Time to harvest garlic!
May 31, 2010
If you're in Texas, and you planted garlic cloves cloves last October, now is the time to harvest. Typically, you'll want to stop watering garlic two or three weeks before you harvest it. When is the perfect time to harvest garlic? Well, honestly that comes with a bit of experience. One indicator that you can use, but it's not foolproof, is to harvest once the foliage starts to die back. By mid-May (in Texas) you should start pulling some soil away from the base of the plant to inspect the bulbs. You'll want to see fully formed bulbs with a complete tunic/sheath (push your fingers down into the soil to feel the bulb). Bulbs should not be splitting.
My common garlic, which I harvested yesterday, is just perfect. Really nice sized bulbs with fully formed cloves and a nice sheath. I've got quite a haul this year. Once you harvest your garlic, you'll need to let it "cure" for two or three weeks. After you lift the plants from the ground, wash the soil off the bulbs and the roots, but leave both the roots and the foliage on the plant. You'll want to either hang them in a place that is warm with good air circulation to dry, or spread them out in your garden or on some newspaper to dry. The nutrients in the leaves will move down into the bulb and the sheath will become dry and papery. This helps the bulbs store for much longer periods. Here in Texas, with our intense sun, you're best to dry your bulbs out of direct sunlight or they will scald.
I probably let my Elephant garlic go a little too long - I could have harvested it a week ago. It has now gone to flower. A few of the bulbs have started to split just a little, which just means they won't store as long. But most of them look pretty good.
You'll notice the little "bulbils" attached to the bulb. These are basically baby bulbs or seed bulbs. You can pop these off the bulbs and replant them right now for your next crop of garlic next spring. For common garlic (and you can do the same with Elephant garlic) you'll want to pick a couple of bulbs that have nicely formed cloves as your "seeds". After curing, you'll store these bulbs in until fall. Then, you'll split the cloves up and replant each one just like you did this past October. Or, you can eat all your garlic and just buy new seed bulbs!