The Best Time to Harvest Garlic

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Magnificent Garlic

Magnificent Garlic Freshly Dug  2016  Photo by r.a.kukkee

Great Gardens Include Garlic

Great gardens usually include this ancient and wonderful, spicy, bulbous  onion-like vegetable. You may be growing some in the back garden, but how do you know when it is the best time to harvest garlic? For the best garlic, timing is of the essence.

Modern chefs and home cooks alike enjoy using garlic in  pickles,  stews, meat dishes, accents for other cooked foods, and salads. Considering garlic adds  spicy, delicious flavour to many foods, it should be a staple in every home garden.

Alternative uses include  decorative braids  which may be hung on wooden doors or around one's neck  for decoration, talking points,  and entertainment.  There are health benefits too; antiseptic qualities eliminate  bacteria and discourage bugs. People who cannot brave appreciate the bouquet of this wonderful vegetable leave  garlic parties early. Perhaps garlic really does chase away evil spirits.

To optimize the quality of this wonderful vegetable,  you will want to harvest your garlic in peak condition .  Ensure that freshness, top quality and optimal flavour  is maintained. How do you know when it is the best time to harvest garlic?

 

When to Harvest Garlic?

The same time as onions?  Leeks?  Early radishes? Late potatoes?  When the bulbils  (the seed on the scapes, remember those?)  fall off?  On the full moon?  Guess?  Not surprisingly, the best time to harvest garlic from your raised garlic beds in the garden may be earlier than you think. The best time to harvest garlic may also be  earlier or later than the garlic in your neighbour's  garden too, depending upon micro-climate,  when it was planted, soil conditions,  and moisture content.

 

Timing is Everything.

Really. Timing is everything ( Pssst....Hopefully you  have already picked, and pickled, cooked or eaten  those  garlic scapes (the delicious floret stalks)  at the right time earlier in the season when they curled—and were still tender ) Note the massive root systems on the bulbs shown —the result of garlic planted at the right time.

Consider that the best time to harvest garlic  ensures maximum size has been achieved, but the outer skin on the bulbs  has not yet had time to deteriorate.  Leaving garlic bulbs in the ground too long allows the cloves to separate  naturally. The onion-like skin binds the cloves tightly together on the stalk  in a convenient package with  a common root base during growth.  If left to nature, as the bulb matures,the skin on the bulb quickly begins to deteriorate and splits, allowing the cloves to separate from the central floret stalk.  Each clove will grow into an individual new plant the following season.

 

 Optimize  Your Crop 

It's that time of year; to Optimize Your Crop, start now.  Mid August here in Northwestern Ontario) is about right.  The ideal timing in your geographical location  may be earlier or later. Examine your garlic patch carefully. Observe the  outer leaves.  Are they turning yellow?   Go for it; it is the  best time to harvest garlic.   (If they are already turning brown, it is  late, so harvest immediately, dig carefully, and plan on harvesting earlier next year. )  Depending on weather conditions, heat and moisture, the leaves, when yellowed, quickly turn brown and the bulbs  begin to split, so let's get to it.

Where soil conditions are wet  later in the growing season, heads up...pay attention.    DO remove any excessive, soggy summer mulch  to expose the soil to drying air, and harvest your garlic as soon as possible close to maturity.  Constantly wet soil conditions from  excessive rain or poor drainage tend to encourage  deterioration  of the skin on  mature bulbs and promotes spoilage.

 

Dig Carefully

Dig Garlic carefully

Digging Garlic

Dig bulbs carefully rather than pulling them, which can split the bulbs, separate the cloves from the stalk entirely,  or  leave individual cloves in the ground.Carefully remove dirt from the bulbs, and place them with stalks intact on a shelf  in a cool, dry location.

When dry,  for ideal storage life,  braid the bulbs together  and hang them up,  or alternatively, twist and snip off the dried stems and place the bulbs in net-type bags to hang in clean ,cool and dry  storage conditions.

 

Success

Garlic braided for long-term storage

Garlic braided for long-term storage

Now you've got it.  Tasty, delicious garlic harvested at the right time, will keep for months in cool, dry storage.  Don't forget to separate some of the largest cloves  in preparation for planting later in the fall.       See  Gardening: Grow Better Garlic

Happy Gardening!

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