Curing is the process of drying out the outer papery layers on the garlic bulb and takes around 3 weeks. If it rains (lol) I will cover it with a tarp so it doesn’t get wet as that would ruin the garlic. Never get garlic wet. It needs to be in a dry, airy, shady location while it is curing.
Curing and then storing garlic allows you to extend your summer harvest of garlic well into winter… and my favorite thing about garlic is that it still stays fresh long after it’s been cured. When you harvest, don’t clean the dirt off the heads. You can do that later but never with water-just brush the dirt off the heads.
Also soft- necked garlic can be braided while the leaves are still soft, (if you like) and the heads are drying out. Hard neck cannot be braided as the stem (think neck) is too stiff. When it is done curing, I will cut off the stems about an inch above the heads and store in a cool dark place in the pantry.
As to my own garlic, it isn’t quite ready to harvest yet. How do I know? It needs to have about half the leaves die back before digging it out to harvest and I’m about 2 weeks away. I love the smell of garlic and can hardly wait to harvest my own!
The garlic is starting to come up nicely, even through the snow. I believe it wakes up when the daylight hours get long enough. By planting garlic in the fall, you’ll get larger bulbs and will be able to harvest earlier in the summer. I planted it in late October and put straw over it to protect the bulbs from winter. Looks like it worked! The straw keeps the bulbs from freezing and the snow can melt through it and provide moisture. Didn’t even have to water it this winter. Such an easy crop to grow and fresh garlic is the best!
English: A basket of garlic (allium sativum) offered for sale at the farmers’ market in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you’re gonna grow garlic this fall, and I suggest you do, this month is the time to get your beds ready for it. Add lots of aged horse manure and some greensand to your bed. Then turn it over and wait till October to put the garlic in (you should be ordering now). Don’t worry if we have a freezing night or two in October, it won’t hurt the garlic as the ground won’t actually freeze until later (like December) and the garlic will start to send its roots down, getting a good headstart for spring. I ordered my garlic about 2 weeks ago and am getting some softneck and hardneck varieties which will arrive in October. It’s such an easy crop to grow and the flavor is far superior to store-bought garlic that it’s one crop I always grow in the fall. Just remember to put lots of straw on it as a mulch AFTER the nights start to freeze and pick a bed that you won’t need right away next summer as the garlic won’t be ready till late June-July.
The reason I grow hardneck is for the outstanding flavor although it has a shorter shelf life and must be used up in a few months. The reason I grow softneck garlic is because it has a longer shelf life up to 10 months and there are many tasty varieties of it as well. Besides I’m looking forward to braiding softneck garlic which will be a challenge as I never learned how to braid hair!
I’m starting to harvest my garlic. How do I know when to dig them out? The soft neck variety is dying back (despite good watering) and when it has most of the leaves brown with only a few green ones at the top, it is time to harvest. The shallots in the background are nowhere near harvesting yet.
Here is a picture of a garlic ready to be dug out. I carefully scrape the soil away revealing the bulb. Then be careful not to nick the bulb when digging out or it will go bad. Look at the size of this bulb-about 3 inches! Woo! Hoo!
It takes about 3 years for garlic to get use to someone’s growing conditions so it is important to save your biggest cloves to plant again as bigger cloves mean bigger garlic next season. This is my second year and the cloves are definitely getting bigger. Be sure to ‘cure’ them after digging them up. It takes about 3 weeks to let them dry out so don’t scrape the dirt or wash them after you dig them up-just let them dry out in a shady place for about 2 weeks before you brush off the dirt and then let them cure another week when the skins are dry and you can clean them up by taking a few of the dry skin layers off and store them in a dark place. Never wet garlic when curing. To read about last year’s post on types of garlic and more on harvesting garlic go here.
I also planted the hardneck variety of garlic. They already produced flower stalks called scapes (which I cut off and froze to eat later) and they are starting to die back and will probably be ready within 2 weeks as their leaves are still pretty green. They say hardneck is more flavorful but the softneck will last longer so I planted both this past fall.
If you plant garlic in the fall instead of spring, the bulbs will be larger. If you planted in spring, the garlic should be ready sometime in August. Garlic harvesting is very exciting as there is nothing as good as fresh garlic from the garden especially with my upcoming tomatoes.
The garlic I planted last fall in November is already 8 inches tall and growing like weeds! I just love planting it in the fall, putting straw over it and watering it maybe once a month in winter. It is the first thing to come up in early spring and will be ready for harvest sometime in late June-early July. Such an easy crop to grow and a must grow for cooks. Nothing like cooking with fresh garlic. Plus a bonus is bugs don’t like it and rabbits don’t like it-nice! This year I grew both hardneck garlic which tastes great and softneck garlic which lasts a long time. Just be sure to save some of the biggest cloves to plant for next fall. Bigger cloves=bigger bulbs the following year!
Chaka Khan helping. "It doesn't look like cat food!"
I am now in the second week of curing my garlic. I cut off the stems to 4 inches above the bulb, rubbed off the dirt and trimmed the roots off at the bottom. They are now inside out of direct sunlight. Notice the purple hue. It is a hardneck variety.
Freshly picked garlic starting to dry on table outside in shade
I dug out the garlic I got from our local Farmers Market and planted last fall yesterday. They say the best garlic comes from local growers, so I’m sure it will be good. It is the hardneck type but I’m not sure which variety-I just remember it was purple. I planted in mid November of last year, so it’s been 9 months of waiting to harvest.
Hardneck garlic scape
It produced a scape in June on each plant as shown in the picture to the left, which is a curly flower pod that you cut off so all the energy goes into the bulbs developing below the soil. I read after you cut off the scape, you should give them a good watering, then cut off the water to them and wait around 20 days to harden them off.
Almost all hardneck garlic have between 7-8 leaves and when the bottom 3 die back but the top leaves are still green then it is ready to dig out. My leaves died back totally because it’s been so hot here. Be sure you use a tool that can dig deep enough to loosen the soil around each bulb and get under the bulb and lift it out being careful not to pierce it.
After you dig it out, you need to CURE the garlic which takes about 3 weeks. For the first week, lay out all the garlic bulbs (leaving all its leaves on) outside in a warm DRY spot on top of a table or shelf but OUT OF THE SUN with good aeration for a week. On week 2, cut off the leaves to about 4-5 inches above the bulb, trim off roots closer to the bulb, rub off the dirt gently on the bulb and put back on your shelf or table to cure another week. On week 3, trim off the remainder of the leaves down to the bulb and cut off the roots close to the bulb and take them inside to finish curing. After that third week ends, store them in a cool, dry place in your house. I like to put them into one of my old onion bags that I bought from the grocery store (the ones made of netting) and put in a cool place in the house-for me my pantry. I can’t wait to try some!