By Jeanne Murray, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener
What kind of garlic do you grow?
There are two kinds of garlic - the softneck garlic and the hardneck garlic. Hardneck is the one found here in our northern climate. The hardneck has a hard central stem with the cloves clustered about the base of the stem. This stem curls and forms a seed pod in June which needs to be removed upon its appearance. More about the garlic tomorrow.
When do you harvest garlic?
Harvest garlic when the bulb of cloves is mature. That is when the three lower plant leaves have turned brown about mid-July. You have about two weeks to harvest garlic before the outer wrapper of the blub disintegrates leaving bare cloves. Dig the whole plant, try to not damage the bulbs. Let dry in the garden for several days. Brush off dirt. More about garlic tomorrow.
Curing is the process of drying the bulbs to prepare for storage. To cure, leave about one and a half inch of stem at the top of the bulb. Make a single layer of bulbs on a mesh screen in a warm, dry place with good air circulation. Dry 3 to 4 weeks. Store in a dark place at 60 degrees with 50 percent humidity. Never refrigerate or store in a plastic bag.
Next year’s garlic
When harvesting your garlic, save the largest, healthiest bulbs for planting in October or about 6 weeks before the ground freezes, to give time for root development. Plant 2 to 4 inches deep with pointed end up 4 to 6 inches apart. Mulch 3 inches with dried grass, leaves or straw. If the top emerges, it is prone to winter injury. Spring planted garlic does not attain the size of fall planted garlic.
What family does garlic belong to?
Garlic is a member of the Allium family, which includes onions, chives, and leeks. Garlic originated in central Asia and has been grown for 5,000 years in Egypt and India. It is an important ingredient in many cuisines. Garlic is generally the last crop planted in the fall and the first to emerge in the spring, extending the time you can enjoy being in the garden.