Thursday, May 19, 2011

Harvesting Garlic

On May 5th, as I looked out over the garden, I had a sudden sinking feeling in my chest. The garlic I had so lovingly purchased from the local Hispanic grocer - diligently separated, peeled, and planted on October 1, 2010 - was starting to turn brown and fall over. All these months I had it in my head that garlic was like onions - you pull one to two weeks after the tops have fallen. Or at least that's my understanding of the onion harvest. However, as I surveyed the fruits of my 6 months of labor that fateful Thursday morning, some remote memory kicked in and I realized garlic is supposed to be harvested after the first 6 leaves start to wither - not the entire plant! Knowing if I didn't get a move-on my precious garlic would rot where I planted it (if it hadn't already!), I sprang into action.

Garlic screaming "Harvest Me!"

The photo below shows my first ever garlic harvest. Twenty-three out of twenty-four cloves survived - not bad! And by the looks of those bulbs I think I harvested just before it was too late. Nine of them were starting to rot. While the inner cloves were all intact, the outer protective covering was completely obliterated from being in the ground too long. Obviously these nine will have to be the first we eat as they won't store long at all. The rest appear to be in pretty good shape.

Bulbs on the left starting to rot; bulbs on the right in good shape

Close-up of damaged bulbs

Uber-close-up of damaged bulbs

Good bulbs

Best bulb, a nice plump 2.5-incher, next to rotting bulb

Informative more below

Perhaps the most interesting discovery is shown in the picture above. On the left is "Big Bertha" - our best bulb, planted on 10/1/10 from a regular grocery store clove (no idea what variety). To the right is a Chinese Pink Softneck bulb, and the two at the end are both Spanish Rioja Hardnecks. The three smaller bulbs were planted 7 weeks later than the run-of-the-mill bulb. They were graciously sent to me by Dallas Fruit and Vegetable Grower. I am assuming the size discrepancy is due mainly to the 7 week difference in planting time. Another possibility is that most of the cloves I planted on 11/23 were cast-offs or smaller cloves that DFVG just didn't need. I've read that it is best to plant the largest cloves possible when planting garlic, and I did do this with the grocery store set. I bought five bulbs but only planted about 2/3 of the cloves in them. Went for the largest & plumpest I could find. I'm going to give the Chinese & Spanish bulbs a few more weeks, but these too are beginning to wither away in the soil. I've learned alot from my first garlic growing season, first and foremost being to get the cloves in the ground earlier rather than later - and don't forget about them once they're in there! -Carrie


  1. Thanks for the garlic info. I will put it to work on the 3 garlic plants that were given to us by a friend. Hope they do as well as your best bulbs.
    Haven't gardened for years due to heavy shade developing on our old lot, but now live in the sun and enjoy the opportunity to grow some of our own food again.
    Take care.

  2. I knew nothing about growing garlic until reading this post. Now I feel I can do so with some success. Thank you for sharing!

  3. What Pigs Don't KnowMay 25, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    TSF -
    For me, growing our own food has proven fairly addictive. I'm sure you'll love having the necessary sun to grow great crops. I'm jealous!

    Pei -
    It was simple as, well, pie, and I didn't really do a thing for them all winter. Never fertilized once, and didn't cover at all - not even when we had snow and sleet & 10 degree temps for a week! They are very hardy to say the least! -Carrie