Pomfret Center, CT (PressExposure) July 18, 2009 -- Garlic is an easy crop to grow in the home garden. It does best when planted in the fall and harvested mid-summer in most locations. To maintain a high yielding quality crop, some care and attention is needed. Weeding, watering, a good healthy organic soil structure and harvesting on time is very important.
Harvesting garlic is done in the middle to late July to early August for fall planted garlic and late August for garlic that is planted in the spring. Stop watering garlic about three weeks before it is ready to harvest. A good soil structure and proper mulching will retain enough moisture for the plants to receive the water they need until they are harvested.
Garlic is getting ready to be harvested when you see there leaves starting to turn a yellowish brown or gold color. Once the browning starts remove some soil from around the base of a few plants to check the size of the bulbs and the wrapping. If the bulb looks full size keep checking the plants and once forty percent of the plant leaves turn brown the garlic is ready to be harvested.
To harvest the garlic you can use a shovel or a spade. Push the shovel or spade into the ground near the garlic to loosen the soil and pull the garlic out with your hand by it's leaves. Take care when digging garlic up, it bruises easily.
Once the garlic is harvested it needs to be cleaned. If the soil your crop was grown in is a sandy loam, gently brush off the soil and for clay soils you can gently spray them with fresh water to wash off the soil. After the are cleaned you will need to trim the roots to about 1/4 inch and remove any dirt that may be still attached.
Once the cleaning has been done, it is time to start the curing process. Garlic needs about 2 weeks of time to cure before they can be stored for the winter. This can be done by hanging them in bundles of 10 to 12 or placing them spread out on a wire mess rack to air dry in a well ventilated area and out of direct sunlight. After the garlic is cured is when the stalks are removed and then stored. If you prefer, you can also braid the stalks instead of removing them and store.
The best temperature to store your garlic in is 32 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit for a low or at room temperatures of 60 t0 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with a low humidity. Never store your garlic in a refrigerator, temperatures around 40 to 50 degrees will start a premature growth.
Depending on the variety of garlic you are growing, they can be stored up to as much as 12 months, 6 months for some pickling varieties and 12 months for some softneck varieties.