Thinking about growing garlic? Or do you already have a garlic patch, but not sure what’s next? In this post, we’ll walk you through identifying when to harvest your homegrown garlic, the curing process, and long-term storage.
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If you’re in an area that experiences mild winters, as we do in the PNW, garlic is typically planted in Fall, overwinters in the ground, and is harvested in mid-summer, right around July.
Planting in Fall gives your garlic the best fighting chance at growing into big beautiful bulbs.
Learn more details about planting garlic in fall here.
If your winters are more harsh, and you typically experience a deep ground freeze, you may instead opt for planting as early as possible in Spring and harvesting in late August.
This affords less time for the bulbs to develop, but you have to work with the environment you’re given!
When it hits mid-July, start examining the leaves of your garlic plants. Once the tips start to brown and the leaves fall over, they’re ready for harvest.
At this point, you’ll want to pull a test bulb, to see how things are coming along.
Now you don’t want to just grab the stem and pull because it can damage the plant, plus they’re harder to pull out than you’d think!
Grab a hand trowel, loosen up the dirt under the bulb, and gently help it out of the ground.
The bulb should be large, with fully developed cloves, and a papery casing. Don’t wait too long to harvest or the cloves will begin to separate and you’ll get dirt in your bulbs.
If your test bulb looks good, then it’s time to harvest the rest of your crop!
After harvesting, it’s time to cure your garlic. Without curing, you won’t be able to store them long term and they’ll spoil very quickly.
The process is super easy. To cure garlic, simply hang them somewhere dark and dry with good airflow.
We hang them in small bundles on the north side of the house, under the eaves, where they get a nice breeze.
Let them cure for three to five weeks.
Watch for signs of mold. If you see any black spot, pull them down, and increase airflow.
When this happened to us, they were fairly far along, so we cut off the tops, laid them out on a mesh tray, and turned on the fan. Luckily, we had very little loss.
They’re done when they have multiple layers of papery skin.
We’ve gone to check ours before and could tell they weren’t cured yet because the inner layers of skin and the outside of the individual cloves were still very wet and fresh.
Once they’ve cured, you’ll want to prep them for long-term garlic storage.
For hardneck varieties, this means you’ll cut the stem off about half an inch from the top of the bulb.
For softneck varieties, you can leave the stem attached and braid them together, which makes a wonderfully useful kitchen centerpiece.
For long-term preservation, you should store garlic in a root cellar or a cool, controlled environment.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a cellar. In this case, typically the coolest spot in your house is the best bet.
The length of storage time depends on how well they’re dried, the environment they’re stored in, and the garlic variety, with some varieties being particularly bred for good long-term storage.
If you have ideal storage conditions and a large enough supply, you can stretch your garlic all year long, while also planting your own cloves for next year’s harvest!
Learn everything you need to know about growing your own garlic here.
What do you think? Taking the time now to preserve your harvest ensures that your hard work over the growing season doesn’t go to waste. It’s time to start enjoying the taste of your own, homegrown garlic!
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How was your garlic harvest this year? Did you encounter any problems that you need help troubleshooting? Send us an email or leave a comment below! You can also let us know on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest pages.
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