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Garlic and Onions - it's harvest time!

We wrote about our Solent Wights way back in January. If you missed that this is what we said then.

It was the second year we'd grown this variety. Sadly this year we didn't have as much time to tend our plot as we would have liked. In addition though to the garlic we also planted some Red Baron onions.

Now though is the time to harvest whatever it is we were lucky enough to have - and we know it won't be as good as last year......

This is what we did:

To recap we were luckier than we should have been and we had some success with the Red Baron onions and Solent Wight garlic that we planted up earlier in the year. We made sure that we’d weeded and prepared the soil correctly. We then planted the onion sets and garlic bulbs correctly – the right time of year to give the garlic a period of cold weather to get them going (after we planted them we had snow!) – we watered them both when they needed it and we did our best to weed them properly when they needed it.

The thing is though we didn’t get up to the plot anywhere near as often as we should have and those weeds took control. Onions and garlic don’t have large leaves that otherwise might have helped smother and control those weeds.

They were though both planted – again – far too close to one of our rhubarb crowns that when they got going did smother the weeds – and the onion and garlic as well. So much so that neither really got enough sun and those rhubarb leaves meant that humidity around the bulbs and sets was higher than it should have been – and that meant further problems for them.

One of the things to do over the winter is to move those crowns – probably next to the compost bins – where they’ll do well, but not overshadow anything else. Oh to have time and be better organised.

Anyway all wasn’t lost and although our harvest of both the Red Barons and Solent Wights won’t be as good as last year we do have some that we can use. So how did we harvest them?

Well let’s start with those Red Barons. Onions are ready to harvest when the foliage starts to turn yellow and topple over. If you planted your sets last September then this will be from July, and if like us you planted yours in the spring then it will be now - from late summer to early autumn. When my grandfather used to grow onions he used to bend over the foliage or gently lift the bulbs to break the roots. However this is no longer recommended.

What we did was lift the bulbs before the foliage completely died down. Then we placed them on a rack in full sun outdoors for about two weeks to ripen. When the foliage is dry and papery, the bulbs can be stored in a light, cool, dry place until we need them. If any are soft or damaged then we add them to the compost heap – it’s best to only store perfect, undamaged bulbs.

Now let’s look at that garlic. Well it’s surprisingly similar to those onions.

If you planted your garlic last autumn then they should have been harvested already! Early summer for those but if like us you planted yours in the spring then it’s now time!

Lift the bulbs with a fork once the foliage starts to fade and go yellow. Don’t leave it too long as the bulbs open up and won’t store as well if they’re lifted late. Handle them gently as bruising also reduces their storage potential.

Dry them off thoroughly in the sun in the same way we did the onions. Drying might take two to four weeks depending on the weather. Once the foliage is no longer moist you can cut the stalks and store bulbs in a dry place where further drying will take place.

And if you want to be really fancy why not try plaiting them like what we did!


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