It seems as if it was only a few weeks ago that we trimmed the scapes off the growing garlic. Removing the scapes, or bloom buds from the garlic, allowed the plant to use its energy to create larger bulbs, rather than use it to produce flowers.

Those fresh, garlicy scapes got used up quickly, chopped finely and added to salad and pasta recipes for example. Sauteed to enhance vegetable dishes and casseroles, nothing compares to fresh green garlic scapes. But now our garlic crops should be ready for harvest. You’ll know when it’s time when the foliage begins to brown up a bit.

I say “a bit,” because it is important to harvest the garlic long before all the foliage turns brown. The garlic foliage should be mostly green. If you wait until it is entirely brown, it is quite possible that you’ll not be able to locate all the bulbs.

I like to use a stout digging fork to dig down deep and loosen the soil enough so the whole plant can be lifted out. Shake off the dirt and wash the heads well. Do not trim off the foliage. Let the garlic drain, and then using two stout sticks or stakes, place the heads along one of the sticks, and place the second stick or stake on top.

Then, tie the ends together, in the middle too, to keep the heads captive between the two. Next, hang the rack of garlic to cure in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, until the foliage turns brown and dry.

When the garlic is cured, trim off foliage and trim roots. Store in a cool, dry location. Or you can braid the garlic when the foliage is still green. After braiding, hang the garlic in a cool and dry location out of direct sunlight. Your garlic can be used now or kept for use over the coming months.

Select and set aside the biggest heads to use for next year’s crop. Garlic will produce nice, big heads in loose, fertile soil. To avoid disease problems, it is recommended that you do not plant garlic in the same spot two years running. Planting garlic is best done in early fall, late September is ideal.

Dig a trench about five or six inches deep along the row where you want your garlic to grow. Select a well-drained area with plenty of full sun exposure. Inadequate drainage can result in rot or facilitate disease. I like to use a thick sprinkling of finely broken egg shells laid down along the planting trench. This supplies extra nutrients and even provides a bit of drainage as well. Or you can spread a line of a slow-release organic fertilizer or use a pulverized dried seaweed supplement.

Next, separate the heads into individual cloves. Place the cloves about five inches apart in the bottom of the trench with the pointed ends up. New growth will emerge from that pointed end and by pointing them upward it facilitates growth of the cloves which will eventually form multi-clove garlic heads.

Cover the trough with soil. And then on top of that, lay down a thick mat of hay or straw at least three inches thick. The mulch will moderate soil temperatures to prevent freezing and thawing as the seasons progress, will keep the garlic bed moist and help keep weeds down. You should start seeing some growth in the early spring.

If there is inadequate rainfall, like we had this spring in May and early June, you may need to water the bed. Water it deeply every other week or so as needed to assist the growth of bigger garlic bulbs. Then in June when the scapes, or bloom spikes, emerge — cut them to allow the bulbs to develop.

Most hardneck garlic varieties will last from harvest to harvest providing you with plenty of garlic for cooking until your next harvest. Garlic can be used as soon as it is harvested or stored in a cool, dry place until needed.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.