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Here’s the third part of our Growing Garlic series. Part 1 is an overview of growing Garlic. Part 2 covers harvesting the garlic scapes – which we turn into Pickled Garlic Scapes. Now we’re moving on to how to harvest and cure Garlic.
Your Garlic has now been growing all spring and summer. You’ve removed the Garlic Scape that is on each plant.
Right about now, you are probably quite curious as to when to get your garlic out of the ground. You want to see how big those bulbs are!
How to Harvest and Cure Garlic
How to Harvest Garlic
When the leaves of the Garlic are yellowing, it is time for harvesting. In the Cariboo which is Zone 3, that is usually the beginning of September.
As a sidenote: Our garlic often gets yellowing tops early in the growing year.
This is because we often have very cool nighttime temperatures, so the garlic tops get a touch of frost early in the season. Your garlic tops may well be green all season long.
We do not find that the yellowing tops affect the taste of the garlic at all. It’s just something that happens here because of those very cool temperatures.
Dig up a couple of plants, preferably from different parts of the garlic bed. Have the cloves formed? It’s time – you can dig up your plants.
It’s always better to harvest your garlic a bit early, rather than a bit late. You can tell if you harvested late if the cloves have started to pull away from the center stem.
You want to harvest when the cloves are still tight with a wrapper on them. This is the best stage for storing the longest.
You may find that there is dirt stuck in the roots, especially if your soil is moist. I rub the root end with my gloved hand and if the soil is a bit dry, it will crumble and fall out.
But if the soil is still quite wet, leave your garlic out in the air for an hour and let them dry a bit. This will make it easier to get the dirt out.
Try to NOT leave your garlic laying in the sun. You are better off to move it into a shaded area, even if there is still dirt on the roots.
How to Cure Garlic
If the weather is supposed to stay warm, you can hang the bulbs outside (out of the weather). We hang them up in the breezeway down at the barn.
If your weather is supposed to be quite cool or even frosty, bring your Garlic inside instead or hang it where it will not get hit with frost. I use to bundle the plants with baling twine.
I’ve moved on to a heavier twine since then, as bundles with huge bulbs can actually be quite heavy. When I bundle them, I put all the largest bulbs together.
I may end up with 8 bundles of nice big heads and 4 bundles of smaller heads. That’s a lot of Garlic! I bundle them like this because it is faster.
Also, it’s easier for me to pick next year’s cloves (another post). I hang them in groups of 10, as I sell some and this makes it much easier to count up.
If you stab a Garlic head with the shovel when harvesting, be sure to place those ones of to the side. Use them up first.
Garlic that has been cut or scraped will NOT store well, and could introduce bacteria to other bulbs. Just keep those in the kitchen and start cooking!
After the bundles have hung for at least 10 days (maybe closer to 2 weeks), bring them into the house.
We keep our Garlic downstairs, hanging the bundles in my potting room. Or, you can trim off the stalks using your garden shears.
Be sure to leave a 1 inch stem above the bulb. Then, cut the roots close to the base using some good kitchen scissors . Store the garlic bulbs in an open weave basket.
We don’t keep the Garlic in the Cold Room, as Garlic likes it a bit warmer than the 32 – 40 F temperature we keep the room at.
When first hung, the aroma of Garlic fills the house – what a wonderful smell.
Preparing a Garlic Bed for Planting
As soon as the Garlic is harvested and hung, we weed out the Garlic bed. It will only be a few weeks before this bed is planted again.
The earlier the bed is prepared, the better. If another layer of compost is needed, now is the time to add it. If we have time before planting, we will seed some Buckwheat in the bed to improve the soil for the coming year.
Buckwheat only takes about 5 weeks to grow and flower; this makes Buckwheat a fantastic soil builder.
Now that you know how to harvest and cure garlic, let’s move on to replanting. I’ll show you how I choose which Garlic bulbs to replant for the following year.
Here is the last installment – Growing Garlic – Part 4 (how to know which cloves to replant)