The Great Garlic Harvest

by Erin Enouen

Wondering when your garlic can be harvested? It certainly can be tricky to know when since the garlic bulb resides underground. Here are our tips for harvesting your garlic, with a photo gallery of the harvest from our trials below.

1. When in doubt, check it out

Garlic is ready to harvest when the lower leaves begin to yellow and dry. Usually the tips start to yellow as well, but the important thing to note is that there is still plenty of green on the upper part of the plant. If you are growing hardneck varieties a good indicator for harvest date is the appearance of scapes. Typically, hardneck varieties are ready to harvest about a month after scapes have formed. In New York, this can be any time from the beginning of July to very early August, depending on the weather and the variety. Check on your garlic by digging up a plant or two. If the wrapper has begun to get papery, and the cloves feel solid, its okay to harvest.

It can also be helpful to time your harvest when the soil is dry to help the garlic cure properly. I've harvested garlic a bit early some years to avoid a bought of wet weather.

2. Harvest it, gently

To harvest the soil should be loose. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the plants. Keep the tongs of the fork a few inches back from the plants to keep from stabbing the garlic. One the plants are loosened, gently pull them out of the ground.

Don't be too rough with your garlic at this point. The cloves can bruise and end up rotting during the curing process. Gently shake off dirt, but to not clean or trim the garlic before curing.

4. Dry it out

To cure, garlic plants should left in tact.  They need to be out of direct sunlight, in a well ventilated, warm, dry place. To achieve this, I tie garlic in bundles of 15 or 20 plants with sections of twine that are about 36" long, and then tie the garlic bundles to beams in a garden shed, spaced about 24" apart.

5. Clean, trim and store

After 5-6 weeks, the garlic should be fully cured. Now it can be trimmed and cleaned up for storage. The roots should be trimmed back, using garden pruners makes this process quick. Trim also the plant, leaving about 1-inch of the stem in tact. Store in a cold, dry, dark place, leaving about a week's worth of garlic in the kitchen at a time. Properly cured and stored garlic can last 4-6 months, depending on the variety.

We will have garlic planting stock available for sale next month!

This blog is provided by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a small group of dedicated growers and plant lovers working to provide good seed to gardeners and small farmers. Your purchases support our work. Thanks!