Harvesting Garlic, When and How?
With 20 years of experience harvesting garlic, Keene Garlic has tried and true tips for a successful garlic harvest. We want to share with you our knowledge, so you know how to successfully harvest your garlic at the right time.
When to Harvest Garlic
Where Keene Garlic grows in South Central Wisconsin, Zone 5a, we harvest our garlic in mid-late July. Each planting zone will have its own harvest window which will be earlier for those south of us and just a bit later for those north of us. Timing the harvest of your garlic is more about garlic bulb maturity than it is about the month, day, or year. The plant will be ready to harvest based on the daylight hours and temperatures, not on days in the ground. The temperatures of the season may push the harvest a few days earlier or later.
It is always a good idea to start checking your garlic a few weeks before harvest. You may even want to harvest a bulb every few days to see how they are developing. The goal is to harvest the largest bulbs possible. If you harvest garlic too early, it will look like a green onion, as the bulb sizes up in the last 3-4 weeks before harvest. Be sure to water lightly during this time. The soil should be moist, not saturated.
About 3-4 weeks after picking garlic scapes, garlic plants start to die back from the bottom and the leaves start to yellow. If growing softnecks, simply watch for the plant to start dying back. This is our signal that harvest time is near.
When there are 4-5 primarily green leaves remaining, counting from the top leaf to the bottom, it is time to harvest. Some will say, when 50% of the leaves have died back.
Each leaf is a wrapper around the bulb for storage, so if you harvest with 4 green leaves take one off for cleaning, that leaves 3 leaves or wrappers around the bulb for good storage.
Tips for knowing when to harvest your garlic:
- 3-4 weeks after picking the garlic scape.
- 4-5 green leaves remaining from the top.
- About 50% of the plant has died back and started to yellow.
- You do a test harvest and the bulb looks uniform with shoulders and nice sized.
- Bulb cut in half shows full clove development and is pulling away from the hardneck.
- If you didn’t pick the scape, the scape will point to the sky.
When to Stop Watering Your Garlic Before Harvest
Garlic does not like wet feet and can easily rot. The soil should continuously be moist, but not saturated, until a few days before harvest. If we had control over the rain, we would like the soil to start to dry out 5-7 days before harvesting. This also depends on your soil’s moisture holding capacity.
A common rule of thumb can be to give your garlic plants 1" of water per week throughout its growing stage. Continue light watering while leaves start to die back and stop watering a few days before harvest.
How to Harvest Garlic
1. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the bulb, taking care not to damage the bulb.
2. Pull bulbs out of the ground & brush off as much dirt from the roots as possible.
Treat your garlic bulbs gently. When garlic gets damaged at harvest time, it will not store as long.
Optional: Keene Garlic's Efficient Way to Prepare Garlic for Curing
Within 1 hour of harvest, we pull the lowest green leaf from the garlic bulb, which leaves a nice clean bulb.
Then, we trim the mass of leaves off the bulb, leaving 6"-9" in the stem.
Keep good airflow with fans while curing.