Garlic… the scourge of vampires! Be it true or not, one thing for sure, it is one of the most flavorful, aromatic and nutritious food around. They are easy to grow, but the trickiest part is knowing when to harvest them.
Garlic bulbs are usually ready for harvesting from seven to eight months after they are planted. But when do you really begin digging? Well, the sure way is to dig several bulbs and cut them in half. If the cloves fill out the skin, then it’s ready. But some do it differently.
Before you start harvesting your garlic, you need to watch them closely and once you see the flower stems soften and one third of the leaves has turned brown and withered, then, you can start harvesting. At this time you should also stop watering. Remember, do not wait until all the leaves died before harvesting your garlic because at this stage the bulbs will have started to spit and they would not last long. And if you harvest them early, you get smaller cloves. Timing is important.
If your garlic has been planted in light soil they can be pulled off straight from the ground very carefully. But if they were planted deeply or in a heavier soil, you will need to use a digging fork to insert under the bulb to lift it. You should never pull the bulb without loosening the soil. Once lifted, brush off excess dirt. Be careful in handling the bulbs as they are very delicate. If they get bruised they would easily rot.
Leave the gathered plants intact, do not remove flower stalks, leaves or roots. If you need to clip the roots, use a pruning shear, and cut half an inch from the bulb. And whether you’re harvesting softnecks or hardnecks, you have to wait for another week before clipping or braiding them. If you want them to store longer, leave them for two months.
Lay down all the plants in a warm and airy spot to dry. Be sure to protect them from rain and direct sunlight, which can affect the flavor of fresh garlic. You need to keep a close watch, particularly the leaves. Once you see them getting moldy, cut them off as they will quickly spread to the bulb. You can also cure your garlic by tying the top of the stalks in bundles of 5. Hang them with the bulb down in a dry, dark place with good air circulation for three weeks. When they are all brown and the bulb has layers of papery skin, they can be stored. Brush off the soil from the bulb using your hands. Avoid removing the papery wrapper of the bulb. These protect the cloves from rotting and inhibit sprouting.
Don’t forget to routinely check your stored bulbs for mold or bacterial rot and discard them right away.
Have fun Gardening!