Garlic Harvest Update

A 2016 garlic blog post on the BCFH blog came to my mind today when I heard about Northlands Urban Farm‘s garlic harvest night on Wed. August 14, one of a series of urban farm events this summer. (Don’t be jealous, rest of Canada. It’s a calming oasis of greenery right in the middle of the city of Edmonton).

In the post I explained how I have planted and grown garlic (at least in the North Okanagan), but on re-reading it, I noticed that I didn’t discuss harvesting very much.  That’s the best part! I planned the sale of my house in Vernon last year so I could harvest the garlic (then the moving truck took a month to arrive and the garlic got moldy, but that’s another matter).  

Garlic is diligent; it requires little effort to plant in the fall and its green shoots in the early spring prove that we have all survived another winter. To pull up a plant in July or August and find that the single clove has expanded into six or eight more is an unexpected gift.

garlic bulbs

Drying garlic bulbs

Some people approach garlic culture like bird watching. They know all the different species and they can discuss the differences between Italian and Russian. Lucky for most gardeners, a lot of expertise is not needed as garlic is very forgiving. I’m not an expert by any means (especially in the effects of climate and soil) but I like experimenting. The following list is a cumulation of opinions from various people.

Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes in June – just getting their first spiral

  1. When is the garlic ready?   My friend Iris told me about some possible signs:  when two or three leaves have gone brown;; when the scapes have made two or three spiral twists (if you didn’t pick them and eat them earlier); when you think to yourself it must be ready and pull up a bulb to find that the papery covering has split into several visible cloves (in my opinion, I think this is too late anyway).
Garlc bulb past harvest

Garlic bulb has split: perhaps the gardener should not have gone on vacation before harvest.

What happens next? Pile the bulbs in a wheelbarrow and admire the quantity.

wheelbarrow of freshly pulled garlic

Next? Let the garlic bulbs air-dry for a few days, on a table in a secure location to keep animals away from the bulbs. The air temperature in the North Okanagan was perfect for this.  A rainy summer could be more challenging.  You might have to trim the garlic tops if they are too long. Don’t trim too soon. The juices drip out and it can’t be good for garlic quality. Save the very biggest and best bulbs for fall planting. 

Untrimmed bulbs


Trimmed garlic bulbs

Trimmed garlic bulbs – stems were left long in hopes of braiding

What about braiding? Only soft-neck garlic can be braided. Don’t trim the tops very much. If you try to braid hard-neck garlic, you will fail. But the garlic will be tasty regardless.  Keep trying!