If you have nurtured a garlic plant through the various climates in Australia that make it easy to grow fantastic garlic, you probably want to know the best time to harvest.
Here are answers to some common questions around harvesting garlic in Australia.
You’ll find your plants are ready for harvest towards the end of spring and into summer, about 7-8 months after they are planted. You will notice around spring, that the leaves will tinge brown, and if you have any flowers present, the green stems will change texture and become softer.
Don’t worry, you can just take some of the soil away from the bulbs and check the cloves. If they are defined clearly, the leaves have browned and the bulbs are a good size, you can harvest the garlic bulbs.
Don’t leave harvesting your garden until the green leaves die back completely as with onions, because by this time the bulbs will have started to split. Once the white bulbs have split, they are still fine to eat, but won’t store for long. So eat these ones first.
No, they really shouldn’t be. Leaving the green leaves to totally die backs leaves the bulbs liable to splitting. The purple garlic cloves are edible but they won’t store for as long as they would if they hadn’t split.
If the plant has curly flower stems, a straightening of that stem tells you that variety is ready for harvest. The problem is, you usually have to take those flowers off before this stage of growth if you want plumper cloves. If you have done this, stick with checking the cloves using the method mentioned above.
You can eat garlic straight from the ground. However, you can keep it for over a year using the right conditions, producing a stock of garlic ready to eat whenever you want to enhance your food with the goodness of your homegrown cloves.
The general rule for when to plant garlic in Australia is: plant on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day. So, whenever it is coldest for you, in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Tasmania, or any other region North or South, the coldest part of winter is the right time for planting your garlic. About 17-25 weeks later when it has grown it should be ready for harvest and full of flavour.
If you are looking at planting garlic in water, you’ll need a hydroponic setup. This handy video shows you more about growing the plant with water this way.
Alternatively a hydroponic system is not for you, you can grow scapes which can be harvested. You simply place the roots of the bulb at the base of a shot glass, allow shoots to form from the top, then harvest them for cooking. Just be careful not to submerge the cloves in water completely as you could rot the plant.
You hang the plant by its stems using a cool, dry, ventilated space. You can do the same on a drying track if hanging isn’t for you. After up to 4 weeks the plants will be cured. You can then plait the dried stems and gently remove any soil, trimming the roots to about half an inch. This enables you to hang anywhere you like until you need it. Alternatively, you can cut the stems down for different types of storage. When dried like this softneck garlic and hardneck garlic can last a very long time.
Hopefully you’re already feeling much more confident about your plant cultivation after reading our handy Q&A’s. Soon enough you’ll be growing and harvesting gorgeous food to use in delicious recipes for the family all year round.