A Gardener's Diary: Harvesting garlic

Most of July is already gone and somehow I missed it. The heat wave we just had got the best of me. Even with the mulch I added this year, it seems that all I did this month was water. All my barrels are empty and ready for the next rain. The raspberries were sweet and juicy. The harvest is done for this crop but some of the new canes are already blooming so it won’t be long before I get one more harvest which will last until frost.

All my garlic and onions are out of the ground and drying in the shed. Once the tops of your garlic plants start to die back, you know it’s time to harvest. To harvest your garlic, start preparing a few weeks early. When you see the leaves starting to decline, stop watering. This dry spell will help to cure the garlic. Garlic is ready to go when the lower leaves start to brown. Harvesting too soon will result in smaller cloves that don’t store well. Leave the bulbs in the ground too long and the cloves may be bursting out of their skins. This is what happened to me last year as I left them in the ground too long. I still managed to save enough for the fall planting and the other ones I stored in the cool basement and the bad ones (no papery skins) I froze.

Always dig your garlic, never try to pull it. You may have planted a small clove, but the bulb is now deep with a strong root system. Use a fork, rather than a shovel. The fork helps loosen the soil and shake free the bulbs. You can use a shovel, but you might be tempted to get too close to the cloves and accidentally slice through it. A sliced bulb can still be used, but it can’t be stored. Brush off any soil clinging to the bulbs. Leave the stalks and roots on the bulbs, while they dry. Allow the bulbs to cure, or dry, for three to four weeks in either a well-ventilated room or a dry, shady spot outside. Sunlight can change the flavour of fresh garlic. Once the tops and roots have dried they can be cut off. You can also further clean the bulbs by removing the outer skins. Just be careful not to expose any of the cloves. Keep your garlic in a cool dark place where it will still get some air circulation. Braiding and hanging garlic is a good way to keep it, but don’t hang it in the kitchen, where it will be in bright light. You could also store your garlic in a mesh bag or dish. There is nothing easier than saving garlic. Simply put aside a few top quality bulbs to plant in the fall. Store bulbs for replanting at room temperature, with a fairly high humidity, so they don’t dry out.

I started harvesting my potatoes, and they have no scab by growing them in shredded leaves. I didn’t get that many but the pots might have been too small. I will see when I harvest the larger container later.

I didn’t think that gardening was hazardous to your health but the other day I lost a tooth as I was biting into a freshly picked carrot. I put the tooth under the pillow and I am still waiting. Is there a tooth fairy? With all the garden fairies now maybe I should have put it under a rock.

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Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.


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