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
Fantastic post! I am going to try this this fall! Thank you!
I think you will be happy you did! It is easy and grows a great garlic.
Great post. I have wanted to grow garlic, so after reading your post I think I might try it.
I think you will enjoy it. Fresh garlic is wonderful!
We planted garlic this spring, but had a variety of problems. Husband is fully to blame for one of them 🙂 But, I learned several good tips from you for when we try again!
If I can be any help or answer any questions, let me know! It has to be easy, I did it.
Great read. However I am in a hot climate. Is the process going to be completely different for me?
I have only grown in a cold climate but I understand the major difference is in the types of garlic you grow. Otherwise, the process is similar. You will just likely harvest your garlic earlier than me. If you go to your local nursery, they should have garlic that is suitable for your climate. You’ll find the softneck type garlic are more suited to warmer weather.
I have just dropped by a couple of times because once – a few years ago – a search turned up a recipe I wanted.
Again tonight, after a couple of rums and looking for an excuse to have just one more; I clicked on your bookmark by whim. I found garlic somehow.
Now I do grow my own garlic in the winter. I have just put my refrigerated bulbs in and hope to harvest in October – my spring. I live in Kuranda, Queensland, Australia in the tropics and the summer is TOO hot, too humid and too wet to grow much at all. I grow all of the cooler climate crops in winter, often seasoning the seeds / tubers / bulbs in the crisper tray of my fridge for up to a few months. That way they think they have had a winter, and that my winter is their spring.
Every year I grow tulips in the tropics and set the bulbs by watering with ice cubes in the middle of our summer when the temperature is your 100 degrees and the humidity os 80%.
But back to garlic. I always plant three times as much garlic as I need as garlic. You need to use the garlic greens. Dig them about three weeks before they start to wilt and you have a taste extravangesa. Soup, or stew, or anything that the flavours get up close and friendly benefits from garlic greens. I mean the leaves, and young bulbs all together.
Again, I like your posts the few times I looked. We are of similar age, and curiosity. Don’t bother replying on the post because it maybe months until I come back.
But I think, in a pub, with a couple of beers, we could have fun.
PS – If you ever come down under – give me a call and we will find out.
Thanks for the kind words and stopping by. I do use the garlic scapes but I put them in red wine vinegar to make a great garlic vinegar. I hope to get to “down under” some day!