It took seven months to grow but only three minutes to plait this garlic…I wonder how long it will take to eat it all?
Turning your home-grown garlic into a beautiful plait to hang in your kitchen or to give as a present to friends or family is very satisfying and not that difficult once you know how.
When your garlic is ready (see Knowing when to harvest your garlic) and it’s out of the ground, it’s best to let it dry somewhere for a couple of weeks in a spot out of the weather with good airflow to prevent your garlic going mouldy (which can happen if you plait it while the leaves are still fresh and green); a covered veranda or carport is ideal. Once it’s fairly dry, but not so brittle that the leaves break off, it’s time to clean it before plaiting.
A cleaned bulb on the left
To clean my garlic I cut the roots off with some scissors and with a soft brush remove any dry soil that may be on the garlic. With some varieties of garlic it is sometimes possible to gently rub the outermost papery layer off with your fingers, however make sure you don’t peel off more than one layer as the dry skin surrounding your garlic bulbs help them store for longer.
Now you are ready to plait…in the video below I show how easy it is to do it!
Growing your own garlic is not difficult but does require a bit of patience as the time from planting till harvesting can take 7-8 months. If you harvest garlic too early, you are left with very small cloves that are frustrating to peel, harvest too late and your cloves will have burst apart making your bulbs look unattractive and you will also have reduced your garlic’s storage life. In order to know when the right time to harvest your garlic is, you need to understand a little bit about the growth stages of garlic.
Garlic growing in mid-October. The weather is warming up, days are getting longer and bulbs are growing.
In Melbourne garlic is best planted in early Autumn (April-May). Planting at this time ensures that your garlic puts on lots of growth before turning its energies into forming bulbs. Once bulb formation is triggered by increasing day length and higher soil and air temperature, leaf growth stops. Garlic that is planted too late in the season won’t have enough leaf growth to support the formation of large bulbs. Temperatures above 33ºC signal the end of bulb growth and the start of drying off, this process is irreversible, so early, unseasonably high temperatures can sometimes result in a disappointing garlic crop, especially for gardeners in warmer climates as garlic bulbs can double in size during the last month of their growth.
The ninth leaf from the top is starting to brown…still a while till harvest time.
Your garlic is ready to harvest when the sixth leaf (counting from the top of your plant) starts to brown off and there are therefore only five green leaves left on the top of your garlic plant. Each green leaf corresponds to a layer of protective skin that will cover your garlic bulb after harvest and is required for the optimum storage life of your garlic.
If you are growing a hardneck variety of garlic you will find flower stems (scapes) developing from your garlic plants during the last months of growth. It is best to harvest these on a regular basis (by pulling them carefully from the centre of your garlic plant) so that they don’t take the energy out of the garlic bulbs that are forming. Scapes can be chopped up and used as a garlic substitute in many dishes.
Garlic scapes ready for harvesting.
For more information on growing garlic visit my blog article: How to grow garlic