So you've planted and nurtured your garlic and are desperate to know when it's time to pull the bulbs; now you can experience the benefits of your hard work throughout the summer months.
Knowing the best time to dig up your garlic harvest is a little down to judgement, but to help you with this judgement there are methods you can use. There is no witchcraft involved but you will certainly amaze everyone with your expertise if you just remember the following tips.
When to Harvest
The problem in knowing when the time is right to harvest garlic, is that it depends on more than what time of year it is. There are a couple of things you need to look out for, to know when to start pulling up your bulbs.Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Knoblauch_2995.jpg
Generally speaking, you will know when to harvest garlic when the majority of the green foliage is on top, and starts to turn yellow. This would be the first sign to look for. Don't start pulling up all of your carefully grown garlic, though. Wait until the leaves are about one third yellow/brown.
It becomes more difficult to know when to pull your garlic bulbs following a wet summer. Although the foliage may have only just started to turn yellow, the garlic bulb beneath may be starting to rot in the wet ground. So what other method can you use to determine the best harvest time for your garlic? Fortunately there are other measures you can try.
Still Not Sure?
Look for Clues
Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Allium_sativum_garden.jpgIf you are unsure whether it's time to start harvesting, then pull up one bulb carefully, trying not to disturb it's neighbors. See how many papery layers (sometimes referred to as sheaths) you can peel off. If there are 3 layers, then it's time to harvest the bulbs. If there are 4 or more layers, then leave them for another couple of weeks. This does not mean that they are inedible if they have four or more layers on (many I've bought from the store certainly do), but the flavor and size of your garlic will be so much better if you can hang on -- so much of gardening is patience!
It's still a wise idea to keep an eye on the color of the leaves though. If they turn any more than 1/2 brown, then raise the bulbs. If you wait until the foliage is entirely brown, the bulb beneath will be inedible. Don't put off harvesting your garlic past this point - you don't want all the hard work that went into growing them to go to waste.
How to Harvest & Store
Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Garlic_plant.jpgGently does it when the time comes for harvesting garlic - the little bulbous beauties bruise easily at this stage, and if they bruise they won't keep as long. Carefully ease them out of the ground with your hands, using a trowel to loosen the surrounding soil, but don't fork the bulbs themselves.
Once harvested, the garlic bulbs should be brushed off to get rid of the soil, and then left to dry on netting, sacking or trays. You can then bring them inside on a sunny windowsill to dry, or leave them outside, remembering to cover them up in rainy weather.Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cesnekovy_cop.jpg
Now that you know when to harvest garlic, and how to do it, you'll need to know about how to store your garlic crop - to keep for as long as possible. A popular option when storing garlic is to plait them using the dead leaves hung in bunches, or stored in net bags. Stored this way, they should then keep in good condition for around 3 months - yum yum. Now where's the toothpaste?