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How to Grow: Harvesting Garlic
It’s garlic season in our zone 5 garden. Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow and a treat because you plant it in fall with tulips and other bulbs, protect it with a mulch, and then harvest the following summer.
Harvesting is simple but the timing is important. Harvest garlic plants when 2 to 3 of the bottom leaves have browned. If you harvest too early you take away from the bulb sizing up well. If you harvest too late, the cloves start to separate around the bulb reducing the time you can keep them in storage.
To harvest, don’t simple yank the plant out of the ground. You’ll risk breaking off the top. Loosen the soil first with an iron fork or small shovel being careful not to damage the bulb. Than gently tug the plants out of the ground. Unlike onions, where you leave the newly harvested bulb in the sun for a day, garlic should be moved to an airy shed, garage or out building where it will have some indirect light, but no direct sun. As they dry, knock off any excess soil.
Allow the tops to dry by placing the garlic plants off the ground on a wire rack or wooden platform. Dry them for about 2 weeks until the tops dry out. Using a sharp pruner or knife, cut the tops off just above the bulbs and trim the roots. Garlic bulbs can last for months, if stored properly. We store ours in a cool basement. The hard neck varieties we grow do best stored under an upside down clay pot. It seems the clay breathes enough so the garlic doesn’t rot, yet holds enough moisture so they last into the New Year. We still are eating garlic from our basement from last year’s crop! Eat any damaged bulbs first. Bulbs that are soft when squeezed, probably have rotted and should be discarded.