Here are the basics for having a supply of garlic for vegetative propagation. The details I will be discussing is harvesting, processing/curing and storage. Get it right, and your home grown garlic will store for eight months or more.

Please note: this information is based on the study of Elephant/Russian Garlic. Information may vary with different varieties.

Immature flower heads are full of flavour

Immature flower heads are full of flavour

Harvesting

A few weeks before harvest begins to increase bulb size, harvest the edible scapes (immature flower buds on succulent stems). To harvest bend the succulent stem enough until it snaps. Garlic scapes are a delicious vegetable that will keep in the refrigerator more than a week. Bulbs can increase in size by as much as 30%, because the plants don’t waste energy developing flowers.

A good indication that garlic is ready for harvest is when about one third of the leaves appear withered and yellow, which indicates that the plants have cut back on the nutrients and moisture supplied to the leaves.

Use a digging fork to loosen the soil before pulling the plants. Handle the newly pulled bulbs delicately to avoid bruising them. Place in piles to help gather and transport to shed for processing.

Processing

To process your garlic find somewhere out of direct sunlight, well ventilated and under cover this can be in a garage, shed or warehouse. Garlic is susceptible to sunburn and rot if it gets wet or too humid.

Place garlic in shallow heaps on a dry surface while waiting to be cut and cured on wire racks.

With a sharp tool (knife, secateurs, scissors) cut the top and root off the bulb onto a tarp. Tops are cut about 2-4cm above the bulb. Place each bulb in a bucket until it fills up then empty and spread onto a designed wire rack for curing. The wire rack is 1mx2.5m with a light weight wooden frame. It is easy to move, can have multiple racks stacked on top as a function to save space and has good ventilation for curing and storage

The mess of cutting the tops and roots of the bulbs builds pretty quick so be sure to have a place you can dispose of them.

Grading. Separate into quality grades using different coloured buckets

Harvested garlic ready for processing

Harvested garlic ready for processing

Storage

Unlike most vegetables, garlic can be stored for extended periods under a fairly broad range of temperatures. The main point is to have the cloves dry and well cured beforehand.

Garlic should be cured and ready for storage after 3-4 weeks or until the garlic skins are easy to peel and papery.

Place garlic loosely in open mesh bags stacked on wire racks for adequate ventilation in sheds or warehouses. If the building is kept cool, dry and well ventilated, garlic will store for at least three to six months. Sprouting is most rapid at a temperature of at around 40C, while humidity above 70% leads to mould growth and root development.

The crop processed and cured

The crop processed and cured

Weigh each mesh bag on scales to keep a record of how many kilograms you have.

Equipment

  • Secatuers/knifes
  • Mesh bags
  • Wire racks 2.5mx1m with a wooden frame
  • Coloured buckets
  • Plastic tarp
  • Commercial produce scales

To make sure you get a bumper crop plant from early march to late april in the southern hemisphere. Wish you all an abundant harvest.

Sam Newton (Cert 4 in Permaculture student)

November 2014