It is one of my favourite times of year, garlic harvest. I just love my home grown garlic. I will go through how I grow, harvest, cure and store my garlic in this post.
First, I live in the Canadian rockies. We grow hardneck garlic around here which is suited to our cold winters. You would not use this garlic or these methods if you live in a hot climate. You would grow soft neck garlic that doesn’t need a cold winter.
Last September, about one month before our usual first frost, I selected nice bulbs of garlic from the prior year crop. I broke them into individual cloves. I grow eight plants each of five different varieties of garlic.
I planted the cloves about 1 1/2 inches deep four inches apart in rows that are ten inches apart. It is critical you put the pointy end up and the flat end down as the roots grow from the flat end. I like to cover my garlic with a couple of inches of mulch.
Here you have to have faith. Nothing should show above ground before first frost so you just have to believe the right things are going on underground.
The garlic sit out the winter underground. It is usually April here before the garlic sprouts. This will vary in your region depending on the length of your winter.
The garlic grows quite rapidly. It doesn’t need a lot of watering but make sure it gets a good deep soaking every few days.
Some scapes will start to grow late in the spring. These are round stalks with a bulb at the end. They will curl into loops as they grow. When the start a second loop, cut them off. You want the energy to go into the bulbs.
It is around the end of July here when some of the leaves start to dry up. Again, this will vary depending on your season lengths. Stop watering the plants when the leaves first start to dry out.
When over half the leaves are dried out, I push a finger beside a bulb of garlic. If it is full and you can feel the lumps of the cloves, it is time to harvest. Use a flat spade and push it in the ground a couple of inches away from the plant. Lever the shovel back to break up the ground. Grasp the stalk and pull the bulb from the loose dirt. Some dirt will cling to the bulbs. This is fine, just leave it.
Tie the plant together in groups of four and hang them in a dry well ventilated shed. They must not be in the sun. Garlic will sunburn. Make sure air can get to all the bulbs.
Two weeks later, All the stalks should be dry and the outside skin on the bulbs should be papery.
Any dirt and the outer layers of skin should just brush away easily. Just knock enough off to have a clean bulb.
Cut the roots off close to the bulb. Cut the stalk at least an inch above the bulb. This leaves some of the hardneck stalk and will be easier to break the cloves off when you go to use them.
Store the bulbs in netting or burlap bags. She Who Must Be Obeyed made my burlap bags. She must love me or is it garlic she loves?
I hang the bags in a cool dry room in my basement and they last into the next year. After long storage, some cloves may get a green centre. Just cut the green part out and the rest is fine to use.
Why go to all this trouble to grow your own garlic? First, growing your own food is just good for your soul.
Second, the quality is vastly superior to the product in the grocery stores. Most of the garlic sold in North America comes from China. I have nothing against China but I also have no idea of their growing conditions. I do know the garlic has to be shipped here. The end result is garlic that is soft and rubbery.
My garlic is firm and crisp. It has a great sharp garlic taste. I grow varieties that are large and mild, small and hot, red and snow white. They all have their place in different dishes.
The first time you slice or chop fresh garlic, you will feel the crispness and smell the great aroma.
Go grow some.
The Old Fat Guy