This has been a wonderful year for growing garlic. If you are a first time gardener, I would recommend growing garlic as its so easy. Here in the Pacific Northwest, garlic is planted from October to mid November in well-drained soil. It’s a nine month crop so be sure you have room for this before you purchase your garlic bulbs. Choose a site that gets some sun. My bed gets about five hours of sun but is shaded from hot afternoon sun later in the day.
I like to buy hardneck garlic. Hardneck garlic will produce funny looking stems called scapes that bend and twist into loops when they are ready to be harvested. When you see the garlic scapes loop a couple of times, you can cut the scapes off and use them in the kitchen. Scapes store well in the fridge and can be chopped into salads and stir fries just like using garlic. So now that you have removed the scapes the energy is going into producing healthy garlic bulbs below the ground.
If its below the ground, how do you know when your garlic is ready? Normally garlic that was planted last fall is usually harvested around mid July. I had heard that if you left one scape in the garden it would straighten out from its curly loop when the garlic was ready. I tried it and it worked. Look how straight the garlic scape is. Now this would only be possible if growing hard neck garlic as soft neck garlic does not produce scapes. Generally the leaves of your garlic will start to yellow. The plant is not dying. This is normal for the plant as it matures. Cut back on watering and when over five leaves have yellowed your garlic should be ready to harvest.
I grabbed a nursery plant flat and lined it with newspaper to catch the soil. I harvested my garlic using just a hand trowel. Carefully dig from the outside as the garlic has a healthy root system and you don’t want to damage your crop. Don’t yank on the stem or it may just break off. Above is how your garlic should look after cutting the long stems off. I like to leave about a couple of inches of stem attached until the drying process is over.
Like most crops, they will be covered in soil and this needs to dry off naturally. Do not wash the garlic. Gently brush off any loose soil and lay the garlic on trays outside to dry for a couple of days. Keep your garlic out of the sun while curing. I placed my garlic flats on a table located under my shed roof where it is protected from the rain and shaded most of the day. This will allow most of the soil to fall off.
It’s important to let your garlic cure like this as you don’t want to bring in any pests or diseases from the soil. Curing will improve the flavor of the garlic so don’t rush the process. I will cure mine for at least a week,sometimes two before bringing it in for storage. Use scissors to clip the root off leaving just a bit on the end.
I usually peel a bit of paper off the outside of the garlic. Just one layer, not anything more. You want the papery layers left on to protect your garlic in storage. Your garlic should look like this before storing. It should have a smooth skin without blemishes. Use any damaged garlic up immediately as you don’t want to store anything damaged.
Store your garlic in a dry cool place to have it last a long time. I was able to find this two tired basket and I hang it up in the garage. If you have a mesh bag left over from buying onions you can use it to store your garlic. The important thing is you want good air circulation. Be sure to check your garlic each month. I am already planning my next garlic planting. Garlic bulbs will be available in August for a fall planting so get some while the selection is good. The garlic I harvested this year is Music and Red Russian. Its alway fun to try a new one each year.