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Garlic Harvesting, A Summer Solstice Tradition

Posted by on Jun 29, 2012 in Food & Recipes | 3 comments

Garlic Harvesting, A Summer Solstice Tradition

I usually look forward to harvesting my garlic on the summer solstice, however, the unseasonably hot weather in May and June forced the garlic to mature early so I can’t keep my tradition this year.

Instead I am writing this article, to convince you to grow it, if you don’t already since now is the best time to buy or beg for the garlic you need to plant in September.

Why should I grow garlic?

Growing your own garlic is environmentally friendly because most of the garlic in American grocery stores is imported from China and transporting garlic across an ocean is a waste of energy. It is economically intelligent because you just need to buy cloves once to grow garlic the rest of your life. And it is incredibly rewarding because for just a few hours effort you can grow enough garlic to supply yourself for the year.

How do I grow garlic?

On the autumnal equinox (around September 22nd) prepare a sunny, well drained planting area by pulling weeds, digging in compost and raking the area flat. Plant your cloves, with the skins on and the pointy side up, about 1 inch deep. Cloves should be 6 inches apart and rows should be 12 inches apart.

About 4 weeks later, before the ground starts to freeze solid, mulch with leaves or straw to help prevent frost heave and keep the weeds to a minimum in the spring.

In the spring, when the weather warms up again, I dig in more compost and if it’s really dry I’ll water the garlic. You don’t want water too much though, or the bulbs will rot.

What should I know about harvesting garlic?

If you have been watering the garlic, stop one week prior to harvesting because you want the ground and garlic to be dry. You will know the garlic is ready when the leaves start turning brown. This is usually on the summer solstice (around June 22nd).

Store the garlic in a cool, dry place for a week, then brush off the dirt and trim the roots. You may trim the leaves, but leave the stalk a few inches long because it will help keep the garlic from sprouting.

Choose which garlic heads you want to use for planting cloves next year and set them aside. I always choose the best looking heads because they are mostly likely to grow the best garlic next year.

Return your garlic to its cool, dry place until you are ready to use it. Never store garlic in a plastic bag since that will encourage moisture build up.

Oh, and you should use the space where you had the garlic to plan another crop. Squash, cucumbers, melons or beans are all good options to plant at this time of year.

I’m in. Where do I buy garlic for planting?

You will have the best luck purchasing garlic at your local garden center, feed store, or farmer’s market. I recommend you start looking for your garlic now because you don’t want it to sell out (remember, it’s food too).

Purchasing your garlic online is another good option. I recently purchased a shallot set from American Meadows and I would highly recommend them because they mail your purchase when it’s time to plant it.

Another option is to beg a head of garlic off someone who grew it this year. Last year I couldn’t find any garlic in the stores and had not saved nearly enough from the previous year, so I had to be the bum. My boyfriend’s father kindly gave me a head of garlic descended from garlic his own father brought from Serbia when he immigrated. Those cloves grew the beautiful purple garlic in the picture.

Avoid buying garlic to plant at the grocery store because if it is not local it may not be an acceptable variety for your area, and if it has been refrigerated it may sprout if the place you store it is warmer than the refrigerator.

Growing garlic requires more patience than effort, so pick up some cloves today to get ready for September 22nd! Use the buttons below to add a planting and a harvesting reminder to your Google Calender.

Planting Reminder

Harvesting Reminder


Nicole knows making small changes for the greener add up over time and hopes you’re inspired to make some changes of your own after reading her articles. She focuses on easy, green, homemade personal products and green living tips for city dwellers. Nicole lives in Pittsburgh, PA and you can find her on twitter at @_nlg_.

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  1. david gagliardi

    In ct we plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and harvest it on the longest day

    • Nicole

      Planting in December is good too, but since I have raised beds they are frozen solid by then. As long as the garlic is planted at least 6 months prior to harvest, when it’s cold, and when there is little danger of extreme moisture (which could rot the cloves), it will grow well.

  2. joan gagliardi

    braiding the garlic was always something I liked doing,hang in a dry dark place{mine was tha back hallway at the top of the cellar stairs}clip off what you need.

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