It’s a long-maturing crop, taking eight to nine months from seed garlic (plantable cloves) to final harvest.It can’t be picked too early or too late, but since the bulbs are all underground, how can you really tell when your garlic is ripe and ready?Unlike its allium cousin, the onion, garlic matures when its leaves are still partially green.Garlic bulbs remain below ground during development, so it’s hard to know when they’re ready to harvest.Onion leaves, on the other hand, begin to lose color and wilt when they stop growing.When at least 50 to 75 percent of your crop has reached the telltale stage of maturity—half the leaves are brown and half are green—stop watering your garlic for one week.Carefully loosen the soil around your bulbs with a trowel and gently pull the garlic out from the base of its stem, at its neck.Washed garlic tends to accumulate extra moisture in the bulb that may lead to fungal infestations.If you plan to eat your garlic right away, use scissors to trim the leaves and roots so you can keep them tidy in the kitchen.Do store the garlic at room temperature in a dark, dry place with plenty of air circulation, such as an open paper bag or wire basket in a pantry or cupboard.Light and moisture are its worst enemies, and garlic stored in the fridge for a long period will start to get moldy or sprout.Any garlic that may have been cosmetically damaged during harvest (but are still edible) should be used first, as it’ll decline in quality sooner.In northern climates, harvest from fall plantings typically occur in late July to August.Since there are no hard-and-fast dates to go by, the best way of knowing when to harvest garlic is to start paying attention to the leaves in spring.The bulb wrappers will be thin and disintegrate more easily, leaving your garlic susceptible to rot or other damage.A good way to split your harvest is to set a handful of bulbs aside that you can eat within three weeks, then cure the remaining garlic so they’ll store for several months.At this early stage, the bulbs of green garlic haven’t divided yet, and the crop is picked for its tasty, scallion-like leaves. .
Garlic plants flopping over
Some of my garlic plants have flopped over onto the ground, and the stems feel thin and wimpy instead of being round and firm like the other garlic. .
When to Plant Garlic in the Fall
Just like onions and other plants in the Allium family, garlic is sensitive to daylength and matures during the longest days of summer.Garlic is extremely easy to grow, but good soil preparation is necessary if you want to produce the best and biggest bulbs.Early next spring, you garlic will be ready to grow, sending up tiny green shoots as soon as the ground thaws.Feed the plants every other week with a liquid fish emulsion fertilizer from the time shoots emerge in early spring until approximately June 1.Water is critical during the bulb forming stage in early summer, so try for an inch a week, including rainfall.If you are growing hard neck garlic—the best type for the northeast—around the time of the summer solstice, your garlic will send up a seed stalk called a scape.Chop them and add to salad, stir fry, soup, scrambled eggs, or any dish you want to enhance with a little garlic flavor.About four weeks prior to harvest, the outer wrappers on the garlic bulbs start to dry, so stop watering in July.If the leaves are starting to turn brown and the scapes uncurl and stand up straight, it is time to harvest.Hang bunches of newly harvested garlic to dry in a cool, well ventilated, shady spot for 3-4 weeks to cure. .
What's Wrong with My Garlic?
On the other hand, maybe everyone appears to be doing just fine, the leaves turn yellow in summer, indicating time to harvest, but when you dig them up – agghh!Or maybe they all look beautiful, you proudly hang them to cure and are ecstatic at the wonderful crop, but then a month later, they become soft and show signs of decay.Many will tell you growing garlic is easy – but the truth is, it is a long, tricky process, and you – or nature – can screw it up any step along the way.But you spend 9 months pampering these sweet babies into healthy, strong individuals, and you want to do what you can to ensure they grow up to their potential.However, paying attention, listening, and a little preventative care can go a long way to avoiding problems down the line.However, yellow stripes, splotches, speckles, leaf curl, thickened leaves, purple veins, or other abnormalities indicate something more serious is going on: soil deficiencies, insect infestations, fungal growth.Multiple shoots coming from the stalk might be from cold damage in early spring.After all, it is used as an insecticide, fungicide, plant strengthener, immune system booster, and it provides a number of health benefits to our homeo sapien brethren.The following is a quick summary of several of the fungi, insects, and other stressors that can affect the garlic crop.We’ve had one of the coolest, wettest spring & summers on record – conditions that would make any fungus happy – so don’t be surprised if some of your beloved garlic plants fall prey.Sometimes it’s isolated to an individual area, in which case I take a closer look at soil differences, watering techniques, or microclimates that could cause problems.I have, in desperation, rubbed off outer skins and thrown clean cloves into vinegar for a fresh pickled garlic, but they are never as good as the cured kind.Basal or Bottom Rot (Fusarium culmorum and F. oxysporum): This fungus is pretty much in all soils but is usually not a huge problem unless the plants are already weakened by some other stressor.Yellowing begins at tips of leaves and moves down; plants may wilt; rot appears at the basal plate.If conditions are not ideal, it may not be that obvious that it is even there – but then, during storage, if temps are relatively warm, the bulbs may begin an early decay and the cloves shrivel into tough little inedible nuggets.It can happen in the field, where they emerge but then turn yellow and die, but it particularly occurs after harvest during storage as a result of rough handling.Growth is stunted; younger plants may die; outer scales of bulbs become water-soaked; necks sometimes shrivel and turn black.Neck Rot (Botrytis allii and B.
porri): This fungus survives on dead plants in the soil and attacks garlic leaves in warm, wet weather.It is called “neck rot” for good reason – the stem turns black and slimy and easily pulls from the bulb.Excessive rain or irrigation can encourage growth, and it is difficult to control in wet weather.I have had to deal with this in wet years when mulch and compost kept the moisture levels high in the soil and directly around the bulbs, and also when weeds (large dandelion leaves!).Fortunately, according to CA studies, although overall yield may be reduced in heavy infestations, you can still use the cloves for planting in the following year.White Rot (Sclerotium cepivorum): If you get this, you might as well give it up forever, because this fungus can live 30 years in the soil and is particularly active in cool, wet conditions.However, according to the U of MN: “Because garlic is clonally propagated, almost all [italics mine] planting stock is infected with some type of virus.Mosaic is caused by several different viruses that appear to be lumped under the “potyvirus” term.In severe cases, plants are stunted; leaves and flower stalks can be twisted and pale.Signs include smaller, yellow, deformed leaves (veins remain green) and a possible “witches’ broom” appearance.The disease is relatively new in garlic, particularly up north, but I recently heard of a grower in Minnesota who lost 10,000 bulbs to this pest!The spread of aster yellows is worse in cooler, wet climates, probably because leafhoppers don’t like hot dry areas.One has to wonder what kind of pests and diseases we will have to deal with in the face of climate change – those things that might migrate north to escape the heat and drought.Plants may show no symptoms in cool growing conditions, but in warmer weather, the tops will yellow prematurely.(Not to be confused with the predatory nematodes, Steinernema feltiae, aka Neoaplectana carpopapsae, which you can actually purchase, and which are known to attack some 250 or so different kinds of insects, worms, and bugs.).As an adult, they look like a little grey housefly; eggs are laid at the base of plants in the soil; the baby maggots have voracious appetites.Look for whitish specks on leaves (lack of chlorophyll – they suck the life-blood juice right out of the plant) that grow into splotches and eventually all run together.They can hibernate in the bulb wrappers and carry viruses, such as the Iris Yellow Spot mentioned earlier.The best preventative approach is to build the soil in a balanced way through compost; applying boxes of this and that can really throw things off.The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers.” Filaree Productions, Okanogan, WA. .
The other garlics (Asian Tempest, Bogatyr, California Late and German Red), planted at the same time are standing upright if a little yellow round the edges and suffering from some rust. .
All Your Garlic Questions Answered by Grey Duck Garlic
Large or medium sizes should be used for planting in order to harvest the largest tastiest bulbs next summer.These bulbs have huge cloves that are ideal for cooking or roasting and super easy to peel.Organic hardneck garlic is not harvested until late July or August.Like tree ripened fruit, we believe the best flavor comes from letting the garlic mature naturally in the field.After harvest, we cure our garlic in a large shady barn for an additional 4-6 weeks.Curing garlic is similar to aging cheese, it mellows the flavor and helps bring out rich variations in taste.Hardneck garlic has a false seed stalk called a scape.This garlic comes in a huge variety of kinds, colors and flavors with easy to peel big cloves.For best results and biggest bulbs plant hardneck and softneck garlic in the fall after the first killing frost.If you live in the South see special instructions in our Southern Garlic Growing Guide.Does hardneck garlic seed cloves need vernalization (cold exposure) to develop bulbs?Hardneck garlic requires vernalization (exposed to cold) before or after planting.Cold temperatures will stimulate garlic cloves to sprout and develop a bulb (just like tulips).We find that our garlic all suddenly starts to develop small roots when it is exposed to cold followed by moisture (we live in a very dry area).Research has shown that you will get bigger garlic bulbs in Southern areas after cold exposure.For much more detailed information on this topic and different methods of cold exposure see Southern Garlic Growers Guide.We expect a higher growth rate in our fields (in fact, one of our biggest problems is weeding out volunteer garlic that seems to sprout under even the worst conditions; such as laying exposed to winter's chill, growing in a muddy spot and so forth).Garlic is pretty tough and very cold hardy but the weather has been awful in some places the last few years.It may not be able to withstand a hurricane (like some of our poor customer had last year) or really odd weather fluctuations (such as weird thaws and freezes with heavy rains).Wireworms are the larvae stage of click beetles and can live in the soil for 3-5 years.If you have poor soil you will need to apply an all purpose fertilizer with balanced nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.The pictures below left and to the right show our 2011 Siberian garlic with yellow tips due to a late heavy frost of 20ºF in May.Other garlic varieties did not develop the yellow tips and seem to be more resistant to the effects of cold on leaf color.If your garlic is yellow AND dying (and it is not late summer) you may have a more serious problem such as root rot.Picture: Siberian garlic develops yellow leaf tips after hard frost in May.We sometimes see yellow tips suddenly appear on garlic after temperatures dipped into the low twenties in the spring.Removing the scape or false seedhead when it first emerges increases the size of the garlic bulb sometimes.As each leaf dies back the wrapper around the bulb loses a layer of skin.If you harvest too early the garlic cloves will not be formed and may have poor color and size.If you harvest too late the bulb will be dried out and will fall apart (storage quality will be poor).Softneck garlic AND weakly bolting hardnecks (such as Asian Tempest) should be harvested when 1-3 leaves turn brown OR it falls over.This is because allicin, which develops when the garlic is chopped and gives it it intense heat, gradually loses it potency in the freezer.For the most intense flavor let the chopped garlic sit for a while before adding it to the dish.For more on how allicin can improve health by changing your genetics see our garlic and epigenetic page. .
the tricky matter of when to harvest garlic
Garlic’s close cousin, the onion (Allium cepa), is more adaptable about its ideal moment to be lifted and cured.With garlic, though, waiting until all the leaves go brown will promote overripe bulbs whose cloves are starting to separate from one another, and the resulting un-tight heads won’t store as long.Most experts say to harvest when several of the lower leaves go brown, but five or six up top are still green—and depending on the weather, this typically happens here in my Northeast garden in late July.Harvesting garlic couldn’t be easier, as long as you remember one thing: Though tempting, do not try pulling the bulbs out by the above-ground stems, or at least without first loosening the soil alongside each row with a spading fork (not too close to the heads!).ophioscorodon) is better-adapted to Northern winters (its long roots hold it in the heave-and-thaw ground especially well), and frankly I just hate all those tiny inner cloves of softneck at peeling time.I’m not being selfish by harvesting them then (though they are delicious); rather I’m telling the plants to put their energy into bulb production, not sexual reproduction.Once cured, I’ll stash most in a cold, dark spot–and freeze a portion of my harvest, so I have my own garlic all year round.I’ve also written before about harvest and curing details here (along with the subject of multiplier, or perennial, onions—which I didn’t do so well with in my Northern garden but mean to try again, but that’s another Allium story for another time). .