Harvesting Garlic

If there is one type of vegetable that I would highly recommend growing (because its easy) it would be garlic.  You plant it in the fall and then simply harvest it in the summer. Its low maintenance and virtually pest and disease free.  We have decided garlic is a new staple in our garden.  

This was our first year growing 2 different types: Tochilavri (soft neck) and German White (hard neck).  We planted the cloves from the 2 bulbs in the above picture and they produced 21 bulbs of garlic! They were planted in the fall on November 16th, 2013.  The trickiest part of growing garlic is knowing exactly when to harvest!  But have no fear we were successful with harvesting this year.  Here are my tips on harvesting:  
"ochilavri" GarlicPlanting Garlic
Lower leaves turning brown: ready to harvest!
The ideal time to harvest is when 6 or so leaves on the top of the garlic are still green and some of the lower leaves are brown.  A couple of weeks ago the lower leaves of our garlic started turning brown.  Its time to harvest!  
BED #4 Garlic, Lettuce, Onions and Summer Squash
 To prepare for harvesting the garlic needs to have time to dry out and cure.  In order for this to happen stop watering a couple of weeks early (and if it rains wait a week before harvesting).

STEP 1: Loosen the soil around the bulb using a fork or your hand.  The soil will be fairly compacted so be careful not to damage the bulbs.  Also make sure not to pull on the stems. Carefully lift out the bulbs with your hands and brush off any soil that remains. 
Carefully removing soil around garlic bulb
STEP 2: Make sure to leave the stalks and roots on the bulbs. 
Roots left on bulb for storage
STEP 3: Get the bulbs out of the sun right away. Select a well-ventilated room or dry shaded spot outside (in the shade) and allow the bulbs to cure.  The location should be airy, dry and have some air circulation.  

NOTE: We put down plastic garbage bags under our rug on the deck (to stop rain from coming through the deck onto the garlic below) then hung a PVC pipe under the deck and hung the garlic.  One hour later the rain started pouring and I am happy to say the garlic stayed dry!
Our drying location (under our deck)
STEP 4: Now the waiting begins!  It takes about 3 to 8 weeks for the bulbs to cure.  When the wrappers are dry its time to prepare the bulbs for storage. 
The garlic a week later
 STEP 5: Cut off the tops to an inch above the bulbs and then trim the roots to about 1 inch.  (Do not wash the bulbs).  Remove just the dirtiest layers of the wrappers around the garlic. (Remember the wrapping protects the garlic).
STEP 6: Store in mesh (net bags) in a location that is cool and dry.  The ideal temperature is 35-50 degrees F.  Some air circulation is also helpful.

Softneck Garlic: Can be stored for 6 to 8 months.  Just make sure its not sprouting or soft.

Hardneck Garlic: Lasts for 2 to 4 months.  If it goes soft, dry or sprouts it has already begun to deteriorate.  If possible keep this variety at 32 degrees F for longer storage. 
Cloves we planted in November 2013. 

Finally keep the best bulbs for replanting in the fall.  Plant around October or November and then enjoy your own garlic harvest in the summer. For details on planting garlic see my previous post: Planting Garlic

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