วันศุกร์ที่ 2 มกราคม พ.ศ. 2552

How to Grow Garlic # 2

How to Know Exactly When to Harvest Each Garlic Bulb


How do you know when it is time to harvest the garlic? There is no pat answer as it varies depending on what part of the country you grow in and the variety of garlic involved. Different varieties harvest at different times as Artichokes mature first, followed by Rocamboles, Purple Stripes and Porcelains and, finally Silverskins. Since spring warms up from the South to the North, southern growers will harvest earlier than Northern growers. It also seems to depend on the weather; how soon it warms up to what extent. If high temperatures come early in spring and it stays warm to hot, harvest will be earlier than usual because it is the heat and sun that causes garlic to bolt. A long cool spring will delay harvest until after the usual time as the bulbs will mature slower and maturing is delayed. We usually start harvesting in mid-May or so whereas far northern growers may not begin until July or later.

Hardneck garlics will send up a stalk, or scape as it is properly called, a month or two before harvest time. Some growers prefer to cut off the scape and some prefer to leave it on. There is widespread disagreement among growers about when or whether to cut the scape. Some say if you cut the scape it will make the bulb larger. Some say if you don't cut the scape the garlic will store longer and better-and make better seedstock. Some say you must cut off the scape at just the right time to get the right balance of size and storability or hardiness of the bulb. Some say if you cut off the scape too soon you will get big bulbs but that they are more susceptable to disease and short storability (just eat them first.) I suggest you experiment and see what works best for you in your situation. Most serious growers I know do cut the scapes while they are still tender and either eat them or sell them to gourmets - they're highly prized for their delicate flavor and they're only available for a short time in the spring.

Softneck garlics don't usually send up scapes but sometimes they do when stressed by adverse growing conditions. The Asiatic and Turban groups of Artichokes often send up scapes, even though they're classified as softnecks. They're both very early ripeners and need to be harvested as soon as the lower leaves start to die down, don't wait for the last six leaves or they will be overripe - they're unique in that regard. The Creole Silverskins also often send up scapes. All softneck scapes form an inverted "U" pattern - at least all that I have ever seen.

The real secret to knowing when to harvest the garlic is to watch the leaves and they'll tell you when to harvest. Garlic leaves signal maturity by beginning to turn brown and dying. The lowest (and outermost) leaves die first and then the rest die from the ground up. Generally with softnecks, the time to harvest is when the lower leaves have all died down and only the top six leaves are still green. Don't wait for the leaves to all die down and fall over like onions do or you will be inviting trouble in the form of overripe bulbs that are unattractive and more subject to fungus, pests and poor storage. Also, the upper leaves of the plant are the ones that determine how many bulb wrappers the harvested bulb will have. If you let the leaves all die down then the bulb wrappers will all rot away and you will have bulbs with the cloves exposed and no bulb wrappers to protect them. Use these bulbs immediately while they're still good-the ones with good bulb wrappers will store longer and better.

On the other hand, research indicates that garlic left in the ground longer has more potency and a stronger taste. Since the cloves within the overripe bulb tend to splay out as they crowd each other out, it becomes easier to break the bulbs apart. In fact, I know growers who say they let the bulbs they want to use as planting stock stay in the ground a little longer than usual because shortened storage is not a problem since it doesn't have to store very long until planting time comes around. These same growers also leave the scapes on their planting stock while cutting them on the stock they intend to sell as cutting scapes makes those bulbs bigger than they otherwise would be.

All the plants of any given variety of garlic will come to maturity at about the same time, but some varieties will mature in the early spring and others not until mid-summer. As each variety approaches maturity, inspect the bulbs so that you can see when they get to the size and condition you want. You can dig down around a few plants to inspect the size and shape of the bulbs, being careful not to disturb the roots, every few days until you are satisfied they are ready to harvest. If they're not ready yet, carefully replace the soil and let them go a few days more then inspect again. If you are growing more than one variety, be sure to inspect some of each and harvest only the ones that are ready.

Once any given variety of garlic starts losing its leaves and there are still eight leaves left (a week to 10 days from harvest), discontinue watering and let the soil begin to dry out some so as to make harvesting easier - it's easier to pull garlic out of loose soil than mud.


When your garlic is ready to harvest, there are several ways to do it. It is important to remove the garlic from the ground without injuring it as it is still a living creature and germs can enter through wounds at a time when its ability to ward them off is diminishing. If you have real loose rich soil, you can simply pull them up by their necks as long as doing so will not tear or damage their necks or roots. Few of us are fortunate enough to have that kind of soil. For most of us the best way is to use a shovel or garden fork and slip the blade down beside them and then work it under them and pry them up from the bottom. Be very careful not to cut the bulbs as you do this. We use a thick, tractor mounted , wedge shaped blade to undercut them below root level and push them up without touching them. The blade gently breaks up the ground under and around them and we retrieve them by hand, lay them gently into a wagon with a sun cover and immediately take them out of the sun and into a cool shady place to cure out for a while.
Be very careful in handling the bulbs at this point and do not bang them together as that can cause them to be bruised and invite storage problems and ruin them for seedstock. Do not throw them onto the ground or into a wagon, place them down gently - you have spent a lot of time and effort to grow them right, don't blow it all now by handling them rough. Get them out of the sun as soon as possible as the sun can scald them or cause them to dry down too quickly and may result in problems.

Many large commercial growers plow them up, windrow them for a few day then cut off the tops and roots and store them, but it's not a good idea. They do it because of the economics involved with personal handling and the cost of building huge drying sheds. Growers who are more concerned with quality than quantity don't do that any more than they would use conveyor belts and let the garlic bounce into truckbeds from the height of three to five feet - which they also do. However you harvest, cure and store your garlic, always keep the different varieties separated and identified so that you will know which is which.


Curing the Garlic
Many growers dispute the proper way to cure the garlic and cut the leaves and roots off for storage. Many growers wash their garlic and see nothing wrong with it while others are horrified by the thought. In my experience, garlic that is washed has a tendency to have wrinkled bulb wrappers that look a little like your fingers do right after a bath. It also seems to me that the extra moisture that accumulates in the bulb could lead to fungal infestation. Some cut the roots and leaves immediately, some wait a few weeks before trimming and some never trim their garlic. What is proper for one but not another may have to do with climate, humidity, human resources, cost of handling or available facilities.


We feel that garlic likes to dry down gradually in temperatures that are similar to those a few inches underground (about 72F). This initial drydown process is called curing the garlic. The idea is for the excess moisture in the roots and leaves to evaporate or withdraw into the bulb. When the roots and necks are completely dried and it does not emit a typical garlic odor when cut, that is the time to trim it. It usually takes two to four weeks to get to that point, longer for extra large bulbs. If you trim it while it is still moist and green, the fresh cuts expose the garlic to fungi, viruses and other contaminants that can set in and cause the garlic to spoil or pick up some disease you don't want it to have. With softneck garlics, many people braid them before they are completely dried down and are still pliable and never trim the roots while other braiders will trim the roots and flake off an outer bulb wrapper or two to make them more attractive.

After the garlic has cured, it is time to decide whether to trim or how much to trim it and how to store it so that it will last and still be good and healthy a few months later when it is time to plant next years crop or to last you for eating through the winter. USDA standards prescribe no more than a quarter-inch of root and no more than a half-inch of stem. I don't go along with that as I think it makes the garlic difficult to handle. We also use stem length as a means to identify certain garlics at a glance-different varieties of softnecks are cut to different lengths, that is, Locati will have longer stems than Rose du Var, to tell them apart at a glance since both look alike but taste different. It helps our customers identify them better, too. Many growers peel away the outer one or two layers of bulb wrappers in order to remove soil particles and contaminants and to make the bulbs more attractive to purchasers. If you have harvested your garlic at the right time, there should be several layers of bulb wrappers remaining.

Storing the Garlic?
As you might suspect, there is not widespread agreement among growers about storing the garlic any more than there is agreement about anything else. Again, you might try a few different things to see what works well for you. About the only thing that most people agree on is that it is bad to store garlic in plastic bags or sealed containers as these things promote rotting. They also agree that garlic should not be stored in direct sunlight.


Four factors affect the storage of garlic; namely, how well it was grown and cured, its varietal type, temperature and humidity. Garlic that was poorly grown and improperly cured will not get any better in storage. Some varieties naturally store longer than others. Silverskins are the longest storing , with Porcelains coming in second and Rocamboles being the shortest storing varieties, with Purple Stripes and Artichokes falling somewhere in the middle. Specific cultivars of each kind can vary from the pattern, but in general, this is the way it is.

Have you ever noticed that garlic that you buy at the supermarket doesn't seem to store very long once you take it home? There is a reason for that. The USDA recommends storing garlic at 32F, so most large chains of stores do that and require their suppliers to do likewise. Garlic stores well at that low temperature for a few months, (if the humidity isn't too high, which it sometimes is) but when you remove it from cold storage and place it on the shelf for sale, time catches up with it in a hurry. It either deteriorates rapidly or sprouts fairly soon and tries to grow. This makes for a garlic that is good for immediate use only.

We think garlic stores best long term when it is stored at between 55F and 65F and between 40% and 60% humidity. If the humidity stays below 40% for a couple of weeks or more, garlic has a tendency to dry out faster than it otherwise would. If humidity goes higher than 60% for any extended period of time, fungus and molds can set in. If the temperature goes below about 55F for an extended period of time, garlic tends to want to sprout and grow, even if it is not the right time of year (that's why the refrigerator is not a good place to store garlic). If temperatures stay much over 70F for any extended length of time, garlic tends to dry out and deteriorate. These are approximate ranges and need not be taken literally, but are very good guidelines. In our experience, garlic, except Rocamboles will store quite well for four to six months at between 65F and 75F as long as the humidity is moderate.

One of the advantages to keeping garlic around 55 F. is that fungi and other pathogens and pests are much less active than they are with the temp in the 75-80 F. range. Keeping them cool, but not cool enough to sprout them is the key to storing garlic well. It's pretty hard for the average person to achieve the proper temperature range for ideal storage of garlic.

It is important that airflow around the bulbs not be restricted too much as this hastens deterioration. A ventilated terra cotta storage jar is the best way to store garlic for the average person, since most people don't have grandpa's root cellar anymore. We have found that garlic stored in double paper bags in the shade in a normally air conditioned house seems to do pretty good. Of course, this isn't practical if you have several thousand bulbs, but works quite nicely for a few dozen. Basically, any dark, cool place is ok as long as the humidity is not excessive.

Good luck and enjoy the fruit of your labor. You will probably discover that you get much better tasting and longer storing garlic when you grow your own from selected cultivars than the garlic you get at the local supermarket. Enjoy.

New September 20, 2008 - Now you can buy two different kinds of Virus-Free Garlic. Pssst - Hey You - Gardener. Wanna grow some really BIG bulbs? Use Virus-Free planting stock.
Big News - We have two cultivars of very rare Virus-Free garlic available this fall.

We were very lucky to be able to get two of the three cultivars of Virus-Free garlic , some Duganski, a Marbled Purple Stripe and some California Late, an Artichoke but the Sofia, a Rocambole from Bulgaria got flooded out and will not be available until maybe next year. Not even virus-free garlic is exempt from the ravages of nature and while much of the garlic crops in the NW part of the country were greatly stunted by cool, damp and cloudy spring that never did warm up until well into summer, two of the three V-F varieties did quite well and were of good size in a world of smaller garlics.

This is good news for growers all over the country and especially the warm winter growers have something to cheer about as the Artichokes and Marbled Purple Stripes both do well in warm winter areas. A Marbled Purple Stripe called Metechi is always the biggest and best in our garden year after year.

Why does virus-free have any special appeal and how do they do it? At this point I'm not entirely clear as to all the features and benefits of virus-free garlic but I can tell you how they are developed and that ridding a cultivar of virii causes the garlic to grow larger and heavier than the same cultivars the contain virii. I'm not sure what effects being virus-free has on the health benefits of garlic but researchers have shown in the past that denser, heavier varieties, Porcelains, in particular had greater capability to produce Allicin, from which the most healthy fat-soluble compounds are derived.



All natural garlics contain some viruses; it's what happens out in the wild, life happens. These viruses have no known harmful effects on humans but apparently only affect the garlics and most of their effects are unknown although a few are; for example, the yellow streak virus carried by wheat curl mites cause a garlics leaves to show some yellow streaks but their effects on the clove is minimal if anything. If a garlic bulb has a viral contamination, and they all do, almost every part of the plant is affected. All, in fact but the tiniest growing tip where the virus has not yet gotten a grip on the plant.

This tiny growing tip, called a meristem, is snipped out under a microscope and tediously grown out from that tip and that virus-free tip will eventually grow into a full size plant and develop a bulb with multiple cloves and the cloves will also be virus-free and can be replanted to produce virus-free offspring. It takes several years of replanting all or most of the cloves for a single virus-free bulb to reproduce into a marketable number of bulbs to base a virus-free seed garlic business on. They are still a few years from widespread distribution.

Removing the viruses causes the bulbs to get bigger and denser. This is only the second effort I know of ever to produce virus-free garlic. The earlier one was done in California in the 1980s but the grower discontinued his program because it produced such large garlics , over 3" in diameter, that he had a hard time selling such large garlics and he quit doing it. I understand he is retired now and no longer involved. Our virus-free garlics were produced by a different retired plant pathologist and grown in Oregon and we're ready to try again so we can see for ourselves what the results are and are inviting our customers to try them also and see how they do for them.
To my knowledge, we are the only place in the country at this time offering virus-free garlics for sale on the internet although there may be others I don't know about.

They were not grown organically and normally we would not handle such garlic but since there is no source of organically grown virus-free garlics, these can be introduced into an organic operation and their offspring, if grown by a certified organic grower would become certified organic next year. They're a little pricy but so is everything that is truly rare.

Are virus-free garlics acceptable in an organic program? I don't know as I have never seen any prohibition against it. It is not a genetically modified organism, it is only a modern extension of the ancient art of rooting plants to produce offspring. Do virus-free garlics have the same health benefits? I don't know but I would think so since the chemical reactions would seem to be unchanged by the presence or absence of the viruses. Are these particular viruses any kind of enemy? I doubt it. Does eliminating the viruses have any kind of advantage? Only in that the garlic grows larger and denser with the same effort and most growers find that to be a desireable trait.

What is the future of these V-F garlics? How long will they stay virus-free? I don't know. Nobody knows how many years it took garlic to pick up all its virii. Nobody knows how long it would take to re-acquire some more of them via insects, etc. or how often new virus-free planting stock would have to be purchased in order to assure an essentially virus-free crop. We're stepping out on unexplored turf here. Whacking out new trails, so to speak. We'll learn as we go.


Credit by : http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com

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