The timing for harvesting garlic can be a little tricky. This post will help you understand when you should be harvesting garlic from your backyard garden.
Garlic is a relative new comer to our garden. We have been gardening for over 20 years, but 2017 represents only our 7th year of growing garlic. One of the most frustrating things for me when we first started was when to harvest. It’s hard to find a good description of when you should be harvesting garlic. So hopefully this will help you!
When should you be harvesting garlic
First off, for most of us that live in the north, mid July is when you will really start thinking about harvesting garlic. If you live further south your harvest time may be earlier. You know harvest time is approaching when you start to see the tips of the leaves starting to brown. I will usually wait for the first 2 or 3 leaves on the bottom of the plant to brown and wither. When this starts to happen, give your plants one more good watering and then stop watering for anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks before harvesting garlic.
Turning the water off on your plants does a couple of things. First it forces the bulbs to pull energy down from the leaves. Second it allows the soil to dry out. Mature garlic doesn’t like to sit in wet soil. This will effect the storage length of your garlic and can also promote rot. Let those last 2 or 3 weeks the bulbs are in the soil be a time for them to start the drying process.
Your garlic is ready to harvest when about half the leaves have dried up completely. That’s the trick! If you plant has 12 leaves, then when 6 are dried and wither it’s time to harvest. It really that simple!
Harvesting garlic is simple but you need to be gentle with the bulbs. Using a shovel or even better a digging fork, gently lift and loosen the soil around the bulbs. Then very gently pull the bulbs from the pre-loosened soil. All the time during harvest be careful not to tug on, bruise or damage the bulbs as this will shorten your storage life significantly.
Curing Your Garlic
Curing is the next step. Hang your garlic in small bunches or lay them out on a screen in a cool, airy, dark garden shed or garage. Be sure the spot you choose has lots of air circulation and the garlic is out of direct sun.
Curing takes around 2 to 3 weeks. Curing is complete when the outside layers are dry and papery and the cut stem is dry about 2 inches above the bulb.
I also did a video on curing garlic last year so you can learn more here:
Carefully clean any remaining dirt from the bulbs. Trim the roots to about 1/2 inch. Soft neck varieties can be braided as an attractive way to store them or you can cut the stems off to about 2 inches and store them loose in a mesh bag. A cool dark spot with temps between 50 and 60 degrees is ideal!
Hard neck varieties can store for up to 6 months. Soft neck varieties can store for up to a year under the right conditions.