Harvesting Garlic

comments (27) July 22nd, 2009

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, member
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Freshly dug garlic can be used straight from the garden, but if you let it dry slowly in the shade, it will last for several months.
Garlic tied into bunches hangs from the ceiling beams until needed in the kitchen.
So many garlic varieties, so little garden space.
Freshly dug garlic can be used straight from the garden, but if you let it dry slowly in the shade, it will last for several months.Click To Enlarge

Freshly dug garlic can be used straight from the garden, but if you let it dry slowly in the shade, it will last for several months.

Photo: Ruth Dobsevage

The appearance of garlic scapes is a sign that the harvest is just a couple of weeks away, and you want to make sure that you do it at the right time. Too soon, and the bulbs will be undersized, with a thin outer covering; too late, and the bulbs will have started to break open. Garlic that is harvested too late won’t keep well.

Pay attention to your garlic patch as the plants start to turn brown—in my garden (southwestern Connecticut), this is usually the second or third week in July. I like to harvest when the plants are half green and half brown, but opinions vary on optimal harvest timing.

Garlic bed

Above,  a happy garlic bed in early July. The scapes have been cut off, and the bulbs underground are ripening. At right, the tops have started to turn brown, a sign that the plants are almost ready to harvest.
  Garlic plants almost ready to harvest
This year, I harvested a little earlier than optimum because it was a Sunday, and the weather was perfect, and I had the time to do it. With the work week coming and rain in the forecast for the next several days, I didn't want to wait. 

I dug each bulb with a space, keeping it a couple of inches away from the plant, and shook the loose soil from the roots. Next, I spread the newly dug garlic out to dry in a shady, well-ventilated spot so the exterior of the bulbs would dry. Later that afternoon, I brushed off the loose soil with a whisk broom. Now the plants are drying further inside the house, draped over a clothes-drying rack near an open window.

Air-drying garlic

Garlic fresh out of the ground needs a shady spot to dry. Above, a slatted wood pallet propped up on firewood serves as a rack. After a few hours, the soil on the bulbs, right, can be brushed off with a whisk broom.
  Air-drying garlic #2
  Curing garlic
After a couple of weeks, when the stems have lost all moisture, I trim the roots and tie the plants into bunches, with seven or so plants per bunch. Then I hang them from the ceiling beams to cure further. The garlic looks good there, and it's convenient to the kitchen. When I need some, I just clip off a bulb.

Garlic can be used fresh, or anytime during the curing process. If I don’t use it up first, my cured garlic lasts at least until January.

Save the biggest bulbs for replanting
It's always a temptation to take the biggest bulbs straight to the kitchen, but that temptation should be resisted. Save your best bulbs for replanting in the fall. If you are growing several varieties, save some of each.

If you'd like to try growing garlic this fall, check out the gorgeous varieties available here:
Seed Savers Exchange
Gourmet Garlic Gardens

Garlic bulbs

Making the most of garlic Get more info on garlic:

Video: How to Plant and Grow Garlic
Garlic as an Herbal Medicine
Making the Most of Garlic 
Using Baby Garlic (Green Garlic) 
• Garlic Scapes 
• Grow Your Own Garlic
• Cheap and Easy Winter Greens
• Plant Garlic as a Fall Crop
• Garlic Bulb Types

posted in: garlic

Comments (27)

tonyscott88 writes: Garlic is very useful.
Posted: 12:16 am on November 1st
markfreeman87 writes: Mervelous
Posted: 4:35 am on October 21st
stephenstone15 writes: I appreciate to your work
Posted: 3:37 am on October 18th
rubenrush34 writes: Excellent
Posted: 2:30 am on October 12th
Ednajooper writes: i like to eat garlic
Posted: 4:34 am on September 15th
wiseharvey writes: Superb
Posted: 1:10 am on August 26th
fredlane10 writes: i like fresh onion
Posted: 11:26 pm on June 22nd
youngrichard12 writes: Thank you for posting about garlic harvesting.
Posted: 5:11 pm on January 18th
taylorhenderson writes: Garlic is good for health and you provide great information about garlic thanks for sharing..
Posted: 6:08 am on October 30th
Nathan_Burris writes: Cool....
Posted: 8:57 am on October 27th
Emily_Rose writes: Beautiful....
Posted: 3:09 am on October 27th
CharlesFrasor writes: Great one growing
Posted: 6:02 am on October 26th
SteafenRoid writes: Great growing
Posted: 12:56 am on October 26th
RandFish writes: Its Really hard work
Posted: 2:58 am on October 23rd
LewisGrey writes: very inspiring!

Posted: 3:08 am on October 22nd
BenjaimWelch writes: Great farming
Posted: 2:41 am on October 22nd
KodecRex writes: Its fanastic a
Posted: 2:01 am on October 22nd
Harbinger1 writes: impressive work
Posted: 4:15 am on March 23rd
Ruth writes: ktmusher, see http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/5881/garlic-scapes
Posted: 9:39 am on June 20th
ktmusher writes: Last fall (I'm in Illinois) was the first time I planted garlic. It came up this year and now I'm not sure when & how to harvest it. What are "scapes" exactly?
Posted: 8:44 am on June 20th
Rhea39 writes: actually, they were transplanted into 1 pt pots.
Posted: 1:09 pm on May 31st
Rhea39 writes: I grew garlic in my greenhouse and once they sprouted, I transplanted them to 2" pots-I watered them frequently but some never bulbed at all and the ones that did were tiny. I don't know what happened-the soil was very wet-I perhaps overwatered??? I don't know-any suggestions? Should I just automatically sow into the ground??????????? This was my first attempt at growing garlic.
Posted: 1:08 pm on May 31st
Ruth writes: Maybe you should stick with the softneck, then. Here in the North, I've heard that hardneck is the best choice. Interestingly, I heard this from Bob the "Garlic Meister" (www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com), who happens to be a Texan. There's a ton of info on this site, and you can email questions to Bob as well.
Posted: 8:18 am on May 24th
texnav writes: Thank you Ruth. I live 35 mi. North of Austin, TX. I assure you we have to water -- with rare exceptions. A neighbor, the one that gave me the Hard Neck cloves to plant , had garlic in the bed next to mine, so we could compare. We planted on the same day and I harvested a week before he did. But the necks of all my garlic plants were very thick and when I pulled the garlic there were huge amounts of roots and all cloves had sprouted. He didn't lose one of his garlic heads. And as I said there was no indication the garlic needed harvesting and none of my garlic produced scapes. I water on a frequent schedule because of my tomatoes, bell peppers, and 1015Y onions. I might mention that the Soft Neck garlic at the other end of the same bed produced fine.

Posted: 11:25 am on May 21st
Ruth writes: Watering schedule? I don't think I've ever watered my garlic, texnav. I plant the cloves in the fall, cover the bed with leaves, and they're totally on their own. Here in SW Connecticut, it rains often (and it often rains too often).
Posted: 7:26 am on May 21st
texnav writes: I grew hardneck garlic this year but they all turned out bad. The bulbs were nice and large but all of the cloves had sprouted before the stems started turning brown indicating the need to be harvested. A neighbor gardener said that I had overwatered them. What is your watering schedule recommendation?
Posted: 11:28 am on May 20th
JadaE writes: Very helpful info! I'm going to plant garlic for the first time this fall, and didn't really know what to expect! :) (BTW, Seed Savers.org has a great selection of garlic right now!) :)
Posted: 2:44 pm on July 23rd
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