We harvested our hardneck garlic over the weekend. This was my first time growing garlic and I found it easy and rewarding.
I ordered our bulbs from Territorial Seed Company and put them in the ground soon after they arrived in early October, after adding several loads of compost. We used our “backup” garden beds, as the main garden area was already planted in cover crop, due to lack of sufficient planning.
Planting is straightforward: simply break individual cloves from the full bulb head. Discard the teeny tiny ones since they won’t grow as robust plants as the larger ones will. Make sure to leave the papery husk on the cloves. Plant each clove about two to three inches deep with pointy tip up, about six inches apart from each other. I usually incorporate a complete organic fertilizer into the soil just before planting.
Once established, you should see stalks emerge and growth through the mild winters here in the Greater Seattle area. Things really take off in the spring, and you will see your hardneck garlic put up a seed stalk at the same time bulb formation begins. You should pinch off the emerging seed head as soon as you see this form; this will ultimately yield bigger bulbs.
Keep an eye on the garlic starting in early June. The leaves should start turning brown, a sign that the heads have segmented and formed bulbs with an exterior skin. If you can, stop irrigating and allow the soil to dry out and check the bulbs every few days to ensure they are ready. Do not try and yank the pants from the ground as that can damage your bulbs, instead use a spade or pitchfork to loosen the soil around and underneath and gently loosen the roots.
The next step is to dry the bulbs: I lay mine out for a few hours in the sun, gently shake of a bit more of the soil off, then move them to a a covered area that is protected from the rain (we use our barn) for another 3-4 days. After drying a bit, strip away some of the exterior leaves and the outer layer of paper skin to make clean-looking bulbs. Allow the bulbs to cure for another 2 weeks or until the tops have withered enough to braid or cut off. Store in a cool dry place and enjoy your harvest.