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.
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!