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Harvesting Garlic

Homegrown garlic may soon be ready for harvesting and there are guidelines and methods for checking maturity. Some experts recommend digging up when lower leaves are half to three-quarters brown; others when plant is 40 per cent brown, 60 per cent green. Avoid watering two weeks prior to harvesting.

Check first to determine if they are indeed ready. Remove soil from around a few bulbs to see it they are well wrapped and not splitting open. This ensures garlic will keep well. Pick a dry day for harvesting. Using a spade rather than a fork is less likely to cause damage and they do bruise easily. Shake off as much soil as you can.

Do not dry in direct sun as this can cause sunburn and alter the flavour of some varieties. Good ventilation is necessary so a garage with a door or window open is ideal. Spreading burlap bags over lawn chairs and placing the garlic on the bags creates a good drying surface. When curing is complete, top growth will be totally dry. Brush off any remaining soil from the roots. Avoid washing if possible. If garlic has been grown in heavy clay soils, be sure to let it dry completely. Cut stems about an inch above the bulbs using pruning shears or a sharp knife. Cut off dried roots to produce clean bulbs. Ideal storage conditions are cool, dark and well ventilated. Do not store in plastic bags as this will collect condensation. With proper storage you’ll be able to enjoy your garden garlic well into the winter.

– Eva Krawchuk writes from Winnipeg

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