What I’ve Learned About Planting, Harvesting and Drying Garlic

hardneck garlic bulb cloves

Planting, Harvesting and Drying Hardneck Garlic

I live in southwestern New Hampshire and each year I attempt to grow my own garlic.  After much trial and error and reading articles and books, this is what I’ve learned about planting, harvesting and drying garlic in my area of the country.

The first couple of years I had little luck, but I didn’t know what I was doing.  I wasn’t sure exactly when to plant it, and it never grew very large when I did manage to grow a few bulbs. As time went on, I read more, and realized that it needs to be weeded well. Weeds will compete for nutrients and keep the bulbs small. Also a little fertilizer when the stalks begin to grow can help.

This year I experimented by planting a bit differently.  When I planted the single cloves of hardneck garlic bulbs in mid-October, I planted them in a raised bed.  I use fabric pots, and I placed the cloves around the edge of one of the big fabric beds.  It’s now July, and about time to dig them up, and they are looking very good! This is the first time I have hope of having decent sized bulbs to use.

growing garlic in summer

Garlic growing in my raised bed

After reading posts, and gardening books, written by actual farmers, or people who have experience growing their own garlic, I have picked up these tips and helpful information. (Beware of writers who are writing to make money on writing sites, as they may not have the correct information.) I have linked to some of them below, but my information has been gleaned over the years from many articles. I wanted all my Garlic growing information together on one page to view at a quick glance. I wrote this post as much for myself, as for my readers.

Here is what I’ve learned:

single cloves of garlicPlanting:  In the northeast, plant garlic in mid-October, before the ground freezes, but the cloves have a chance to put out roots and get established before winter comes. Plant each clove 2-3 inches deep, after breaking them from the main stem. According to Boundary Garlic Farm, the cloves should be separated at planting time, or no longer than 24 hours before. Cover with compost (I use chopped, dry leaves since I have so many dry leaves in Fall). You don’t want the cloves to ‘grow’ and show greenery until next spring.

In June hardneck garlic will send out garlic scapes.  They should be cut to promote growth down in the bulbs.  Use the scapes in cooking. If you don’t cut the scapes, they will turn into bulbils, which hold seeds that can be planted, although that is a whole other story.
Harvesting: Harvest by digging the bulbs in late July, or early August, about a month after the scapes appear, when the stalks begin to turn brown.  Most of the stalks, or leaves should still be green, with only a couple that are brown.

*Don’t pull them up, but use a trowel to dig around the bulb and gently lift it out of the dirt.
*Don’t rinse the bulbs. Leave the tops (green leaves) on, as well as the roots. Just carefully brush off the excess dirt, without damaging the skin.  They can be used right out of the ground, but to store some for later use, use the curing method below.

Drying / Curing the Bulbs: Hang or place the entire garlic plant someplace out of the sun, but with good air circulation. They can dry outside in a shady location, under cover with no way to get rained on. (I use my patio greenhouse for this.) By drying the paper-like skin, the garlic will store for months. During this time the goodness from the green leaves and roots is transferred to the bulb.
The time it takes to cure garlic seems to vary widely and depends on the size of the bulbs as well as the amount of humidity present, but it generally takes 4-8 weeks.  You will know that the garlic is dry when the stalks turn brown and both the leaves and roots are dried up.

Storing: Cut the stems at 1 inch above the bulb, after the drying process. Also cut off most of the roots. DO NOT WASH. Garlic needs its protective skin left on. Store whole bulbs in a cool, dry place.  They should be good to use for many months afterward.  Soft bulbs should be used right away. The largest bulbs should be kept aside to use for planting.

There are other ways to store garlic.
*It can be frozen, and information on that can be found at AwaytoGarden.com site, as I have never tried this.
Some people store their garlic in oil, but I have never done that either.

Keep the best bulbs to use this fall as new plantings. In October break apart the cloves and plant them as suggested above.
If you are just starting out, and need some garlic to start with, don’t use store bought, unless it’s from a reputable organic store. My suggestion is to visit a farmer’s market and purchase local, organic garlic bulbs to plant. Of course garlic can be purchased online too.

Picking Zucchini Every Day Now!

zucchini in the garden

Growing Zucchini

Anyone who grows their own zucchini knows that once those suckers begin to appear, it’s zucchini picking every day.

When I begin my vegetable garden in June, I include two squash plants, and one is always a zucchini. Usually I have yellow squash too, but this year both plants are zucchini. Within the past few days I’ve picked two zucchini each day. My neighbor gets some, but she lives alone and won’t need all that many.

Most people know to pick their squash when it’s medium size. Any zucchini that gets overlooked, and it’s easy to do, may end up the size of a small baseball bat. I found the one pictured below, stuck under the stems of the plant last year. It was a monster!
big overgrown zucchini

Usually I just slice and boil the veggies, as it’s the easiest way to eat them. Fried zucchini is really good also. And of course there is everyone’s favorite – zucchini bread. In fact, if you search online, you’ll find a numerous variety of recipes that use the green squash as an ingredient.

Unfortunately the zucchini comes in at the time when summer gets hot. It’s the time of year when I do not want to heat up the kitchen by baking bread.

With all that squash ready to use, the only other way to keep it fresh to use for a later time, is to freeze it. This is the first time I’ve frozen my excess zucchini, but I don’t know why I haven’t done it before.

It’s so wonderful to pick fresh ingredients from the backyard, but if they are picked and then sit around for days, the vitamins deteriorate, and you might as well have bought them from the store. Preserving them fresh is most important, so pick, shred, package and freeze the zucchini as soon as you pick them.

Pick, shred, put in freezer bags (with date and label – it will keep for 8 months from what I’ve read), and store to use at a later time. Bake that bread on a cool day, or add to a batch of homemade soup. How simple is that?

Dilemma: Bugs, Birds, Bears, and Cats

grasshopper eating a sunflowerThis is my garden dilemma:  I have a grasshopper infestation.  I need a natural way to get rid of the bugs, as I am an organic gardener.

Attract birds that will eat them, is my first thought, but I have cats that go outside.  If I feed birds in summer it’s only the hummingbirds.  My cats would never be able to catch one of them.  In fact, neither of my cats are big hunters, but I imagine that birds get nervous when they look down and see cats in the yard, so they move on.

If the birds do end up eating the grasshoppers, they will be down near ground level.   The grasshoppers are feasting on the leaves of many of my garden plants.  If I put out feeders, I feel like I am inviting birds to their death, because of the cats.

Summer bird-feeding can also attract black bears in my area.   Continue reading

Organic Control of Grasshoppers in the Garden

grasshopper control

Grasshopper Pests

I have millions of grasshoppers in my garden.  They are chewing up the leaves on my parsley, sunflowers, oregano and pretty much everything.  Now they are eating the flower buds off the coreopsis which seems to be a favorite of theirs.

As I walk along the edge of my small garden area, they jump away from me in a wave of moving leaves.  There are a lot of them.

I am an organic gardener, so I’ve been searching for natural ways to get them to leave, or die.  The organic product (Semaspore Bait) that kills them, is best used when they are young, so I don’t know if mine are young enough.  Even a small container is quite expensive, and since I don’t know if it will work at this time, I’m hesitant.  I’ll look for it at Agway.

A post at Home Guides has given me some advice for keeping the pests off my leaves naturally.  I know that garlic spray works well for insect control, but I don’t want my herbs to taste like garlic.  I might use it on plant leaves I won’t be eating.

I am going to try the molasses in jars approach.  By mixing molasses with water, the sweet drink attracts grasshoppers.  I have lots of little canning jars which may work for this experiment.  The idea is to attract the grasshoppers to the liquid and then they drown.  I have to bury jars in the dirt and fill them halfway with the mixture.  I hope it doesn’t attract beneficial bugs as well.  I’ll keep an eye on it.

Since I have molasses, and lots of canning jars, I plan to get started on that right away.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  I might combine that with the garlic spray approach and between the two, I may have some success.  There is no way I can kill them all within the short span of summer.  I’d love to have more birds, toads, frogs and even snakes around to chow down on the little critters.  I’ve seen some toads, and even a frog.  But my cats tend to keep everything away.  I only feed hummingbirds in summer because of the bears in my area.  The smell of sunflower seeds can bring bears into the yard, and I’ve had them destroy my feeders when left out in summer.

grasshoppers eating rhubarb

Eating Rhubarb Leaves


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