We harvest garlic when there is 4-6 green leaves left on the plant. Each green leaf represents a good solid wrapper on the soon to be harvested bulb. Each yellow leaf represents a degraded or soon to degrade wrapper around your bulb. Loosen the garlic with a garden fork (for heavy or stony soils) or shovel (sandier soils), pushing the fork tines into the ground about 4” away from the row of bulb stalks and with the tines facing straight down. You risk damaging the bulbs if you are too close, if your fork tines are slanted inwards or if you do not press it in at least 8”. That being said, you can pull garlic right out of the ground in sandier, looser and/or wet soils. Also, sturdy garlics like Porcelains and Marbled Purple Stripes will often pull out much easier than Rocamboles, Artichokes and Silverskins. The latter two are very susceptible to breaking off in the ground. Now, come along the row and pull the garlic from the ground, give the roots a bit of a noogie (ruffing the roots up like a child’s hair) to knock off any soil from the root hairs. Do not, especially in clay soil, squeeze the soil into the roots. Lay the garlic out in piles of 5 or 10 bulbs, separated into smaller bulbs and larger. Pick up the garlic at the end of the harvest and count them into you arms and set down groups of 50. Place these groups on the ground and combine into crates of 100, 150 or 200 bulbs (depending on variety and size). Write the date, name and qty on a piece of tape and label the crate. Ship it off to your place of curing.
We harvest garlic in mid to late July for most varieties and some into August. We do it in this order. With some exceptions:
This will hep you remember: ATARPS, or rather: if you see the rain coming while harvesting you’ll need “a tarp(s)”.
Do we wash garlic after harvest?
This is often done on larger garlic farms to facilitate cleaning the bulb wrappers. We do not do this. It can damage the wrappers and can result in wrinkly and less attractive wrappers. It also seems abnormal to wet garlic before curing. That being said, you can do it.
Once the garlic is harvested it requires curing. Curing is the process of drying the garlic down so that it can be stored for long periods of time. We cure our garlic in several ways. Hanging it from the rafters or from side walls in bunches of 15-30 bulbs (depends on size and moisture content) or laying them out on vertical racks (we built 3’ x 3’ stackable curing trays). Also, you can simply cure by lying them out on sections of an upstairs barn floor. Important factors for all curing styles are the following:
Garlic plant condition: Leave the stalk and the roots on for curing. The stalk's energy will enter the bulb and the roots (with immense surface area) act as great evaporative surfaces for drying down the plant. Do not damage the bulb by dropping it our banging it. Garlic bruises easily and this will show up later.
Dark/shaded: Cure your garlic in a dark area, it should not be receiving direct sunlight and should be shaded from sun’s heat.
Heat: Garlic cures best at 27 °C (80 °F).
Ventilation: Garlic requires good airflow to aid in the drying process and prevent the spread of ambient molds. Our upstairs barn has louvred boards to open and draw in the prevailing winds. We also use well-placed fans to aid the process, especially in humid summers.
Time: The magic ingredient, allow for 2 weeks of curing before you process the garlic by removing the stalk, roots and one or two wrappers.
We process the garlic by cutting off the stem and leaving 1.5” of stalk. We than trim the root to around 0.5”. We remove the outer most dirty wrappers. Carefully do this work so you don’t damage the garlic. The garlic is placed into mesh bags or ventilated crates. We store the garlic in shaded, ventilated and warm conditions until October.
Select the best looking bulbs for seed. Good sized bulbs, usually around 2” are best. Bulbs that are too big are more prone to disease and may have many smaller cloves jammed in to make up their girth. Be suspect of bulbs with wrapper colours different than average. Pinks and yellows may be an indicator of disease.
For your own planting stock you need not clean the wrapper vigorously. It may not even be necessary to remove roots. But we usually prefer to do so for our own stock because it is tidier, gives a more accurate weight and keeps the bulbs from gaining moisture from the more humid air in the fall.
Make sure all garlic is well labeled: Variety, Size, QTY, Date of Processing.
Most garlic stores between 6 to 8 months, if cured and grown properly. Long-term storage is a less natural process than storing it till October. Now you need to be much more concerned with the temperature, light, ventilation and the fluctuation of conditions. Especially the latter as it break dormancy of the bulb and makes it want to grow. Garlic can store well at 15 °C to 18 °C (60 °F to 65 °F), it can also be stored at are 0-4 °C, or even as low as -3 °C. Although it will store in between these temperature zones, it wont store as long. NOTE: garlic stored colder will often last longer, but will be vulnerable to quick sprouting once pulled from storage. Store at about 65% RH and in a dark and ventilated space. A dry and cool basement, a back cool bedroom, a hallway, etc. Store in mesh bags or ventilated boxes. Do not put in fridge or on counter by sink and window. Do not store in plastic bags or other non-breathable containers.