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How To Care For Hardneck Garlic in Spring & Summer Months

by on October 13, 2023
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If you’ve discovered this post then you’re likely staring at a gorgeous patch of garlic that is just starting to sprout in your garden. Exciting! And if this is not the case, then I encourage you to first go read my post 7 Easy Steps For Planting Hardneck Garlic In Cold Regions. This post will walk you through hardneck garlic care instructions from May-August or whenever you harvest that first head of delicious garlic.

Woman holding bundle of homegrown garlic bulbs

Hardneck Garlic Care Instructions For Early Spring

In the early Spring once the snow has melted, you can expect to see your garlic pushing its way above the mulch. This sometimes happens as early as April in my Zone 3 garden, depending on how much snow has melted.

As soon as sprouts appear, start watering and weeding your garlic patch.

How Much Should You Water Hardneck Garlic

Determine how much you should water your garlic based on:

1. How much snow you received over winter.

2. How warm Spring has been, and how much the sun is drying out your soil.

3. How much mulch you’ve applied (less mulch = more watering).

Should You Remove The Mulch On Your Garlic In The Spring

What kind of straw mulch to use in an organic garden

This is a common question I often get asked is. And the answer is….you don’t really need to remove the mulch at all!

You can keep your mulch over your garlic bed until you’re ready to harvest come late July-early August.

Mulch will retain moisture in your soil, helping to keep your garlic evenly watered. It will also gradually breakdown over the summer and feed your soil. 

Straw mulch especially becomes great nutrients for your garlic bulbs.

Now if you’ve applied a really heavy layer of mulch, then you can certainly remove a few inches of it to allow the sun to get through to the roots more easily. However, it’s really not necessary.

After watering, the next thing to think about in the Spring is fertilizing.

 When Should I Fertilize My Garlic Patch In The Spring

You likely already fertilized your garlic when you planted in the Fall. Now, you’ll want to fertilize once or twice more with a slow release fertilizer again.

I suggest using a liquid fertilizer that you can apply my mixing into a watering can. Sea Magic kelp-based fertilizer is our preferred brand.

Apply your first Spring feeding to your garlic patch once the chance of heavy snows and hard frosts has past.

For myself in Zone 3, this is usually around early to mid May. You can fertilize a second time if you’d like, however this must be before garlic scapes appear.

The tricky thing about garlic is that it’s a heavy feeder, but can suffer from over fertilization. So more is not better in this case.

What Month Do Garlic Scapes Appear From Hardneck Garlic

Garlic scape season is one of my fav times of the year! Of course, the exact “season” for garlic scapes varies based on your grow zone.

However, Northern gardeners can typically expect garlic scapes from early to mid July.

Garlic scapes are the tender stem that grow from the center of a hardneck garlic shoot. They curl and twist into tight circles.

They are tasty, unusual and an added bonus that comes with growing hardneck garlic. You basically get two harvest for the price of one plant! So definitely give your garlic scapes a try!

To harvest garlic scapes, simply cut the stem using a sharp pair of scissors or garden shears.

Try my recipe for Quick Marinaded Garlic Scapes with Miso Glaze!

quick marinaded garlic scapes recipe

Some garlic growers claim that removing the scapes actually supports larger bulb development. There’s not a lot of research to prove whether this is accurate.

But I wonder, why wouldn’t you remove your scapes? They’re delicious!

How Do I Properly Harvest Hardneck Garlic

When you to harvest your hardneck garlic is all dependant on when you planted your garlic.

It’s safe to say that garlic needs between 8-9 months of growing time before it’s ready to harvest. So, start by counting back to your planting date.

How Do I Know If My Garlic Is Ready To Harvest?

The first sign to look for that will indicate your garlic is ready to harvest is browning leaves.

The very cool thing about garlic leaves (also known as shoots) is that each one represents one potential papery wrapper around the bulb. The more layers of paper around your bulb, the longer it will store for. So, many shoots/leaves off one clove is a good sign!

You want the majority of the bottom leaves of your garlic (those closest to the soil) to be brown before you harvest.

About two thirds of the bottom leaves brown is a good rule of thumb. You want the top leaves to still be green. This represents the moisture in the bulb.

If you wait too long, your garlic will be dried out. If you harvest too early, your bulb will have too much moisture and won’t store well.

It’s all about finding that sweet spot. The best way to know if you’ve hit it is to simply harvest one bulb and see how it looks. If it is still small, wait to harvest the rest.

The 3 Best Tips For Properly Harvesting Hardneck Garlic

Harvest Tip 1: Loosen soil gently.

Your bulbs are delicate and you want to ensure the papery wrapper stays completely in tact to protect the bulb when curing. Grab the base of the stem closest to the soil and gently wiggle it back and forth a few times to begin loosening.

Harvest Tip 2: Don’t use sharp tools.

Use your hands to gently dig the soil away from the bulb. Sharp tools like a trowel or spay can easily pierce the bulb, which will cause it to quickly rot. You won’t be able to store a damaged bulb. Coax them out by moving them back and forth rather than pulling straight up.

Harvest Tip 3: Take your time.

Slow and steady is the way to go when harvesting. Trust me, it’s so worth it when you pull up a perfect bulb of homegrown garlic. Don’t rush!

The 3 Best Tips For Properly Curing Hardneck Garlic

Curing hardneck garlic in a greenhouse

Curing Tip 1: Either hang your garlic to dry or lay it on a rack/table in a space with lots of air flow.

You can get creative here! In the past I’ve simply used a wire shelf in our garage, but I’ve seen gardeners lay each bulb between the metal of a dog crate, which looks like a great solution too. This season I hung all our garlic in our greenhouse to cure, which looked gorgeous.

Curing Tip 2: Keep drying bulbs until all leaves have turned brown.

This typically takes one week to 10 days. If you’ve harvested your garlic early when more leaves are green, it may take slightly longer. This period is the curing process and is key in order to store your garlic for the next 4-6 months.

Curing Tip 3: Use a toothbrush or other soft bristle brush to gently clean bulbs.

Loosen away the remaining soil from the roots and paper wrapper. This will also help your garlic store for longer over the Winter.

Curing Tip 4: Store in a cool, dry place.

For some gardeners, this is a pantry or root cellar. For myself, I simply keep my garlic in the basement because it tends to be much cooler than the rest of our home. Any space away from direct sunlight and humidity works just fine and will keep your garlic for months!

Basket of cured hardneck garlic and flowers

And there you have it!

If you’ve read through this post as well as my other post covering 7 Easy Steps For Planting Hardneck Garlic In A Cold Region, then you can already consider yourself an expert on the topic!

The hard work is done, it’s time for you to enjoy your beautiful organic hardneck garlic harvest. Congratulations!

There’s nothing like the feeling of growing your own food.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions, I answer all comments and love hearing from you. Truly, it makes my day when a new comment comes in from a fellow passionate gardener.

You can also follow me on Tik Tok and Pinterest for more organic gardening content.

Happy garlic growing, my friends!

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Latest Comments

  1. October 16, 2023

    so thankful i began growing garlic a few years ago. one of those amazing crops where you buy once and put a few bulbs back in the ground each fall to give you garlic forever.

    — matt
  2. October 25, 2023

    Right?! It’s one of the best, hands-off crops in my opinion. And nothing like gifting a bulb of homegrown garlic as a hostess gift, my friends are always blown away by how juicy it is. Thanks for always commenting, Matt! I love hearing from you.

    — Maggie
  3. April 30, 2024

    Hi there,

    How do I know my garlic survived winter? I live in a Calgary, Alberta zone 3, it’s April 30, no signs of life. I checked under the soil and the bulb was solidly rooted, could not move it but it was sort of clear looking and no signs of growth coming out of the top? It’s a really cool spring so far 2024 and maybe that’s why? Any help would be wonderful, thank you!

    — Jamie
  4. May 21, 2024

    Hi, there’s still lots of time for garlic to come – patience! You can remove some of the mulch to provide more direct sunlight to the cloves. If you’ve had a dry spring, I’d also recommend watering. If you don’t see any sprouting by end of May then likely they have not survived Winter. Good luck!

    — Maggie