Harvesting Garlic: Worth the wait.

Garlic Assortment

We harvested our Garlic this past weekend and it is now hanging in the garage to cure.  Now that we have been successful, I would like to take you through the process from beginning to end.

Last fall we ordered 7 different varieties of planting bulbs from We Grow Garlic. We chose to  order from them because we could get individual bulbs to try without having to go with a pre-chosen assortment, there was plenty of information to get you through, the prices are very reasonable as you go by the bulb not by weight which can get pricey, and they were one of the only places with garlic left when we realized we wanted to plant some.  We ordered in late September, having heard it was a late fall crop, only to find out that we should have placed the order in the beginning of August, just in time to get it fresh from the curing process.  So, if you are reading this shortly after it goes up and you haven’t ordered, do it soon!

Once it arrived I spent an evening dissecting each bulb and choosing only the largest cloves from each one to go into the ground.  From each bulb I was able to pull about half that were worth planting, for a total of 28 seed cloves.  The rest went into a brown paper bag and a cool dark place to be cooked with later.

I prepared a 3’x4′ bed in our new front yard garden and followed the instructions provided.  To make planting easier I pointed a 6″ long stick 1″ in diameter, marked 2″ from the point, to act as a dibber and planting guide.  I spaced my cloves 6″ apart in staggered rows and was able to comfortably fit my 28 cloves in with a bit of room to spare.

Planting the cloves.

Planting the cloves.

When they were in I marked each section with a wooden stake with the name of the garlic written on in permanent marker.  Though this idea seemed great when I did it, and they survived admirably through the fall and light winter, once the spring rains and summer storms hit, they weathered quickly.  And little did I know that the soft earth caused them to shift, completely destroying my ability to know exactly what was what.  Next time around I will be planting singular rows well separated and clearly marked.

Once everything was done, I covered the garlic with 4 inches of straw and gave it a light watering.  I continued to do so until late October, once the weather turned turned cold and threat of frost appeared.  With the wet spring and coll summer so far, it did not need to be water and grew vigorously.

The general consensus was that as the outer leaves start to brown and die off the garlic is ready to harvest.  With the Scotland like weather so far this year the plants continued to grown vigorously, which has us debating on when they would actually be ready to harvest.   Finally we made the choice to get them out of the ground and realized it might be a little late.  Thankfully it went well and we were happy to find that every clove planted yielded a nice bulb.  There were no elephant varieties in the collection, so they look modest in size compared to the giant white bulbs you find in the grocery store.  The softnecks were dug out gently while the hardnecks came free with only a slight tug.    Three bulbs did show signs of being harvested a little too late, as they had started to split apart, but were debris and bug free so I kept them.

My teenage daughter collected the bulbs as my wife and I dug them up and was responsible for cleaning them up.  After wiping off the heaviest dirt in the field, being careful not to damage the skin, she filled the utility sink with a few inches of water and gave them a quick rinse.  I then sorted, wrapped, and hung them to dry.

Here is a picture of a group up to dry.

A bundle of curing bulbs.

A bundle of curing bulbs.

I have four such bundles hanging in our large airy garage.  They will remain there for 4-6 weeks until ready, at which point the stems and roots will be trimmed and they will be moved to our cool dry pantry for long term storage.  Though I could use them to plant for next year’s crop, I am going to support We Grow Garlic by ordering a fresh batch.

Any questions?  Please leave a comment.