When it comes down to growing garlic, knowing when to harvest the plants is probably the trickiest part of all. There are also several different key points in the life cycle where different parts of the plant can be harvested effectively. In order to really take your garlic growing to the next level and make many delicious dishes, one must understand the growth stages properly.
Days to Maturity
Days to maturity really depends on the type of garlic you are planting. Bulbs for example when grown from a clove can take about nine months from planting to fully maturing. If you happen to be in a region that works good for growing softneck varieties, you may plant in the spring time and be ready to harvest about three months down the road. However, in that case the cloves will be much smaller.
The fall is normally the best time to plant. Try to plant the cloves between three to eight weeks ahead of the first freeze. If you are able to plant in the fall, the softneck varieties can continue to grow all throughout the winter. The hardnecks will pretty much go dormant during the cold winter and wait for the spring to continue growing. However, the freeze is very crucial for larger and healthier plants. Depending on the region, both hardneck and softneck varieties that are planted in the fall time can be harvested in the upcoming spring or summer.
Gardeners, if they choose, can also grow from the seed, which is really a clove and not the same as “seed garlic”. Garlic seeds are produced in a bulbil when the plant is left to flower and are actual seeds of the plant. You should know that growing from seed actually takes much longer than growing from the clove. When they grow from the seeds, gardeners usually need to wait another additional year or even two before they can harvest.
Below are six major Garlic Growing Stages:
- Green or Spring Garlic
- Young Bulbs
- Mature Bulbs
- Flowering Stage
Review of the Major Garlic Growing Stages
Germination is the very first stage after you have planted a seed or when the seed sprouts. It normally takes the seed around one to two months to germinate. There should be tiny green fronds sticking up through the soil or mulch at this part of the stage.
Green or Spring Garlic
About seven months down the line, the plants will have long green leaves and will have grown quite a bit. At this stage, it is possible to harvest the plant if you want. You will be able to pull it right out of the ground.
However, if you happen to do this, you will see that the harvested clove that you harvest will not be completely matured and very often the bulb will not have grown into a recognizable shape. Due to being too fresh and the skin not yet dried, the spring garlic does not store as well as the matured ones. The best thing to do is eat or freeze them within a week after harvesting.
You should cut off the roots and the darker green leaves when using green garlic. Also, you can use the bulb as well as the white and pale green parts of the shoot. The dark green parts of the green garlic can be used in stocks.
Scapes should start to appear about another three to four weeks later. As they have a distinct curl to them, these small tendrils can be easily recognized. The scapes will eventually flower and go on to produce bulbils if they are left untrimmed. Depending on the individuals, many gardeners grow bulbils while others trim the scapes. When you leave the scapes untrimmed, it redirects the plant’s energy and produces seeds and flowers. The plants with their scapes untrimmed produce smaller bulbs and cloves.
Scapes are edible and also can be used the same way as cloves. Similar to green garlic, they also should be eaten or else frozen within a week.
About eight months after planting, young bulbs or some may say fresh garlic can be harvested. Unlike mature garlic, the young bulbs will be smaller and their skins not that dried out. But on the other hand, these young bulbs add a great flavor to dishes with their crisp juicy taste and texture.
While young bulbs can be chopped and frozen, they should be eaten within the first week or so.
Eventually in about nine months after planting, you can prepare to harvest the mature garlic bulbs. Once again, you can pull the entire plant straight out of the ground. At this stage, you will have large bulbs that are perfect for drying.
In order to cure the cloves, you need to lay them on a well-ventilated rack for about one to two weeks. Although the skin of the bulb will have already started to dry out in the soil, still this curing process will ensure that the mature bulbs will remain fresh and edible for a long period.
At the same time the mature bulb is ready to harvest, scapes left untrimmed will begin to straighten, forming flowers. This is actually a helpful indicator that all the plants are ready for harvesting. Therefore, you should leave a scape or two amongst the plants untrimmed.
There are many gardeners who let some or sometimes all of their garlic to flower. The flowers themselves add an attraction to the garden and also produce seeds.
Many varieties will end up dying back after they have flowered if they are left in the ground. But, most varieties will regrow underground from the bulbs the following year. Although these bulbs will be a lot smaller than the usual when harvested, they will however have an excellent flavor.
Even though growing garlic is not very complicated, harvesting on the other hand can be somewhat confusing. Fortunately, most of the plant is edible and you can eat them at different stages. Practice makes perfect and once you get a feel for a garlic plant’s life cycle, harvesting will become like second nature to you. Also, you will have the benefit of having delicious garlic all throughout the year.
Garlic Quick Growing Tips
- Plant the garlic in spring, just about 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost date.
- Garlic planted in the Fall should be set in the ground in mid-October; if you are in a very cold winter region, then plant a couple of weeks earlier; in mild-winter regions, plant a couple weeks later.
- Garlic planted in the Fall should be in the ground 6 to 8 weeks before the first expected frost.
No matter where you decide to plant, you should keep in mind that during its first two months of growth, garlic requires cool temperatures of 32° to 50°F (0-10°C). In order to establish its extensive root system, cool temperature at the time of planting is extremely important for the garlic . Feel free to comment your thought on Garlic growing stages.