Garlic bulbs are ready to be harvested when the leafy tops are mostly dry and some begin to fall over. Loosen one of the bulbs with a shovel, and gently pull it out of the ground. If it is fully formed with plump cloves, the other bulbs are ready as well.
Dig up the rest, shake off any loose excess soil, but don’t try to really clean them up at this point because it will be much easier and less damaging if they dry out first.
Lay the freshly harvested bulbs out on the garden bed to dry and rest in the sun for about a week. (If it is very hot in your area, put them in light or dappled shade.)
After this initial drying the garlic bulbs will be dry and skins will be papery. Now it is easy to dust off excess clinging soil, trim the roots back, and cut off the tops.
Next, lay the bulbs out in one layer in a cool, dry area with good air circulation out of the sun to cure for 2-3 more weeks. This period allows the bulbs to toughen up and be ready for storage.
For best results, store your well-cured garlic in a cool and dry place (50°- 60° F would be ideal) and don’t stack the heads over 4 inches deep. With good storage conditions, you can expect about 6 to 8 months for softneck garlic varieties and 3 to 4 months for hardneck garlics.
“Garlic keepers” made of terracotta or ceramic, or net/mesh bags allow some air circulation for garlic bulbs and work well to keep garlic for extended use.
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