When To Harvest Garlic

Here in the Pacific Northwest we planted our garlic babies in and around October, so after nearly 9 months our garlic babies are just about all set to be harvested! Green, lush, and girthy, they have had an amazing growing season! BUT, if they're harvested too soon the results can be quite underwhelming as the majority of the garlic head development happens in the final weeks. So how do you know when to harvest your garlic? Well, that’s what I’m going to help guide you through right now!


When To Harvest Garlic

We want BIG heads of garlic. Like, REALLY big! And if you harvest your garlic on the early side you’re probably going to get very underwhelming results.

Underwhelming head of garlic by harvesting too early.
Underwhelming head of garlic by harvesting too early.

 

Can you even tell that’s a garlic plant?! Well, it is. And it’s been harvested about one to one and a half months too early. What’s deceiving is that the stems of the garlic plant (the above-ground, visible green stem of the plant) can look incredibly healthy. And so if you’re new to planting garlic you wouldn’t be blamed if you figured, “Hey, now’s a good time to harvest my garlic!” With every head of garlic looking like the photo above, you’d be pretty disappointed, and we don’t want that!
There are TWO distinct signs you need to look for so you know it’s time to harvest your garlic.

SIGN #1: GARLIC SCAPES

Garlic scapes come right out of the top of the plant and if you left them on the plant they would produce garlic seeds for future generations.

Garlic scape in a full loop, which is when it should be pruned.
Garlic scape in a full loop, which is when it should be pruned

 

This means the garlic plant is reaching its maturation point as a plant. HOWEVER, leaving the garlic scapes on the plant would focus a lot of the plant’s energy toward producing the flowers and not toward producing a large head of garlic.

So when you see those garlic scapes on your garlic plants make sure to prune them off. When do you prune them off? Wait until the garlic scape has done a full loop (loopdeloop if you want to be fun with it!) and then prune it at the base of the scape with some pruning shears.

Showing where to prune the garlic scape.
Exactly where to prune the garlic scape

Do this for every single garlic plant in your garlic patch and voila - you’ve just helped your garlic plant focus all its energy toward making a nice head of garlic!

SIGN #2: FOUR DEAD LEAVES

How ominous, right?! Haha - well, in this case it’s a good thing! 

At the base of your garlic plants, over the final month of growth, the leaves are going to begin to slowly die off. Not to worry though, it’s supposed to happen! In fact, it’s what you want to happen!
Four dead leaves at base of garlic plant, signalling it should be harvested
Four dead leaves at base of garlic plant, signalling
it should be harvested

 

So all you have to do is count upwards and if there are four dead leaves on your garlic plants then it is Christmas in October: Garlic Harvest Day!!

How To Harvest Garlic

Thankfully, how to harvest your garlic isn’t difficult. In fact it’s super straightforward and easy! All you need to do is take your Hori Hori Knife and dig it into the ground about 3 inches off the stem.
Dig the Hori Hori Knife as deep as you can and then, with your other hand, grab the main stem of your garlic plant and pull up. At the same time, use your Hori Hori Knife like a lever and try to push the head of garlic upwards with the knife. This way you’re pushing up on the head of garlic with the Hori Hori Knife while also pulling upwards with your other hand via the stem of the plant. It will likely take some strength, so don’t be afraid to give it the ole heave ho! Eventually you’ll hear a bit of a pop and the head of garlic will give way and up it will come!

Do this across your entire garlic patch and you’ll have a massive harvest of garlic just like I did last season! (And hopefully this season as well!)
Heaping batch of harvested garlic
Heaping batch of harvested garlic

 

How To Cure And Store Garlic

Great! You’ve got all that garlic out of your garden bed. Now what? Well, you need to allow it to dry, so do not wash it and do not rinse it! Heck, you don’t even need to remove any of the dirt still on the heads of garlic. What you need to find is a dry spot for it to air dry for about two weeks. 

Feel free to get creative and place it on some chicken wire in your garage.
Drying garlic on chicken wire
Drying garlic on chicken wire

 

Or you can hang it inside somewhere dry.

Hang drying garlic
Hang drying garlic


Just be sure that where you’re air drying your garlic is not your living room, bedroom, or somewhere pristine because during the air drying process all that caked on dirt will eventually dry out and fall away from the heads of garlic.

Once you’ve completed the two-week drying out process, the last thing you need to do is cut the stem off.

Where to cut stem of garlic after drying

Where to cut stem of garlic after drying

 

To do this, go 1-2 inches above the bulb of garlic and snip it off, leaving you with a beautiful head of garlic.

Pop the heads of garlic into a burlap bag (our Mind & Soil burlap bags are perfect for this!) where you can keep them until you either want to use them in a recipe or plant the biggest ones into your garden next season!

I hope this has been helpful for you! Now go get those hands dirty and let’s harvest some garlic!

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