The Best Time to Harvest Garlic and Effective Strategies for Proper Storage and Curing


Garlic is a mean, flavorful staple in many kitchens around the world. It’s a wrapper, of sorts, for a sprout that signals the end of the growing season. If you’re wondering when to harvest garlic, the answer depends on a few factors. In this article, we’ll discuss when and how to harvest garlic, as well as how to cure it for long-term storage.

In 2020, the Old Farmer’s Almanac newsletter received 1,448 comments and questions about garlic planting, harvesting, curing, and more. One of the most frequently asked questions was, “When is garlic ready to harvest?” The Almanac’s gardening expert, John from Ontario, provided some wit and wisdom in his response:

“The best time to harvest garlic is when you see four or five green leaves still attached to the stem. If the garlic is left in the ground for too long, the bulbs may separate and the cloves will begin to sprout. You want to harvest the garlic before this happens for the best flavor and storage quality.”

To begin the curing process, John advises brushing off any excess soil from the bulbs and leaving them in the garden for a day or two to dry. Then, move them to a warm, dry, and well-ventilated area, such as a greenhouse or a shed. The ideal curing conditions include a temperature of 70-85°F (21-29°C) and a humidity level of around 50-70%. If the humidity is too high or the temperature is too low, the garlic may not cure properly.

According to John, the curing process can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the variety of garlic and the environmental conditions. Once the garlic bulbs are fully cured, they should feel firm and have dry outer wrappers. At this point, they are ready for long-term storage.

For those who are planting garlic in the fall, John also mentioned the option of harvesting garlic scapes in the spring. These are the flower stalks that garlic plants produce, and they can be harvested before they fully mature. Garlic scapes have a milder flavor compared to the bulbs and can be used in various dishes.

In conclusion, knowing when to harvest garlic is crucial to ensure the best flavor and storage quality. By paying attention to the green leaves, brushing off excess soil, and providing the proper curing conditions, you can enjoy the rich flavor of freshly harvested garlic throughout the year.

Gardening Garlic 5 things you need to know

Growing garlic is a rewarding experience for any gardener. But before you start planting, there are a few important things you need to know about garlic. Here are five essential tips to help you grow great garlic:

1. Timing is everything:

The timing of planting and harvesting garlic is crucial. Garlic should be planted in the late fall, around September or October. This gives the bulbs enough time to develop roots before the cold winter sets in. Harvesting should be done when the leaves start to turn yellow and brown. This is usually in the summer, around June or July.

2. Choose the right variety:

Garlic comes in different varieties, and each one has its own unique characteristics. Hardneck varieties are known for their tall stems (“scapes”) and have a more complex flavor. Softneck varieties, on the other hand, have a milder taste and are better suited for long-term storage. Consider your preferences and growing conditions when selecting a garlic variety.

3. Cure and store properly:

After harvesting, garlic bulbs need to be cured for a few weeks before storing. Curing involves hanging the bulbs in a warm, dry, and well-ventilated place. Allow the bulbs to dry completely, and then trim the roots and stems. Store the cured bulbs in a cool and dark location, such as a pantry or cellar, to ensure proper preservation.

4. Clean and prepare your soil:

Garlic requires well-drained soil with good fertility. Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds and adding organic matter. Garlic prefers a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. Test your soil’s pH and make any necessary adjustments to create the ideal growing conditions for your garlic.

5. Know when to harvest:

Knowing when to harvest garlic can be a bit tricky, but there are some signs to look for. When the leaves start to turn yellow and brown, it’s a good indication that the garlic bulbs are ready to be harvested. You can also gently dig up a bulb to check for size and development. Remember to harvest garlic when the bulbs are still covered in their papery wrappers.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to grow garlic successfully. With a little patience and care, you’ll soon enjoy the flavorful rewards of your garlic harvest!

When do I plant my garlic

Garlic is a popular vegetable bulb that is commonly used in cooking for its flavorful taste. It is easy to grow and can be planted in the fall before the first frost or in early spring. The best time to plant garlic is in the fall, as it allows the bulb to establish its root system before the cold winter months.

If you live in a colder climate, it is recommended to plant garlic in the fall so that it has enough time to develop strong roots. In warmer states, you can plant garlic in the early spring, although it may not have as long to establish itself.

When planting garlic, make sure to choose a well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Garlic grows best in loose, loamy soil. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, you can add compost or organic matter to improve its texture.

Garlic can be grown from cloves, which are the small individual sections of the bulb. Each clove will grow into a new bulb of garlic. Plant the cloves with the pointed side up, about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart, in rows that are at least 1 foot apart.

Once the garlic is planted, it will start to produce roots and sending up green shoots. These shoots will eventually become the leaves of the garlic plant. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not overly wet, during the growing period.

Garlic is ready to be harvested when the leaves start to turn yellow and die back. This usually occurs in mid to late summer, depending on the variety and location. The bulbs can be carefully dug up from the soil using a garden fork or shovel.

Variety Planting Time
Hardneck Fall or early spring
Softneck Fall

Once harvested, it is important to cure the garlic before storing it. Curing involves allowing the garlic to dry in a warm, dry location for at least two weeks. This process helps to develop the flavor of the garlic and also allows the skins to become dry and papery.

Store the cured garlic in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Garlic can be stored in mesh bags or hung up in bunches. The cured garlic can last for several months if stored properly.

So, in general, garlic should be planted in the fall before the winter frost or in the early spring. Follow the recommended planting times for your specific location and variety, and you’ll be on your way to growing your own delicious garlic bulbs.

Am I supposed to stop watering my garlic at some point

One common question that garlic growers frequently ask is whether they should stop watering their garlic at some point. Gerry, a garlic expert from Ontario, states that although it is not necessary to stop watering garlic completely, reducing watering in the weeks leading up to harvest can improve the quality and flavor of the bulbs.

It is important to note that the watering schedule for garlic can vary depending on the climate and growing conditions. In warmer regions, growers may continue to water their garlic until the leaves start to turn yellow and the tops begin to die down. This usually occurs in late spring or early summer.

Hardneck garlic varieties, which have a woody stem called a scape, require a slightly different approach. The scape is the flowering stalk that emerges from the garlic plant. Some growers prefer to remove the scapes to redirect the plant’s energy into bulb development. If you choose to remove the scapes, it is recommended to do so when they have curled into a loop but before they become woody.

Watering should be gradually reduced as the garlic plants mature. In the fall, as the garlic enters its dormancy phase, watering should be reduced even further. By December, the garlic plants should be given minimal water in order to promote a total curing process.

During the curing process, garlic bulbs are dried out and the outer layers of the skin become papery. This helps to keep the bulbs healthy and preserves them for long-term storage. To cure garlic, it is advised to hang the bulbs in bunches in a warm, dry location. The curing process can take between 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the size of the bulbs and the climate.

Once the garlic bulbs have been cured, they are ready to be stored. It is recommended to store the garlic in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area. The ideal storage temperature for garlic is around 50°F (10°C) with a humidity level of 60-70%. Properly cured and stored garlic bulbs can last for several months.

In conclusion, although it is not necessary to stop watering garlic completely, reducing watering in the weeks leading up to harvest can improve the quality and flavor of the bulbs. Hardneck garlic varieties may require the removal of scapes to redirect the plant’s energy. After harvest, garlic bulbs should be properly cured and stored in a cool, dry location to ensure long-term storage and better flavor.

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How do I know when it is ready to harvest

Harvesting garlic is an exciting time for many gardeners. It’s that moment when you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. But how do you know when it’s time to harvest your garlic?

In Ottawa, garlic is typically harvested in the summer, around July. The exact timing can vary depending on the weather and the variety of garlic you are growing. Garlic that is ready to be harvested will usually have about 3 to 4 leaves left on the plant, with the rest turning yellow and dying off.

One way to check if your garlic is ready to be harvested is to dig up a bulb and inspect the cloves. If the cloves are large and well-formed, it’s a good indication that the garlic is ready. Another method is to gently brush away some soil around the base of the plants and check the skins. If they have turned papery and dry, it’s a sign that the garlic is mature and ready for harvest.

If you are growing hardneck garlic, another sign that it’s time to harvest is when the scape, or flower stalk, begins to curl. This usually happens in late spring or early summer. Once the scape has fully curled, it’s best to cut it off to redirect the plant’s energy towards bulb development.

When harvesting your garlic, be sure to use a digging fork or shovel to carefully loosen the soil around each bulb. Try not to damage the bulbs as you lift them out of the ground. Shake off any excess soil, but do not wash the garlic as it may affect its storage life.

After harvesting, it’s important to cure the garlic before storing it. Curing allows the garlic to dry out and develop a protective skin, which helps extend its storage life. To cure garlic, you can hang it in a dry, well-ventilated area, such as a shed or garage, for about two to three weeks. The temperature should be around 20-28 degrees Celsius with low humidity. Make sure to keep the garlic out of direct sunlight.

Once the garlic is cured, the outer skins should be dry and papery. At this point, you can trim off the roots and any excess leaves, leaving about an inch of stem attached to each bulb. The cured garlic can then be stored in a cool, dry place. Some growers recommend storing the garlic in mesh bags or hanging braids to promote airflow.

It’s important to note that not all garlic varieties will store well. Some softneck garlic varieties can last up to a year, while others may start to sprout within a few months. Hardneck varieties, on the other hand, don’t store as long and are best used within 4-9 months after being harvested.

So, when it comes to knowing when to harvest your garlic, the signals are clear. Watch for the leaves turning yellow, inspect the bulbs for size and softness, and check the skins for dryness and papery texture. Harvest at the right time, cure properly, and you’ll be able to enjoy your homegrown garlic for months to come!

✿ Read More About Vegetables.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.