What about the Garlic I planted last fall? The softneck variety is ready for harvest!

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.

Garlic coming up nicely


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!

Growing Garlic

Hardneck garlic- photo courtesy of daytondailynews.com

Ahh, garlic. Fresh garlic. If you are a cook, you should definitely try growing some garlic. It tastes better than the store bought because it is much fresher and you can grow the hardneck varieties which you won’t find in the grocery store. Garlic originated in Central Asia and dates back over 6000 years. It is used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. It is a species in the onion family, closely related to onions, shallots, leeks and chives. Avoid growing the ones from the store as often they are sprayed to prevent sprouting. Here are the main types of garlic:

Softneck garlic: It’s the most common type you’ll find in the grocerey store. It is usually white with paperery skins. Softneck garlic has a long shelf life and is easier to grow which is why you see it in the grocery stores. It has a layer of cloves on the outside and smaller cloves inside that I find annoying to peel. It’s leafy stalk is pliable unlike the hardneck type. The two main types of softneck garlic are artichoke and silverskin.

Hardneck garlic: It has a central stiff stalk (also called a stem or scape) coming out of the middle which cloves grow around, It usually has fewer cloves but larger.  It has thinner skin and shorter shelf life. The three main types of hardneck garlic are Purple Stripe, Rocambole and Porcelain. Hardneck garlic is considered to be the most flavorful.

Purple Stripe garlic is distinguished by its purple markings. Two varieties are Chesnok Red and Metechi.

Rocambole garlic produces large tan cloves and have a fuller flavor than softneck varieties offered at the store. Two varieties are Spanish Roja and Killarney Red.

Porcelain garlic has satiny skins and fewer but much bigger cloves often as few as 4 cloves to a head. It is often mistaken for Elephant garlic but it’s flavor is fuller.

Their are many varieties to choose from in all three types-I read somewhere there are over 200 varieties of hardneck garlic alone.

Elephant garlic: It is not like regular garlic because it’s flavor is milder and less intense. Many people buy it because it is larger. It is used when a subtle hint of garlic is needed in dishes but is not a substitute for regular garlic. I’m not impressed with it.

Softneck garlic stalk- courtesy of finegardening.com

Hardneck garlic stalk- courtesy of finegardening.com

Growing garlic in the garden is easy. You can buy it through many of the seed catalogs or get  some at our local farmers market in the fall when it is abundant. I don’t know what variety I got last fall, but it is a purple striped type because of its color. Fall planted garlic that has been overwintered will be ready sometime in July. Spring planted garlic can usually be harvest sometime in late August-Sept. Garlic likes enriched soil so add compost to your bed or aged manure before planting. I also put in a little bonemeal  and yum yum mix into each hole at planting time. Separate your cloves leaving them unpeeled, and pick the biggest individual garlic cloves. Separation should be done immediately before planting. Plant pointed side up and about 2 inches deep. Planting 4-6 inches apart will produce more bulbs but smaller. Planting 8 inches apart will produce bigger bulbs.  I like to put a straw mulch around the garlic to help retain moisture and retard weeds. Garlic while it is in the growing state likes to be keep evenly moist to produce the biggest cloves. Hardneck garlic produces a tall stalk (scape) which is actually the flower stalk that will get curly. There are 4 ways to put more of the energy into the cloves just before harvest time.  One way is to  cut off the scape (hardneck type) after a couple of curls. A second way is leave the scape (Hardneck type) on and when the scape straightens out, you stop watering. The third way  is to just stop watering 2-3 weeks after cutting off all the scapes. Another way is to wait till about half the leaves (either type) have died before you stop watering. When this happens, check the tops of the garlic bulb to see if you can feel the cloves while still in the soil. Dig it out carefully after the bulb is good size being careful not to scrape it. Leave it out (but not in full sunlight) to dry out the skins before using. I like to bring it inside during this time as direct sunlight will ruin it. Brush off the dirt after they are dry. It’s relatively easy to grow and nothing taste better than fresh garlic right out of the garden! There are many sites that talk about garlic, but one I really like because of these pictures of the scapes is on their article, “Garlic Begets Garlic” at finegardening.com. They also give more info on this subject.