How to Harvest Garlic - Backyard Boss
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How to Harvest Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a popular choice for any garden, indoors or outdoors, whether you’re a beginner or consider yourself a seasoned pro. It’s easy to grow, makes a delicious addition to every summer meal, and is even known for its health benefits. If it’s properly harvested and stored, this veggie can last for months and be ready to enjoy all winter long.

With that in mind, you may be wondering when and how to harvest your garlic to ensure you get the most out of the vegetable. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide has all the best tips and tricks so you can spot when your garlic is ready to harvest, the tools you’ll need, and how to remove the plants from the ground.

When to Harvest

Garlic ready for harvesting
Image credits: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Garlic is a bit of a slow-grower taking about eight months to fully mature. This cousin of the onion should be ready for harvest when the lower leaves begin to turn brown and die off. The happy medium between unripe and overripe is usually when some, but not all, of the leaves have turned brown.

Digging up a bulb or two is the only way to ensure your garlic is ready for harvest. The garlic should be firm and the skins should be papery and dry. If you harvest too soon, the cloves will be too small and won’t store well. But if you wait too long, they will burst out of their skins becoming susceptible to disease and they won’t be fit for storage.

With that being said, “wet,” or immature garlic bulbs can still be harvested and eaten. If you planted them in the fall, they should be ready between March and May. Wet garlic is usually a small bulb rather than developed cloves. They will be tender and have a nutty-oniony flavor, but it won’t last long unless you freeze them.

The green stalks are also edible and make a great substitute for scallions.

Tools You’ll Need

gardening tools in a basket
Image credits: haveseen via Shutterstock

You can’t harvest these flavor-packed cloves without the right tools. Fortunately, the necessities are quite basic and you’ve likely already got them laying around your tool shed. Check out the essentials below.

  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden pitchfork
  • Pruning shears or sharp knife
  • Mesh bag or collection container

How to Harvest Garlic

hands harvesting garlic
Image credits: Andrew Pustiakin via Shutterstock

Harvesting garlic is a simple task, but there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure you can enjoy your crops. Once you’ve gathered your tools and put on your gloves, you’ll be ready to go. Start by using a garden fork to loosen the soil around the bulbs; be sure not to pierce the bulbs.

Now that the soil is loose, you can begin removing the garlic plant. Don’t pull on the stem! Rather, work the bulb out by gently moving it back and forth. Using both hands, gently coax the garlic from the soil. This is to avoid damaging the bulb’s protective layers, which will help when it comes to storage.

After you’ve removed the garlic from the ground, you can shake and brush off the excess soil. Avoid washing the soil off as the moisture can cause the garlic to go bad. Then, collect your garlic in a mesh bag or basket. As long as there’s plenty of ventilation, your garlic will be ready to cure.

How to Cure and Store Garlic

Hanging garlic
Image credits: danielam via Pixabay

Curing is a crucial step in ensuring that this veggie will last in storage. Curing is the process of allowing the moisture to reduce naturally.

If the leaves are still green when you harvest, there will still be a lot of moisture in the bulb. To cure it, place the bulbs in a single layer in a dry, ventilated area free of direct sun. Leave the plants, for at least a week, until the green leaves turn brow.

You can then trim the roots with scissors and use the stems to create a braid and hang the garlic. If you’ve harvested lots of garlic, you can store it in more than one way! There are numerous ways, whether you’d like to store it in bulk, freeze it, chop it up into a puree, or turn it into garlic salt, you can enjoy it year round!

In Cloving

Garlic is just as easy to harvest as it is to grow. While it takes a bit of time to be ready for harvest, the payoff is worth the wait. A gentle hand and a good eye are the best way to ensure your garlic is harvested properly. Also, timing is important when it comes to harvesting garlic. If their natural wrapper is well in-tact, your cloves should store for longer, keeping their aroma and flavor.

Because garlic is a staple in every cook’s kitchen, there’s no harm in adding them to your garden. And if you do, consider planting them with their ideal companion plants.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for harvesting garlic? Don’t hesitate to spill the beans below!