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When garlic shoots begin to emerge in early spring, ensure even soil moisture by supplying 1 inch of water per week throughout the growing season. Garlic does not compete well with weeds so keep weeds under control early to ensure a bountiful harvest. Scapes are the curly flower stems that often form as the garlic matures. Cut or break them off after they are 10 inches long and reserve them for eating.Harvest after 3 or 4 leaves have died back and there are still 5 or 6 green leaves remaining on the plant - sometime in June or July depending on the year and your climate. Do not wait too long or the bulbs will begin to separate in the ground. Loosen the soil with a shovel or pitchfork and then dig the garlic carefully. Do not pull the stalk or it will separate from the bulb. Gently brush most of the dirt off. Tie plants in a bundle of 6-8 plants and hang in a shaded, dry, well-ventilated shed or garage. Leave plants hanging for 4-6 weeks so that bulbs can cure.
Leaving garlic in the ground after this point makes it more susceptible to disease, which in turn can shorten its shelf life. Not to worry, though—if your plants are all brown, just harvest them as soon as possible and discard any heads that are moldy or soft. If you planted different varieties, you’ll notice that they mature at different times. Just check them regularly and harvest each variety once half or more of its leaves are dried down.Proper curing of garlic is essential to long storage because, much like onions, this is when their skins become dry and papery, forming a protective barrier against moisture and mold. Curing should take place in a cool, airy place protected from sun and rain – an open barn, garage, shed, shaded greenhouse or under a covered porch all work well. It’s important to keep the garlic out of direct sunlight because hot sun can actually cook it at this stage.
Don’t worry about the dirt left on the heads, as it will dry completely and be easy to brush off later.One of the best things about garlic is that it has built-in seed saving potential, since each clove planted turns into a head of garlic. Once your garlic is cured, you can select large, healthy heads for planting in the fall (usually in October, before the ground freezes) for next year’s crop. Keep in mind that larger heads tend to have fewer cloves, so you’ll need more of them to plant next year’s crop (which will in turn produce larger heads with fewer cloves). If you want to stretch your seed garlic further, choose heads that have more individual cloves. Break up the heads just before planting for best results, and plant individual cloves 2” deep with the pointy end up, spacing them about 6-8” apart in rows 6” apart. Garlic prefers loose, deep, fertile soil and can benefit from a thick straw mulch in cold climates. (Source: www.highmowingseeds.com)