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Bringing in the Garlic

garlic harvest

I’ve started bringing in the garlic.  It’s a good crop this year, which I’m really pleased about.  I think, like a lot of gardeners, I was extra conscientious about planting this year.  I really really didn’t want to end up buying Chinese garlic.  As well as all the usual concerns about what agricultural chemicals may have been used growing it, and the methyl bromide treatment demanded by Australian quarantine, there was the vague concern about how close China is to Japan, and garlic planting season was right after the tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

So I’m very pleased to have about 60 corms in, and another couple of patches left to harvest – about 100 corms all up, enough for a couple of corms a week for the whole year.

Getting them to last the whole year is the next challenge. With decent curing and storing, you can expect six months or so, but stringing it out for 12 months means being conscientious about this next bit too.

Rule Number 1: Grow Some Varieties that Store Well

Bit late for that now, but I planted some softneck varieties because they tend to store better, along with some hardnecks that grow larger and do better in my less-than-garlic-perfect Northern NSW climate. I’ll use the hardnecks first and hope the softnecks store till next winter.

Rule Number 2: Treat Garlic Like Eggs

I read this somewhere and thought, what a good way to describe how gentle you have to be.  Fresh garlic bruises easily, and the bruising is an injury that will shorten it’s storage life. We’re used to thinking of it as a hard vegetable, but that’s the already cured stuff.

Rule Number 3: Pick it at the Right Time

Hard not to get too impatient.  Garlic is in the ground so long, I keep wanting to pull the last of it.  Patience.  When a third of the leaves have yellowed. Not before.

Rule Number 4:  Pick it in the Right Weather

It is much easier to clean and dry it without damaging it if it is already dry and in dry soil.  Pick a nice dry day after a few days without rain or watering.

Rule Number 5: Don’t Leave it Sit in the Sun

If you have a lot to pick, do it in batches and get it in out of the sun before it gets sunburned and stews.

Rule Number 6: Leave the leaves and Roots On

There’s a temptation to neaten it all up, but it will cure best with the leaves and the roots on. Just brush off any clumpy dirt.

Rule Number 7: Hang in a Warm, Dry, Airy Place to Cure

Under my north side verandah roof is ideal – it gets a nice breeze and it’s warm without getting hot enough to cook the garlic. Dark isn’t important, and the fridge is a bad idea.  You want air to be able to circulate right around every clove, so the traditional braids are practical as well as beautiful.

Rule Number 8: Don’t forget to Choose and Reserve the Best For Next Year’s Planting

I’ll buy some garlic to plant, and I’ll plant some just because it has sprouted early.  But, like all plants, there is genetic variation. If I remember to choose the ones that have done really well in my climate and soil type I’ll get a better yield than just buying new seed bred somewhere else every time.

If I follow all the rules, it should keep it should keep me in garlic right through the summer and autumn. But by the end of autumn next year, some are likely to start sprouting whatever I do. I’ll plant the sprouting ones and use the garlic shoots and leaves instead.  That will reduce the yield of cloves, but keep me going with fresh garlic through winter and spring till the next harvest.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Michelle November 23, 2011, 1:45 pm

    Hi Linda, I’m not too far from you, but cooler climes near Stanthorpe in SE Qld. I harvested my garlic 2 or 3 weeks ago, and braided it and hung it on our northern veranda too. I’m not sure whether it’s best to transfer it to a darkened room after it’s dried more, do you know?

    Also, last year I planted and kept just enough garlic for the year – but unfortunately I didn’t write down how many I kept to eat so I’ll have to wing it again this year. My dried garlic lasted until about June I think, but then I had frozen garlic, like Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial suggested last summer: http://figjamandlimecordial.com/2011/01/08/frozen-garlic/ – the frozen cloves were totally fine for cooking, and I used the last ones in the week I pulled up my new garlic. So, home grown garlic all year round for the first time!

    Michelle

  • Linda November 23, 2011, 1:50 pm

    My research is that dark doesn’t make any difference, and that’s certainly my experience too. I don’t have a freezer, so I never think about freezing things, but that’s a good idea. Congratulations on getting home grown garlic year round – that’s the mark of a seriously good gardener!

  • alison@thisbloominglife November 23, 2011, 2:06 pm

    What a beautiful crop. I’m insanely jealous. This year I will be buying mine but hopefully (fingers and toes crossed) I will be harvesting next year. The joys of looking forward I guess. Enjoy!

  • Frogdancer November 23, 2011, 2:10 pm

    I harvested my 3 plants earlier in the week. A fine crop!

    Maybe I’ll look at planting more next year, now I’ve proved I can do it!

  • Anonymous November 23, 2011, 5:11 pm

    I too am very envious, I’d hoped to be self sufficient in garlic this year but if anything the crop was worse than last year. Need to keep working on the best location for it, somewhere my naughty chooks and rabbits can’t get at it.

    I don’t buy it from the supermarket though, I can always get it from the farmers market.

  • Lee B-S November 23, 2011, 5:46 pm

    I just used my very first clove of home-grown garlic. Totally spoilt for ever; can’t ever think of buying supermarket stuff again. Need to sort out how to store it in the very damp SEQ climate…..

  • Kate November 23, 2011, 7:42 pm

    A timely post. We have just started to bring ours in, just one bed so far and now it’s stated to rain again. We will have to let it dry out again before we can pick the rest. I plan to post about our onion and garlic harvest soon and wonder if it will be OK to link to your post here as your Rules are great.

  • Serena November 24, 2011, 8:08 am

    Wow!!! That is really impressive. I am in Melbourne and unfortunately didnt plant garlic this year but you have inspired me! That is quite a haul you’ve got there. Can I ask you where you got the initial garlic from?
    Am a big fan of yours Linda nice to see you have a blog I’m enjoying reading it a lot.
    cheers

  • celia November 24, 2011, 8:11 am

    Great post, Linda, thank you, so many things I didn’t know! We only grow garlic in an old laundry tub – there really isn’t a patch in the garden for something that takes months to grow – the chooks are rotating through the beds too quickly. 🙂

    This year we took a tip from Gardening Australia and kept the cloves in the fridge for a month before planting out, and we got MUCH bigger corms (thank you for that word too – I’d been calling them bulbs). I think it needs the cold, and we don’t get that naturally here in Sydney. Plus we fed them blood and bone, which the garlic supposedly loves (according to a grower friend of Pete’s brother Steve).

    We harvested 30 corms, 20 of which were a decent size, and the rest we ate up straight away. We’ll also buy from friends who grow organic garlic, and freeze about 2/3 of what we buy. Thanks for the mention, Michelle, I’m so happy it works for you! I know you don’t have a freezer, Linda, so I’ll be very interested to know if you find a way to keep yours fresh for the year. I tried pickling garlic last year, but wasn’t really happy with the flavour.

  • Linda November 24, 2011, 8:57 am

    Hi Serena, I had some of my own from last year, and I bought some soft necks from Diggers, and I bought a bag of cloves that had separated from their corms from the local Farmer’s Market. So different sources – my own because they’re adapted to my site, the Farmer’s Market ones because she’s a local commercial scale grower, so she’s chosen a variety suited to our daylength at least, (if not exactly my site’s microclimate), and Diggers just because I’m a real sucker for their seed catalogue!

  • Linda November 24, 2011, 8:59 am

    Hi Kate, I would love to hear about your crop, and shall link back. I love those kinds of links when I’m looking for information.

  • Hazel November 24, 2011, 9:41 am

    I am going to braid today! I managed to keep last year’s garlic hanging and usable all year last time. The cloves shrank a bit and they did start to sprout, right at the end..but they still tasted great. I will be planting the sprouting ones next year…thanks for the tip.

  • Jode November 24, 2011, 2:13 pm

    Great post Linda, thanks for such great tips!…i just linked to it in my post as i have been pondering for days on whether the garlic is ready to pull up but now that the rain has set in i think i will have to leave it for awhile yet!
    Your crop looks fantastic…..i’m not quite there yet, lol!
    Jode x

  • Kirsty@BowerbirdBlue November 28, 2011, 9:39 pm

    Just digging up some of my garlic this evening – it’s still on the lawn so will need to grab it in the morning as forecast of 32 tomorrow. Thinking maybe I was a little premature as the leaves were just starting to yellow but the necks had all fallen down and as I have them planted all over the place I was frightened I might lose them. I am very proud to say I was totally sufficient in garlic last year and gave a lot away as gifts. Used my last saved clove with garlic mushrooms on the weekend and my first picked cloves with Nasi Goreng for dinner tonight. Will do a garlic post this week, thanks for all the great information.

  • Linda November 29, 2011, 11:12 am

    Hi Kirsty, there’s some serious rain forecast for later in the week, so I think you might have been very smart! Congratulations on a whole year’s garlic, but then, the garlic itself is it’s own reward. Try the garlic mushrooms with fresh garlic. It’s amazing the difference.

  • Anonymous December 11, 2011, 10:44 pm

    Hi Linda
    The garlic looks great, we have also just harvested ours about 50 corms too.
    I planted about 10 corms of Elephant garlic which have produced these tiny bulbs that I have keeped, do you have any advice about when to plant them? We are in Bangalow NSW so near by you.
    cheers Alice

  • Linda December 12, 2011, 8:23 am

    I plant garlic around the Autumn equinox these days. I’m going earlier and earlier each year . I’m finding any garlic that I miss harvesting and it shoots itself is going earlier, so I’m following its lead. Maybe to do with climate change, maybe to do with varieties becoming more acclimatized, maybe just that I’m noticing it. But with your elephant garlic, I’d keep it cool and dry until late February or March, then plant.

  • Haley Hailey 2 January 10, 2012, 1:41 pm

    In this second year of my established garden I have worked very hard to not require a “tidy” garden from myself.

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