In the last few days I have been digging up all the garlic bulbs, in between almost daily rain showers. I started with the ‘early’ to mature varieties, like the Asiatic and Turban types (Uzbek, Shilla, Red Janice and Maiskij). The first thing I noticed was that the garlic was not liking the wet soil conditions. We had right at 9 inches of rain here in June, with much of it coming in the second half of the month. This was in sharp contrast to last year, when we had less than 2 inches in June.
Many of the outer wrappers of skin were just melting away in the wet soil, instead of drying out like they should. While garlic certainly likes a nice amount of moisture when it is sizing up in early spring, it does not like that much rain when it is trying to dry out before harvest! Some of the stalks were even trying to rot away, and I saw slugs crawling up more than one. I kept hoping the rains would stop, but in my experience hope is never a good gardening strategy so I finally gave up on the soil drying out in time for the garlic to mature like it would prefer. It was time to dig it up before it rotted in the ground.
I hang my garlic up in the basement to dry. Ideally you should cure it in a warm, dry place with air moving. The basement is the best place we have, all things considered. We have a dehumidifier down there, so it’s not a bad place to dry things. And it is warm, since the previous owners saw fit to put only one measly little heating and cooling register down there, no doubt because in another bit of madness they located the furnace and central air unit far away in the attic! But I digress. I will leave the garlic hanging for two or three weeks, until it has dried thoroughly. Then I will trim off the tops and roots, and weigh it for my records.
In general the garlic harvest looks pretty good so far. Some of the bulbs won’t keep very well, but most look to be in pretty good shape. I plan on making some pickled garlic with the worst of the bulbs. A couple of new varieties I planted last fall seem to have done well in their first year growing here. Pennsylvania Dutch is a porcelain type I am trying to see if it keeps better than Music, which I did not replant last year. And Russian Red is a popular rocambole type that joined the lineup. It made huge bulbs, and I am anxious to see how it tastes and keeps. Both of these came from the folks at We Grow Garlic, where I have gotten some lovely garlic stock in the last couple of years. They have an astonishing assortment of garlic varieties for sale.
I’ll be back when the garlic has cured for a proper recap on the 2013 harvest. I still have a few more bulbs to dig, and I hope to finish that tomorrow. By the looks of things, I’m sure we will have plenty of garlic to enjoy in the months to come!