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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

What Tools Work Best for Harvesting Garlic?

Updated: May 10

groeat farm.  harvest garlic with garlic fork
American Gothic Hardneck Garlic Harvest

What Tools Work Best for Harvesting Garlic?

The wind whispers secrets through the tall hardneck garlic plants, a symphony of rustling leaves and swaying garlic scapes. Beneath the watchful gaze of the farmhouse windows, a drama unfolds – the grand harvest of our hardneck garlic. Forget diamonds, forget gold, for the true bounty lies just below the sun-baked soil. Picture this: overalls dusted with golden earth, a pitchfork gripped like a farmer's scepter. Each gentle tickle of the soil feels like unearthing a forgotten chapter of our land's story. Browning leaves, their flags furled in surrender, mark the treasure's whereabouts. No brute force here, just the practiced dance of hand and earth, coaxing forth pearly HARDNECK bulbs like unearthed constellations. Gather this fragrant bounty in a sturdy basket, woven from willow whispers and sun-kissed dreams. Let it be your ark of pungent plenty, brimming with hardneck garlic bulbs fit for a harvest feast. Spread them open upon a shade-drenched deck, basking like rubies unearthed from the dragon's hoard. Watch as our celestial farmer, in shade, dries their skins to parchment, their flavors deepening with each golden kiss.


groeat farm montana hardneck garlic
Wicker Basket Full of Hardneck Garlic

Remember, patience is the farmer's truest weapon. No yanking like a hungry ogre, for garlic rewards gentle hands and curious hearts. This is a harvest symphony, not a barbarian raid. Each unearthed bulb a testament to the silent pact between seed and soil, farmer and sun. Feel the earth beneath your boots, the sun on your face, and the symphony of harvest in your ears. Unearth the garlic bounty, a gift from the land, a testament to our own resilience. And when the aroma fills your kitchen, remember – beneath your feet, a treasure waits, whispering tales of sun and soil, waiting to become the soul of your next culinary masterpiece.


Unearthing your bounty of hardneck garlic cloves requires the right tools for the job! Here's your arsenal:

  • Hand trowel: This trusty friend is perfect for small harvests or carefully maneuvering around established plants. It's lightweight and fantastic for delicate digging, but can tire your arms for larger patches.

  • Garden fork:  This multi-purpose champ loosens compacted soil with ease,  saving your back from strenuous work on bigger harvests.  Be mindful though, its tines can accidentally pierce precious bulbs, so wield it with care!

  • Potato fork: Designed for pronged perfection, this fork gently lifts bulbs with minimal soil disruption. It's a happy medium between the trowel and the garden fork,  but isn't as widely available as the other options.

  • Undercutter: You'll likely need a 30 HP tractor with a 3-point hitch to make this tool work.



Using a Garden Fork to Harvest Hardneck Garlic.

Grab a trusty garden fork (think trowel meets trident) and gently tickle the soil around your garlic guardians. These papery warriors won't resist a bit of playful prodding, revealing their pearly treasure trove within. As the sun dips low, casting long shadows across your garlic patch, it's time to unearth the rewards of your summer's work. Hardneck garlic, with its elegant necked scape, awaits, and your trusty garden fork becomes your harvest companion.


Grip the handle firmly, and with a smooth, steady motion, plunge the fork into the soil several inches away from the garlic stem. Imagine aiming for a point between the stem and the edge of the bulb, aiming perpendicular to the stalk. Feel the earth give way as the tines loosen the surrounding soil, gently coaxing the bulb closer to the surface. Avoid pushing the fork into the soil at an angle, as this could puncture the precious cloves. Instead, wiggle the fork slightly forward and backward, loosening the soil's grip without damaging the bulb. With a final, gentle upward pull, lift the garlic, celebrating the gleaming white treasure your efforts have unearthed. Repeat this dance of fork and soil, feeling the rhythm of the harvest settle into your muscles. Soon, your basket will brim with these earthy jewels, ready to grace your winter meals with their pungent magic. Remember, treat each bulb with the respect it deserves, for each one is a testament to your dedication and the earth's generosity.


To harvest hardneck garlic without a dance of disappointment, follow this rhythm:


Step 1: The Approach. Locate the stiff, leafy stalk of your garlic. Trace its line down to the ground, envisioning the bulb nestled beneath. Remember, you're not aiming for a direct bullseye, but rather a gentle sidestep.


Step 2: The Plunge. Hold your fork like a knight's lance, but with kindness instead of conquest in your heart. Thrust it into the soil perpendicular to the stem, six to eight inches away from the stalk. Let the fork's tines glide down, not pierce.


Step 3: The Lift. Imagine tickling the earth with your fork, coaxing the bulb closer. Gently wiggle the handle back and forth, feeling the soil loosen around the treasure. Then, with a steady pull, lift the fork and bulb together, like a proud parent introducing their child to the sun.


Step 4: The Release. Brush away the clinging earth, revealing the pearly white hardneck garlic bulb, a reward for your careful dance. Repeat the waltz for each bulb, savoring the earthy fragrance and the satisfaction of a harvest well-earned.


Vertical garden fork hardneck garlic harvest
Polar Bears Harvesting Hardneck Garlic GroEat Farm

But how do we know WHEN to harvest our hardneck garlic bulbs? Keep your eyes peeled for the telltale signs of garlic glory: browning leaves waving at the bottom of the stalks. That's your cue to unleash the plundering! Again, patience is key. No yanking like a grumpy goblin on a sugar crash – let the bulbs ease out gracefully. Harvesting hardneck garlic is a dance, not a duel. A gentle touch, a watchful eye, and a healthy dose of anticipation – that's the secret recipe for unearthing the most glorious garlic bounty your kitchen has ever seen.


Garlic Gold: Digging Deep with a Rustic Fork

The sun hangs low, casting long shadows across the rows of rustling green. Crisp autumn air nips at your cheeks, a welcome contrast to the heat of the midday sun. It's harvest time, and in this symphony of golden leaves and earthy scents, one note rings particularly potent: garlic. There's something undeniably evocative about garlic harvest. It's a scene straight out of an American Gothic painting, hands weathered by sun and soil, wielding a trusty garden fork like a knight's lance. This isn't mechanized, sterile agriculture; it's a primal dance between human and earth, a celebration of hard work and the bounty it brings.


And what a bounty garlic is! Each bulb, nestled snugly in the cool soil, is a treasure chest of pungent flavor, promising garlic-infused feasts and cozy winter evenings. But before these cloves grace your kitchen counter, there's the joy of the dig. The fork, that humble tool of cultivation, becomes your instrument of harvest. You plunge it into the earth, feeling the satisfying resistance give way as you gently pry up a bulb. Each unearthed treasure comes coated in the rich, crimson soil, a testament to its journey from seed to succulent clove.


There's a rhythm to this rustic ballet. Fork thrust, wiggle, lift, brush. The earthy clods fall away, revealing the pearly white bulbs, each one a testament to your care and the sun's alchemy. The air fills with the heady aroma of fresh garlic, an earthy perfume that lingers on your skin and clothes, a badge of honor from the harvest field.


As you gather your bounty, a sense of satisfaction washes over you. You've coaxed these little globes of flavor from the ground, nurtured them through sun and rain, and now they're yours to enjoy. They represent not just food, but the satisfaction of a job well done, the connection to the land, and the promise of delicious meals to come. So, this harvest season, embrace the American Gothic spirit. Grab your fork, head to your garden, and unearth the garlic gold that awaits. With each glistening bulb, you'll taste the earth's bounty, the sun's warmth, and the satisfaction of a harvest well-earned.


Remember:

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from the rough edges of the garlic bulbs and the damp soil.

  • Choose a dry day for harvesting to avoid mold and rot on the bulbs.

  • Gently brush off the excess soil, but don't wash the bulbs unless you plan to use them right away.

  • Store your garlic in a cool, dry place where it will keep for several months.


Undercutting Garlic with a Bed Lifter.



Undercutting Garlic with a Bed Lifter, Under Cutter connected to a Three-Point Hitch: Pros and Cons

Garlic harvest time can be a back-breaking affair. Bending all day to pry those pungent bulbs from the earth can leave even the most seasoned farmer feeling like a wilted sprout. Thankfully, the world of agricultural innovation has brought us the undercutter, a handy attachment that promises to revolutionize garlic harvesting. But before you hitch your wagon (or should I say, tractor) to this newfangled contraption, let's delve into the dirt of using an undercutter connected to a three-point tractor hitch for garlic harvesting.


What is an undercutter?

Picture a sturdy metal square, sharpened on the bottom edge, hitched to your trusty tractor's three-point hitch. As you chug through the field, this little square dives under the garlic rows, gently soil around the roots and loosening the soil around the bulbs. This not only makes hand-harvesting easier but also reduces the risk of bruising or damaging the precious cloves.


Pros of undercutting garlic:

  • Reduced labor: Ditch the backaches! Undercutting takes the grunt work out of garlic harvest, saving you time, energy, and potential chiropractic bills.

  • Gentle harvest: No more wrestling bulbs from the soil. Undercutting minimizes damage to the bulbs, though the garlic stalk may get damaged from the underside of the tractor.

  • Faster turnaround: Harvest your garlic field in a fraction of the time with the help of an undercutter, freeing you up for other tasks or simply allowing you to enjoy a well-deserved nap in the sun (garlic breath not included).

  • Scalability: Undercutters are ideal for larger garlic operations, allowing you to efficiently harvest more acres without breaking a sweat.


Cons of undercutting garlic:

  • Initial investment: Undercutters come with a price tag, and depending on the size and complexity of the attachment, the cost can be significant for smaller farms.

  • Learning curve: Operating an undercutter requires some practice to ensure proper depth and avoid accidentally slicing into the bulbs. Mistakes can be costly!

  • Soil conditions: Undercutters work best in loose, well-drained soil. Heavy clay or rocky soil might not be suitable for this method.

  • Potential root damage: While generally gentle, undercutting can still damage some garlic roots, potentially bending and wrecking the garlic stem near the bulb.


The verdict?

Whether undercutting is right for you depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you're a large-scale operation looking to streamline your harvest, an undercutter can be a game-changer. But for smaller farms with limited budgets or heavy soil, the traditional hand-harvesting method might still be the best option. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and consider taking a test drive with an undercutter before making the leap. Remember, happy garlic growers make happy garlic eaters (and vice versa). Bonus tip: If you're considering an undercutter, be sure to match it to the size and capabilities of your tractor. And always prioritize safety – wear proper gloves and clothing when operating machinery. Now, go forth and conquer that garlic harvest! Just maybe leave the backaches and callouses behind this time.


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GroEat Farm, LLC is a small, sustainable family farm located in Bozeman, Montana. We’re located in the beautiful Hyalite foothills, below the Gallatin Mountain Range. The hardneck varieties that grow at our farm (Ophioscorodon) flourish here, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range (comprised of Archean metamorphics, Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, and Eocene volcanics). Not only are the GroEat Hardneck garlic healthy and beautiful, the flavor’s are robust and delicate.






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