Harvesting Garlic

While growing garlic is easy, harvesting can be a challenge.

First, stop watering your garlic a few weeks prior to harvest. When is this? You’ll get a different answer from every gardener you ask. It really is a question of experience. Don’t pay attention to the calendar, pay attention to the plant. Generally, you are close to harvest when the lower leaves are about half brown or when the entire plant is about half brown (July and early August). Another method requires pulling up one of the plants once the top part of the plant is brown. Then you count the number of sheaths. Two to three sheaths indicate harvest time. If the bulb has begun to split, you are too late.

If you pull them up too early (as I did last year) the bulb will be under formed and won’t store well. If you leave them in the ground too long the protective parchment can rot or the root can develop fungal problems. Some gardeners I’ve spoken to say that you really only have a window of 5-7 days to harvest correctly.

Pick a dry day to harvest.

To remove the garlic, take a flat shove and gently loosen the dirt around them. Garlic can bruise easily and bruised garlic does not keep well. Don’t bump it, don’t bounce it. Don’t drop it.

Brush the soil from the bulbs and leave them to dry for a week to ten days. But don’t leave them out in the direct sun as they may burn. Dry your garlic under cover in a cool, dry place. A car port or covered patio will work nicely. Once dry, trim off the roots and braid for storage.

Be sure to remember that, if you are careless as you harvest your garlic, you may ruin the crop. Take your time and do it right.

green garlic
Photo courtesy of kathyylchan at flickr.com.

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