Pulling Garlic

I planted inchelium red garlic last fall. In addition to growing underground bulbs this summer, it grew little bulbs above ground inside the stalk, about 2″ above the soil line. Is it supposed to do that? My Music garlic has never gotten these – just the normal scapes that I trim off. Also, when is the recommended time to harvest garlic in WI? I’ve seen “one dry leaf”, “three dry leaves”, “whole plant dry”. Conflicting information! Do I harvest too early at 2 dry leaves? The garlic cloves are kinda wet when first harvested.  -C.


Dear C.,

Thank you for the questions regarding garlic.

I’ve never heard of garlic growing little bulbs like that – do you have a picture that you could email me?  The only thing I could think of is that something with this summer’s cool conditions have altered the growth and development of the plant.  I grew Inchelium Red too this year, but did not have anything like that on mine.

Preparation for harvest begins as soon as you remove your scapes.  After the first part of June, stop watering the plants (unless is it a very dry year) to allow the bulbs to mature.

As for the harvesting, I harvest mine when they flop over – not like an onion where it is just completely on the ground, but when it starts to lean oddly (like suddenly being parallel to the ground).  This usually occurs at 2-5 leaves dried.    The thing is that harvesting can be a bit tricky – if you dig them too early, your bulbs will be a bit immature and not store well; if you are too late you will lose a number of the dried layers around the cloves.

When harvesting, you are going to want to pick a dry day.  When digging the bulbs, you are going to want to be very careful as even the slightest amount of bruising to the cloves will cause early decay.  I dig mine with a potato fork.  You want to get the bulbs out of the sun as quickly as possible.  If you have a heavier clay soil, you can briefly wash off the soil but do not get them well-soaked.  Trim the roots to ¼ inch and remove any soil that adheres to the remaining roots.

From here, the garlic will require about 2 weeks of curing time.  It can be hung in bundles (10-12 bulbs) or place on racks in an airy, dry area out of direct sunlight.  If you wish to braid it, do so initially as dried stems will break when trying to braid it.

Depending on the varieties you plant, harvest should be done between the first portion of July and the middle of August.




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