Today I pulled up some garlic. I had a special helper, my niece, who is visiting for a few days. She loves to help with cooking. She loves to help with gardening. She loves to help – it’s a good age. As expected, after a few bulbs had been pulled, she started to comment on how hard our task was. This was my warning that the help on this particular task would soon come to an end. I told her to imagine a huge field, full of garlic, for all the people who wanted it. “Garlic is hard work!” she exclaimed. You betcha. I finished pulling the garlic solo.
This is my first year of garlic, as with most things in my amateur food garden. I did the overwintering thing and put garlic cloves in the ground last October. Three weeks ago, the garlic scapes had been harvested so, according to my research, it was about time to pull the bulbs. They were all quite small, except for one. I can’t remember how big the cloves that I planted were (I’ve read that the starting clove determines the size of the bulb), but I think I could have waited a bit longer. Other sources say that when most of the stalk has died its time to harvest. Only the bottoms of mine had died away, so perhaps if I waited a bit longer I would have had larger bulbs. No matter. It was a great day in the garden with my niece, there was actually garlic underground when we pulled the soil away (phew!), and after the 3-4 weeks of curing is done, we’ll have our very first batch of homegrown garlic.
I’m not sure if there is any advantage to overwintering garlic – it can be planted in early spring for a summer crop too. Next time around, I might hold off until then. Considering the amount of garlic I go through with cooking and my love of garlic scapes, whether it be winter or spring, I’m planting way more when the time comes. Gardening is hard work. Garlic – totally worth it.
Have you ever grown garlic before? How do you know when to harvest it?