Here’s the third installment on Growing Garlic
When the bottom leaves of the Garlic are yellowing, it is time for harvesting. In the Valley, 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. You are 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 centre 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 for too long. You are better off to move it into a shaded area, even if there is still dirt on the roots.
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.
You can probably see in the photo above, I bundled the plants using 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. I bundle them like this so it is faster and 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 pitchfork 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 closer to the base using some good kitchen scissors and store them in a basket.
We don’t keep the Garlic in the Cold Room, as Garlic likes it a bit warmer and we don’t want the smell of Garlic wafting around our other winter stored veggies. When first hung, the aroma of Garlic fills the house – what a wonderful smell.
Once the Garlic is pulled, hung and drying, 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.
Next up, I’ll show you how I choose which Garlic bulbs to replant for the following year. If you have any comments or questions, please let us know – we love feedback
Here is the last installment – Growing Garlic – Part 4 (how to know which cloves to replant)