Garlic is a member of the genus Allium that includes onions, shallots and scallions. It takes roughly four months from the time the tops start to grow until the plants are ready to harvest.
Many northern gardeners like to give their garlic a head start by planting it in the fall. Mulched heavily, the cloves spend the winter under the snow, directing their energy into early root development. Once the ground starts to warm in early spring, small green tops have usually started to appear through the mulch.
Garlic can also be planted as early in the spring as the soil can be worked, usually around February or March, but no later, since the plants require the full growing season to reach their maximum size before harvesting, which should occur sometime in August.
Garlic is harvested once the tops have completely died back and the bulbs are tight and have not started to separate. The easiest way to harvest garlic without tearing the tops from the bulbs is to slip a trowel under them and lift them from the soil. The garlic should then be placed out of direct sunlight to dry and cure before being stored in mesh bags, a process that can take several weeks, as the bulbs can be stored longer if they are completely dry.
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