We harvested our garlic right around the end of July. So great to 'see' what's under there!
The ‘harvest signals’ we look for are: plants that are drying down from the lowest leaf up and from the leaf tips stem-ward, a leaf at a time. It’s time to harvest when the bottom 2-3 leaves are yellowed and dry and the top 4-7 leaves are still mostly green. The tips of the top leaves will also start drying out. If your conditions are wet, you may want to harvest earlier to prevent water staining and deterioration of the wrappers. If you’re not sure, dig a bulb and take a look at the condition of the wrappers.
Use a spade or fork to loosen the soil prior to lifting the garlic, staying far enough away from the bulbs to avoid damaging them with your tools. After the soil is loosened, hold the plant stem close to the soil line and gently pull the bulb from the soil.
Be careful not to bruise it during handling. Bruised cloves may start to break down and affect the cloves next to it in the bulb. Handle gently! Dry down and curing We dry and cure our garlic in a dimly lit barn. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from any moisture, including dew and humidity as much as possible.
Ample airflow will help the drying process; using fans for the first fews days will really help dry out the green foliage. The drying and curing process takes 3-4 weeks; longer, if you live in a wet climate.
During this time the stems and roots are putting all their remaining energy into the bulb. You don’t want to cut this process short! Fully cured garlic will be higher quality and will store much longer!
Check the stems for firmness to make sure they’re dry. After curing is complete, clip off the dried stems about 1 to 1-1/2 inches above the bulb and discard.
Next trim the roots right down to the basal root. Don’t cut the roots too short; you could damage the basal root area. This is where the roots grow out, if you plan on planting any garlic back for next year’s harvest!.
Brush off any remaining dirt. Take care not to remove any more of the protective wrappers than necessary. These outer wrappers ensure continued quality and will help your garlic store longer.
We’ve stored garlic in a netted onion bag, a ventilated crate, or cardboard flats lined with paper. We gather strawberry flats from grocery stores in June and July at the peak of strawberry season! They’re perfect for layering garlic and stacking boxes, especially if you have lots to store!
We also pick up ‘end rolls’ of newsprint from our local newspaper— unused/ unprinted ’news-paper’. We line the strawberry flats with this. Then we fill the boxes with a layer of garlic with the stem ends tipped sideways, so we can easily stack the boxes, as needed.
We store our garlic crop in a part of the house where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much but remains pretty consistent. Avoid any dips in temperature below 40 degree F; if garlic gets chilled, it may think it’s time to grow and start to sprout. Actually garlic stores well at room temperature.
For longer term storage 45-55 degrees is regarded as optimal— if you have access to that kind of storage.
You also want the humidity level not too dry-- causing the garlic to loose moisture. On the flip side you don’t want your storage space to be too humid either, which will promote rot. A humidity level between 60-70% is preferable for longest storage life but a range of 50-70% will work.
Never store garlic in a refrigerator; this will induce sprouting. They will literally ‘think’ they’ve gone through a winter season and that now it’s time to grow. And once they break dormancy and start sprouting, there’s no going back.
If you find the thought of growing your own garlic intriguing, I highly recommend the book, "Growing Great Garlic," by Ron L. Engeland. You can find it here! It's a great resource and will help ensure a successful garlic crop! (This is an affiliate link with Ebay-- if you chose to purchase this book using this link, your dollars help to support our seed business at NO extra cost to you!)
Watch our YouTube video on our harvesting, dryiing, curing and cleaning process! Enjoy!
Happy Garlic Growing-- and eating!! 😋
Our best to you, Theresa & Dan