How Best to Harvest Garlic. A Professional Weighs In.


Picture of garlic that newly harvested
Readily harvested garlic

Are you curious about the best practices you need to emulate when it comes to harvesting garlic? Then you are the right place with excellent gardening tips. In this highly informative piece, we will share professional insights on all you need to know about harvesting garlic.

To know when your garlic is ready for harvest, look at the leaves. When you notice the leaves turn yellow or brown, it is time to harvest. We advise that you harvest the garlic before the leaves dry up completely. To be sure, you can try taking out a sample.

Considering the garlic you intend to harvest is deeply buried underground, the initial challenge is knowing when it is ready for harvest. The trick is in observation.

When ready, the garlic head is divided into plump cloves, and the outer skin covering the garlic has a paper-like nature, is thick and dry. You harvest garlic by carefully digging it up using a garden fork.

We encourage you to continue reading this piece for more information on how best to harvest your garlic. Let’s delve deeper into this:

“In the kingdom of spices, garlic is the king”

Michael Bassey Johnson

When To Harvest the Garlic in Your Garden

As mentioned earlier, timing is key when it comes to harvesting garlic. It will be so unfortunate to end up with garlic cloves that are too small or garlic that isn’t ready yet simply because you rushed into harvesting.

It is also discouraging to have cloves that are split apart because you waited too long before harvesting the garlic. So, what is the best way to tell that the garlic in your garden is ready? One quality of good gardeners is their commendable observation skills.

This skill is essential when knowing the right time to harvest your garlic. Reliable studies indicate that garlic matures while its leaves are still partially green. It is interesting to know that every leaf you see above the ground represents a protective layer wrapped around the bulb.

In a nutshell, therefore, a garlic plant that has five green leaves will have five layers of bulb wrappers. For you to know that your garlic is ready for harvest, observe the leaves. When you notice them starting to turn yellow, then your garlic is ready for harvest!

The yellowing indicates that the leaves are starting to die off, and growth has ceased. Often, the leaves begin to dry off from the bottom and proceed upwards. When you see this happening, don’t wait until all the leaves have died off before harvesting your garlic.

Why? You ask. Because the leaves have dried up, the garlic head will lack protective bulb wrappers. The consequence of this is that the cloves will separate. This will pose a huge challenge when it comes to storing the garlic.

Another additional trick for knowing when to harvest your garlic is keeping track of when you planted it. You can continue counting the days, referring to the time it takes for the garlic to be ready.

For instance, garlic planted during the fall season takes about eight months to mature. When you have a hunch that your garlic is ready, test this by digging out one bulb. If the garlic cloves are plump, the skin is papery, thick, and dry. Then your garlic is ready for harvesting.

Suppose you have elephant garlic. I also wrote you a detailed post on when to harvest elephant garlic. You can read it here.

Remember: A good sign that your garlic is ready for harvesting is when some leaves begin to dry up or turn yellow.

The Best Way to Harvest the Garlic in Your Garden

Now that you are certain that your garlic is ready for harvesting, it’s time to move to the next important step, harvesting it. You can totally relate to the fact that the temptation to pull your garlic off the ground is quite high.

But pause a little bit and continue reading this as we share with you the best technique on how you can harvest your garlic. Here’s how:

  • When harvesting garlic, gentleness is key. Harvest your garlic bulbs with utmost care. Pick a day that is dry enough. For starters, you will need to take some ample time to loosen the soil around each bulb.
  • To ensure you are not poking into the garlic bulbs, establish a considerable distance away from each plant. This way, you will be sure that you are digging into the soil and not directly aiming at the garlic bulbs.
  • The preferred tool to use in this process is a garden fork. What you need to do is carefully and gently dig out the garlic bulbs using the garden fork. You want to be careful not to spoil the roots that are holding the garlic.
  • The best practice is to dig out the garlic bulbs one after another. Remember not to pull up the garlic bulbs from the ground but focus on digging them out. After digging them out, hold them by the neck and place them aside.
  • Once the garlic bulbs are out of the soil, gently brush off the excess soil covering them. To do this, simply hold the harvested garlic with one hand and use your other hand to wipe away the dirt with care. Do not remove any roots or foliage before allowing them to dry.
  • Having harvested all the ready garlic you had in your farm, it’s time to get into the curing process. For this you will need to prepare a spot with good air circulation, some shade and ensure it is moisture-free.
  • You now have two options, you can either hang your garlic bulbs upside down using a string. Alternatively, you can create a DIY rack using wires and place your garlic on for the curing process. This can take approximately two weeks.
  • Keep checking on your garlic as the weeks go by to ensure it is totally dry. Once you are satisfied with its dry condition, you can proceed to store it.

Garlic is a crop that has numerous fantastic benefits. Gardeners can enjoy both commercial and health benefits from it. It is a known fact that garlic fetches some lucrative earnings in the market.

Additionally, it has many health benefits. From helping in supporting one’s immune function to lowering blood pressure and reducing blood clotting, garlic is so good for our bodies. For this reason, it is important to harvest it in the best way possible.

How Can You Store the Garlic You Have Harvested?

Store the garlic you have harvested in a cool and dry place after the curing process.

Having shown you the best way to harvest your garlic, we are compelled to share some tips on how to store the good garlic you have reaped from your garden. Remember, immediately after harvesting, you went into the curing process to prepare the garlic for storage.

From observation, you have seen that the garlic wrappers are papery and dry. You will also notice that the roots have become more rigid, and the cloves can be easily separated. And now that the garlic bulbs are properly cured get into the storage phase.

Start by trimming away any roots or leaves. To do this, you can use a pair of sharp scissors. Remove all the roots and top covering on the garlic. If you notice any dirty wrappers on top of your garlic, remove them too.

You will be left with some clean-looking garlic bulbs or a clove-like what you normally see at the garlic store. It’s time to prepare an ideal storage place.

You will need to find a cool, dry, and dark place to store your garlic bulbs. The temperatures can range from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When the word cool is mentioned, you are properly thinking of storing your garlic bulbs in the refrigerator; please don’t.

This is because this will cause the garlic to start actively growing again. Also, avoid storing your garlic in the basement if this place has a lot of moisture. To ensure there is adequate air circulation, store your garlic in mesh bags or a basket.

Did you know? The flavor of your garlic increases as the garlic bulbs get drier.

Once you get the storage bit right, you are certain you will have enough garlic to last you until the next harvest season. Consider that the amount of time your stored garlic can last depends on the variety.

Normally, soft neck varieties can be stored for a longer period than hard neck varieties. Soft neck varieties can last for 9 to 12 months. On the other hand, hard neck varieties will last for 4 to 6 months.

Also, remember to save up the best bulbs you got for re-planting. Look out for the largest and healthiest garlic heads you got for planting during the fall season before the ground freezes. This will ensure you have a garlic crop in the year that follows.

To see some visual instructions on how best to harvest your garlic, I have a video showing tips on growing garlic. Watch it below.

You might like to read a more detailed post I wrote on Harvest, Cure, And Store Garlic For Long Term Consumption

Conclusion on how best to harvest garlic. A professional weighs in.

We have shared a lot on how best you can harvest the garlic in your garden. We have also gone a step further to share some ideal storage ideas. Always make sure you harvest the garlic when it is ready and do it right.

To emphasize the best practices when harvesting garlic, let’s take a look at the dos and don’ts.

What to DoWhat to Avoid
Harvest the garlic when you notice the leaves starting to turn yellow or drying up  Don’t allow all the garlic leaves to dry up before harvesting your garlic.
Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around each garlic bulbDon’t pull the garlic out of the ground during harvesting.
Remove the garlic bulb gently out of the soil after digging it up by holding it on the neck.  Don’t wash the dirt out of your garlic bulbs.
Shake off the excess soil or brush it off after harvesting  Avoid piercing the garlic bulbs by loosening the soil from a considerable distance from the plant.
To cure the garlic bulbs after harvesting, hang them in a dry, airy place with some good shade.   
Store your garlic in a cool, dry place   

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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