It’s a sure bet that some gardeners just can’t wait. All that garlic they planted last fall is almost ready to be harvested.
In this week’s edition of Gardentalk, Master Gardener Ed Buyarski has some tips and hints for harvesting garlic and long-term storage techniques.
If you see yellow or brown developing in garlic stalks and at least half of the leaves, then the garlic is ready to be picked. For those gardeners who did not trim the scapes earlier, Buyarski said if you see them curl and then straighten up, then that’s another sign that the garlic should be harvested.
Carefully loosen the soil around the garlic and gently reach for the bulb so that you don’t damage the fragile, thin skin surrounding them. Don’t bang the bulbs together to shake off the dirt or you may bruise or damage the skins and the cloves. Those skins are essential for proper curing and long-term storage.
Leave the stems and roots on the garlic and let them dry out for a while in a warm and dry environment. Buyarski said you don’t necessarily have to leave them in a darkened room under 50 degrees.
“I do some of this in my greenhouse,” Buyarski said. Other potential places include a furnace room or another dry place with 70- or 80-degree temperatures.
After a few weeks, you can trim off all but two inches of the stems and all of the roots, and gently clean the skins of any dirt.
If you have very small garlic that is already turning yellow, then you may want to harvest them now. You could cut off the stems, fertilize again, and leave them in the soil over the winter.
But Buyarski said you’re not going to get bigger bulbs or cloves, just many more small cloves. It’s better to harvest now, break apart the cloves, and replant this fall.
He also notes that bulbs left too long in the soil during the late summer’s rains will develop a fungus that will eventually break down the important outer skins.
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