Some of my garlic is ready to harvest. Do I wash clean them before I let them dry? And exactly how do I dry them? Thanks in advance!
Some wash them, some don't. I don't because with our humid weather it's harder to dry and cure them if they start off wet. Try to harvest them on a dry day and keep them out of the sun after you've dug them up.
I usually brush off any loose dirt clinging to the garlic bulb but don't worry about leaving dirt on at this point. It will dry and fall off mostly by itself. I try to pry off dirt clinging to the roots, partly to promote drying overall. I leave on the green tops, bundle them with 10-12 bulbs per bundle, and hang them in a shaded place to dry. I have a handy breezeway between the garage and house where I hang mine. It also has ceiling fan which I leave running on low. When I bundle them with twine, I leave a loop for hanging. They'll be hanging for about a month during which time the greens will turn yellow and dry. Once dry, I trim off the tops and roots and sort them by size. I keep the largest bulbs for planting later in the fall and put the rest in mesh bags which I store in a cool room in the basement. I usually put in a card or piece of paper with the variety name. I put the bulbs saved back for seed in paper bags, mark the bags with the variety name, and leave them in the breezeway. Later when it's time to plant, I'll use the largest cloves to plant and keep the rest in the kitchen for cooking. The trick is figure out how much you want to plant and save back enough bulbs for planting. If I find I'm a little short, then I check the garlic sites to see what varieties are still available.
That's an overview of how I usually handle them. Another method of drying is laying out the harvested plants on screens and stacking the screens but then you want to be sure that enough air gets to all the plants.
As for cleaning them, I usually do that after they are dry. By that time all the soil has dried and most of it will have fallen off. When I cut the tops off, I'll peel back the outside layer and that usually gives you a clean bulb. Sometimes I'll use a toothbrush on the root area after I've cut off the roots. You want to leave on as many layers as possible because that helps in protecting the bulbs for storage.
You get better at judging when to harvest, when to plant, and how to handle your plants with time and experience. Hope this helps.
Thank you so much for your advice. I came on here to ask this very question and someone beat me to it. I have just a few bulbs that were ready to pull, but the rest should be ready within the week. The first couple were kind of small, but I'm hoping that some of the others will be bigger. This is my first attempt at garlic, and it's been a lot of fun (of course, I think watching things grow is fun!) It makes my husband's eyes cross.
Thanks Alliyum. Great advice and such handy harvesting tips. Luckily I still have Shantili and Silver Whites in the garden. Now I'll be better advised on how to harvest them. The Lotus and Italina Red's were a bit abused with my crude harvesting and washing, luckiely they survived. Thank goodness we learn from our mistakes. tee hee
There's no better teacher than experience but even with experience, there's always more to learn. The first time I harvested my garlic, it wasn't very much the first couple of times, I waited too long, washed them off, dried them in a couple of wire baskets and then used them. After we'd used most of them I thought about planting for the next year's harvest and had no idea which bulbs were which variety. On top of that, we'd eaten most of the best seed cloves already. Live and learn. On the other hand, there's some real good information available from the garlic seed people, readily available on the internet which is very helpful. Good luck and enjoy your crop!