This article is part three of a 3-part series. The links for part one and two are is found just below. Happy reading!
Part I: Preparing garden beds for planting in autumn & planting the garlic cloves (read here)
Part II: Weeding and liquid fertiliser feeds in spring (read here)
Part III: Summer maintenance, harvest, curing and storage of garlic
Congratulations! Your garlic has made it through spring!
End of spring we want our garlic to look like these ones in the below photo. Nice and fat with lots of energy to make big heads.
Keep weeding the garlic to get maximum airflow throughout the rows. Also keep up the watering and feeding with compost extract or compost tea until mid December (depending where you are in the country, far north probably less and far south 2 weeks more).
The garlic starts forming from early December (again dependent on your location), so don’t be despaired if your plants look nice and big, but have no bulb yet. Just give it some more time. They develop pretty fast in my opinion and fatten within 4-6 weeks. You can dig gently from the stem down into the soil and see how they develop over time. Just make sure to not disturb the roots.
I describe below our process of harvesting and curing them in order to store them for one year. We have used garlic after 1.5 years in storage and you wouldn’t know the difference to fresh garlic.
We harvest our garlic usually between Christmas and mid January. Again this depends where you are, on the weather conditions and the time of planting. 1-2 weeks before you want to lift them stop watering them and make sure you did not have a lot of rainfall. If you get a lot of rain then delay your harvest until the weather is right. You want them to be as dry as possible and not recently filled up with a lot of water.
Lift them on a nice sunny day with the forecast for 2 days of sunshine following the harvest day. Lift them gently to not damage them. I like to do that with a trowel. I grab the stem, aim for the space under the garlic with the trowel, slicing through some roots and then lifting them up on the stem. With the trowel I tap the roots to get as much soil off as possible.
Lay them out in the sun for one to two days to dry the roots. Do not wash them and treat them gently in order to not bruise them. Do not take the roots off at this stage and also leave the tops on. When cutting the tops off too early, you loose moisture and bacteria and fungi can travel along that cut into your garlic, potentially spoiling it prematurely.
After 24 hours I generally plait most of our garlic. I like the process of plaiting them. Once they are plaited, they are easy to hang and use up little space. I use 20 heads in a plait, which makes counting in the end very easy.
Then we hang them up in our car port, which is shady, dry and has a lot of airflow. The garlic will keep pulling in moisture from the tops into the heads as they hang.
After a month or two of warm summer weather we trim the roots off. This is also the time you can take the garlic heads off the braid if you wish to do so. You can also leave them hanging as they are and simply cut one off as needed. We take them all off the stems, remove the roots and remove any dried on soil from the outside of the garlic. Then they go into a paper bag or onion sack for long term storage in our house. With March approaching, we also get cooler nights and more rainfall, so it is a good time to get them inside once they are nice and dry.
I hope you found this blog series helpful. For questions, simply comment below.