It can be tricky to know when to harvest Garlic. The risk is you cannot plant the garlic back if you harvest it too early. Hence it is the most common question of American home gardeners while growing garlic.
In general, when almost half of the leaves have dried out and half of the leaves are still green, you should be ready to harvest your garlic.
Luckily there are signs that you can notice and judge whether it is the right time to harvest garlic.
The most common sign of harvesting garlic lies in the leaves. Their condition, density, and color have all the secrets of garlic harvest timing.
How to Tell When to Harvest Garlic?
Unfortunately, the garlic heads are underground and there is no way to peep inside and check, or is there?
Also, we know the timing to harvest is crucial. Thankfully the leaves have all the indications of harvest timing. Unlike other vegetables which are harvested when leaves are still green, garlic does not fit into this category.
Below are some tips and tricks to harvesting your garlic at the right time by just looking at the leaves!
Sign 1 – Color of Leaves
Leaf color remains the most efficient and reliable way of knowing when to harvest your garlic. The right time to harvest garlic is when the leaves are brown and dried up. As a general rule, there should be an equal amount of brown dried leaves and green live leaves.
If you wait for all of the leaves to turn dry, it could be too late. And if you harvest late, garlic heads may split open and may become unusable as they become infected or damaged.
Sign 2 – Number of Leaves
Each leaf signifies a layer that encloses the garlic bulb and fewer leaves are better. When almost half the leaves are dry and half are still green, it is a good time to start harvesting your garlic bulbs.
If there are still too many leaves (10 or more) do not harvest the bulbs in haste. Wait till a few leaves turn dry and the layers around the garlic also decrease.
Sign 3 – Growing Time
If you plant your garlic in the fall you can get a slight idea of which month to harvest the garlic. 8 to 9 months from the month of planting acts as a guide on when to harvest garlic on time. So keep track of time!
Should I Continue Watering the Garlic till Harvest?
This is a common concern for garlic growers. When should watering be ceased, and should it even be completely stopped?
You should keep watering your garlic even in spring despite the leaves becoming dry and brown.
You can stop watering when half or three-quarters of your garlic leaves show complete signs of being ready for harvest. That means, the number of brown leaves should be proportionate to the number of green leaves.
Stop watering the soil at this point to let the soil dry completely and reduce the chances of bulbs becoming saturated with moisture and rotting.
Another reason why to let the soil dry at this point is to facilitate fast and simple harvesting of the garlic bulbs due to the crumbly texture of dry soil.
Garlic Harvesting Timetable
For many first-time garlic growers in the USA, growing garlic is the easy part. But much confusion exists about when to harvest your garlic crop.
You probably planted your garlic somewhere in the fall which has differing months in different zones in America.
Generally, that is correct! But if you live in sunny warm zones or have chosen a different garlic variant to plant the timing is different. For this reason, there is no fixed time stamp on when to harvest garlic.
Garlic is a slow-growing vegetable that takes time to mature before it is ready to be harvested. That said, you can expect this period to be longer.
The garlic harvest period usually lasts a few months and timing is actually crucial.
Harvest them too early and they will not grow to maturity. Harvest them too late and the garlic head can split, therefore leaving your garlic cloves exposed.
Harvesting Garlic – Testing
Timing when to harvest garlic is the trickiest as well as the most rewarding! A week too early or too late could spell disaster for the garlic! The best way to avoid such a situation is to be safe and not sorry.
To be right on time, we suggest you be a ‘tester’. This is simply checking up on your batch of garlic plants by assessing a single garlic plant.
Pick any plant out of the batch and loosen the soil around it without digging the entire bulb out.
A garlic bulb ready for harvest must be moderate to large in size and should have firm and tight papery wrapping. The individual cloves should be well-visible.
If this is not the case, use soil to cover the bulb again, evidently, it requires more time to mature.
How to Harvest an Entire Garlic Batch?
Delicate harvesting is required to ensure the safety and usability of the garlic bulbs.
- Start by digging using a trowel or spade and loosen the soil surrounding the garlic bulb.
- Grab the thickest part of the stem (neck) and pull gently to remove the entire plant.
- Dust off the soil without removing or damaging the outer garlic covering.
- Remove the roots to keep the plant tidy and manageable.
- Leave the garlic in the shade or a dark dry place away from possible pest or moisture damage.
What to do After Harvesting Garlic?
Now that the garlic is harvested, you can even start using it immediately. Look at the garlic you have harvested and try to use garlic heads that have sustained some damage to their skin as these are most vulnerable to rot with time.
Once you have opened a garlic clove, make sure to use the cloves within a week. This is simply because there is a greater risk of it becoming rotten or losing its pristine quality.
Set aside a few largest garlic heads so that you can plant them next fall to harvest better quality garlic.
Curing garlic requires them to dehydrate and remove most of the moisture they contain, especially in the outer layers. Leave the stalks and roots on the bulbs while they cure.
Curing is done to help your stored garlic last for months without undergoing a reduction of quality and properties.
Curing is a preservation method that helps to guard your garlic harvest against mold and moisture. In some instances, few garlic farmers have stated that curing helps to improve the flavor of garlic as well!
This is true because the garlic bulb continues to draw energy and minerals for maturation from the leaves. Additionally, keeping the leaves attached to the garlic bulb can deter fungus and other degenerative contaminants collected from the soil.
Different Garlic Varieties and Their Harvest Times
Do not be in a rush to harvest your garlic as you may experience a gap of 6 to 8 weeks in the ideal harvesting time for different types of garlic.
Based on the garlic variant, here are some harvesting times you may refer to.
- Asiatic and Turban garlic is usually the earliest maturing garlic and can be harvested as early as May to June.
- Artichoke, Rocambole, and Creole garlic are harvested from June to July.
- Purple Stripe and Marbled Purple Stripe are July harvests.
- Porcelain and Silverskin garlic which is more popular is harvested between July and August
Conditions that may affect the time when you should gather your garlic include:
- Soil types
- Garlic variant
- Watering routine
Garlic Harvesting Do’s
- Do a trial harvest with just a single plant, this will help you to harvest the whole bunch at the right time.
- Do store your garlic in a dark and dry storage place. This will protect your garlic against two destructive elements: sunlight and water. Both have the ability to degrade your garlic heads.
Garlic Harvesting Don’ts
- Do not wash your garlic after harvesting and during curing. Water and moisture are the fastest way to make garlic rot!
- Do not cut off the leaves and roots immediately, chop them off when the garlic is mostly dehydrated.
- Do not keep them in the sun. Garlic can be affected by extreme heat and it may lead to decreased flavor.
- When curing or storing, avoid stacking the garlic on top of each other. This leads to decay and possible accumulation of moisture in the bottom batch of garlic.
- Do not leave damaged garlic exposed to other healthy garlic. This can lead to all the other garlic being vulnerable to infection.
- Do not water your garlic plants until the date of harvesting. The garlic needs to dry and so does the soil. Wet soil will complicate harvesting and can affect the physical properties of the garlic head.
FAQs of When to Harvest Garlic
Giving your garlic a few days is fine, but giving them too much time can dry out the garlic heads too much. As a result, the garlic head might explode leaving you with unusable garlic.
Garlic is a vegetable that needs the full 8 to 9 months to mature and form healthy garlic heads. If you harvest them too early, it is likely that the garlic bulbs will be under-developed and unusable.
While harvesting your garlic it is common to forget a few or perhaps the stems break away from the bulb. This is no problem since these heads will sprout to form a harvestable garlic plant the following year!
Yes, this garlic can be consumed and added to your food immediately for a taste upgrade! Freshly harvested garlic is best consumed cooked in food.
To store garlic for long-term use, you must complete the curing procedure to ensure maximum longevity and more time to enjoy its flavor.
You can easily store garlic by neatly braiding its stems and hanging them in a dry dark place like a basement or cellar. You can also trim the braids, remove a few wrappers and place them in a mesh bag as long as they remain dry.