Garlic Harvest

by Peter Heffelfinger

posted July 13, 2020

After I took the scapes off the plot of garlic two weeks ago, I was hoping the usual sunny weather of early July would add the last needed bit of maturity to the bulbs before harvest. The outer sheaths of the test bulbs I pulled up looked good, dry and white. But more rains came, as has been the pattern all spring and holding on into summer. By the time we pulled the garlic, the mold had surfaced. A good 30% went straight to the burn pile, probably blackened much earlier but now in full fungal bloom. The rest of the bulbs were generally smaller than usual, and needed to be cleaned post haste in order to prevent any lingering spores developing as the heads cure, hung up in the breezeway of the carport.

Out of the 800+ plants seeded last fall we will be lucky to have 60% cure well. My biggest worry is having enough clean seed for planting this fall for next year’s crop. Over the years we have built up solid stocks of four hard neck varieties: Music, Deja Vue, Korean Red and Russian Red. The Russian Red is a particular favorite, since it stores so long, due to a very hard, shell-like skin around the uniquely triangular shaped cloves. But this year the Russian had the most mold, so I am hoping we have enough viable seed.

Earlier this spring I had a lot of stored garlic from last year’s bumper crop that was starting go soft. To not have it go to waste, I froze multiple pints of finely puréed cloves, as well as roughly processing two quarts of cloves mixed with olive oil and sea salt to store in the fridge for immediate use. The preserved garlic will now become a much needed fill-in for this year’s short harvest. Always pays to have backup in the pantry.

The shallot plot next to the garlic out on the Flats was also affected by the mold, as well as developing hard seed stalks. Some of it may be saved by drying out on screens in the pantry and used up quickly. A second shallot bed at the Mt. Erie garden was less affected by mold, so I am drying out these bulbs in the sun on a tarp, and covering them at night. It will be a short shallot run this year in the kitchen.

On the flip side of the rain issue, the early cabbages are now large and about to split, the cauliflower has been bountiful, and the snap peas have come in daily waves. And, where  a bed of early onions got moldy and was pulled, new summer transplants of lettuces, bok choy and bulb fennel are taking hold, along with a second plantings of cauliflower and red cabbage. Keep planting and carry on.

5 thoughts on “Garlic Harvest

  1. Carol Havens

    Hi Peter. I’m so sorry about your garlic harvest. I feel fortunate that mine matured so early. I’m waiting to order new seed garlic from Siskyou Seeds in a month or so.
    Vince and I have just almost finished creating a raised bed garden from metal horse troughs. This is our final attempt to thwart the bindweed that has infiltrated every inch of our soil in every type of bed we have attempted over 30 years. With brand new soil from Mailliards Landing in Oak Harbor I’m attempting to figure out how to add life. So far, compost and some chicken manure. (lime, kelp, bone meal) Suggestions appreciated.
    I know it’s late, but not too late, to plant seeds for fall crops. I haven’t planted seeds for years due to lack of success. (I’ve been using starts.) But I just got my order from Uprising Seeds and I plan to plant a small area tomorrow. Spinach, beets, carrots, collards, chard, kale. In fall I’ll plant garlic and fava. In late winter, potatoes and peas. Then I’ll get back into the usual spring planting.
    Do you have any thoughts on amendments for new soil or on July seed planting?
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. You are very appreciated.
    Carol Havens

    1. sequoia

      I’ve mostly gone to using transplants also but do you grow your own? I use a seed block maker the works amazing because no pots or other containers are necessary. The seedlings just grow in the blocks and can be planted out without transplant shock because the roots are naturally air pruned.

      1. Carol Havens

        Thank you, Sequoia. I have been using purchased starts. Usually a little pony pack of something is all I need. I have a tiny garden. Today I planted seeds directly into the ground in my new ‘tank farm’. Wish me luck!
        ps – we got some worms from the compost bin and added them to the 2 tanks that I planted.

    2. Peter Heffelfinger

      Hi Carol,
      I just pulled out a stray flowering bindweed from fence opposite my garden, hoping to head off an invasion of the white flowers. Hope you can start afresh with new beds. Sounds like your soil amendments are all in line, especially the kelp meal, which I think is one key micro-ingredient often missed. It seems to help over-wintering crops resist the cold.
      I think you are fine with seeding short term crops like beets, spinach, as well longer seasonal kale and carrots. You can also sow fall greens like bok choy and a second crop of. peas in mid-to-late August. I do all starts nowadays, but supplies have been scant recently with the surge in gardening interest. I am planting lots of leeks starts this week, which I was lucky enough to find. Plus there are slow-bolting lettuces that can go in now if kept in partial shade, especially Romaine. Given our longer summers these days and extended fall wether, I think there is plenty of time to try a wide variety of crops. You can always harvest them small, when they are tasty and fresh. I would set up some kind of shade protection vs the midday sun to prevent dehydration and bolting. I pull the shade off in late afternoon and reinstall the next day by mid-morning until the hardier plants are established.
      Make sure chicken manure is well cured since it is so hot. I use horse manure that has rested for at least 6 months. For quick hits I use Alaska Fish fertilizer diluted in water. This week for transplants I’ve been using up leftovers, mixing bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal and green sand. For fall I will get a new bag of pre-mixed organic all-purpose, which is easier. Any compost you add should have a minimum of woody material, since the breakdown of the chips uses up all the available nitrogen.
      Good luck with starting over.
      Peter H.

  2. Carol Havens

    Thank you for the very good advice. Some seeds are coming up, which is incredibly heartening.

    I will warn you to be extremely careful about the bit of bindweed you saw near your garden. The danger is the ROOTS, which will travel 20 feet and cannot be killed by anything I know of. It thrives under black plastic. And the bits you pick need to go into the TRASH, not anywhere that might migrate to compost or ground. Take this as serious as poison that can grow and travel. Good luck!

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