cleaning and trimming garlic roots

wolverine1012July 2, 2014

I began my garlic harvest today and am wondering about the pros and cons of trimming the roots before drying. I know not to trim the tops until the garlic has thoroughly cured, but what about the roots?

My soil is on the heavy side and all the rain has made the clay sticky and allowed it to ball up around the roots. My thought is that if I could remove a lot of the dirt, air could circulate better and the garlic would dry quicker.

I have tried pulling at the sticky clay but I find that I am damaging the bulb where it is held.

So, to trim or not to trim?

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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

I know most will cringe at this and may have better suggestions for you....but it is what I do with the garlic I grow in heavy clay soil that sounds like yours. I dig it out and then....gasp... hose it off. I try to only spray the clay caked bulb and roots and avoid the stem and leaves. If I didn't do this, some of the garlic would be so caked in mud/clay that you could not even see it. And it would not brush off when wet or after drying. In fact when dried it would be so hard I might need to crack the garlic out of it with a hammer. Sometimes we wonder how anything can grow in some areas of our garden, yet most things do. After spraying the clay off I set the garlic on a outdoor rack to dry in a spot with a good breeze. When dry it is hung in small bunches in a warm, dry garage to cure. Makes a great decoration on the bicycle handles! I've kept bulbs for several months with no problems. If you have really heavy clay that sticks to your garlic this may be the way to go, especially if you are not dealing with large amounts.

I've also grown garlic in sandy loam and would prefer doing that if I had a choice....but just because it is easier soil to work with all around, not because of storage issues with my clay grown garlic.

And meanwhile, I'll keep working on upping the organic content of our clay and getting something that actually looks like real soil :)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:07PM
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naturegirl_2007: I hear you on that.. Sometimes you just got to do what you got to do...

We have clay soil here also, unless you grow in pots, which I also do. I harvested my artichoke garlic last week but I couldn't get the clay out of the roots so I sprayed the clay off with water... I didn't wet the leaves or neck, just the roots. The whole time I had a voice in my head saying, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" They actually came out fine and are now tinder dry...

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 12:13AM
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Thanks for the responses, folks. So far it seems as if water is not the evil that I thought it would be. I've got about 500 plants, so anything I do takes quite a while.

I made some wooden frames (about 2' by 2') and covered them with hardware cloth. I can stack them about 6 high, and with spacers in between, get good airflow. Garlic, onions, and then potatoes go into the boxes to cure after I have gotten what dirt I can off.

Yesterday was rather hot and humid and I learned something. I dug a section and brought the plants up to the house in the wheelbarrow. My rest break inside lasted longer than I planned (was enjoying the cool and posting on GW) and when I returned to finish putting my harvest into the boxes on the porch (before the afternoon rain) I discovered that letting them sit allowed the dirt to dry somewhat and the residue crumbled off quire easily.

I don't like to handle things twice and normally goes right from the garden to the curing boxes but now will take a little longer with that glass of iced tea and, as a bonus, will find my task much easier.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:10AM
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Last year I had to rinse off some of my garlic because there was no choice but to pull it from wet soil (rain, rain rain). The bulbs cured and stored way better than I thought they would.

Ideally, I like to dry the garlic for a week before trimming off the roots and part of the tops. I use a bamboo food skewer (like a giant toothpick) to tease out any dried clumps of soil that are close to the basal plate.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 8:24AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

I hose my garlic off after harvesting as well. The garlic is still green just after harvesting and I feel that hosing it off is similar to it getting rained on while in the ground. As long as it dries quickly and doesn't remain wet I don't see how it can be a problem (and I've never had a problem with storage). It's not like it was dried then got re-wet.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:25AM
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still_kris(z17 NoCA)

Yes, hose it off. No reason to leave it dirty and carrying organisms which might cause rot or spread virus to your or others' soils.

I used to remove all roots, but learned that leaving some roots on helps to dissipate moisture so I trim off most, but currently leave 1" to 2" of root on.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:51AM
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