Garlic is a staple ingredient in many kitchens around the world. It adds a ton of flavor, aroma, and health benefits to any dish it is used in.
Garlic is typically grown from individual cloves that are planted in the fall with the bulbs maturing and ready for harvest the following summer. Garlic bulbs grow underground, and the leaves grow above the ground.
To get the best quality garlic, it is essential to know when to harvest it. Harvesting garlic too early can result in small, underdeveloped bulbs, while waiting too long can cause the cloves to split and the garlic to lose its flavor.
In this article, we’ll explore the art of knowing when to harvest garlic and provide tips on how to get the best results. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, this guide will help you achieve a successful garlic harvest that you can enjoy for months to come.
Factors that affect the timing of garlic harvest
- Climate and weather: Generally, garlic grows best in cooler temperatures, and if it gets too hot, the bulbs may become stunted or not mature properly. If the weather is too wet, the bulbs can rot before they are ready to harvest. It’s important to monitor the weather in your area and adjust your harvest timing accordingly.
- Garlic variety: There are many different varieties of garlic, and each one has its own ideal harvest time. Softneck garlic, which is the most common type, is usually ready for harvest in the mid-summer, while hard-neck garlic is typically ready a few weeks later. Elephant garlic, which is actually a type of leek, is only ready for harvest in late summer or early fall.
- Soil conditions: The quality of the soil in which garlic is grown can greatly affect its harvesting. Garlic prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If the soil is too wet or too dry, the bulbs may not develop properly and the timing of the harvest may be affected.
- Planting time: The time of planting can also affect the timing of garlic harvest. Garlic should be planted in the fall, usually between September and November, depending on your location. If you plant too early or too late, it can affect the growth and development of the bulbs.
Signs that garlic is ready for harvest
- Leaf color: The color of the leaves is a good indication of when garlic is ready for harvest. As the garlic plant matures, the leaves will start turning yellow or brown and begin to dry out. When approximately half of the leaves have turned brown, it is a sign that the garlic is ready to be harvested.
- Bulb size: Once the bulbs have reached their full size, they are ready to be harvested. The size of the bulb will depend on the variety of garlic you are growing. Generally, they should be around 2-3 inches in diameter.
- Clove size: The size of the individual cloves can also give you a clue as to when garlic is ready for harvest. Once the cloves have reached their full size, they will stop growing, and the papery outer layers around the cloves will begin to dry out.
- The softness of the scape: Garlic plants produce a long stem called a scape, which eventually forms a bulbil at the top. When the scape starts to soften and bend over, it is a good indication that the garlic bulbs are close to being fully mature.
How to harvest garlic (Step by step)
- Loosen the soil: Before anything, use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the garlic bulbs. This will make it easier for you to get it out of the soil. Be careful not to damage the bulbs as you work.
- Pull the garlic: Once the soil is loosened, gently pull the garlic bulbs out of the ground. Be careful not to bruise or damage the bulbs, as this can reduce their quality. If you still feel a lot of resistance as you pull, it means that you may need to loosen the soil a bit more.
- Clean the bulbs: Once you have harvested the garlic, gently brush off any excess soil and remove any leaves or roots that are still attached to the bulbs. Be careful not to remove too much of the papery outer layers, as this can expose the cloves to damage.
- Cure the garlic: After you have cleaned the bulbs, you will need to cure them to extend their shelf life. To cure garlic, you should hang the bulbs in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Allow the bulbs to cure for 2-3 weeks, or until the outer layers are dry and papery.
- Store the garlic: Once the garlic is cured, you can store it in a cool, dry place. Make sure that the bulbs are well-ventilated and that they are not exposed to moisture or direct sunlight. If stored properly your garlic will be able to last for several months.
Common mistakes to avoid when harvesting garlic
- Harvesting too early: One of the most common mistakes when harvesting garlic is doing it too early. Harvesting garlic before it has matured fully can result in small, underdeveloped bulbs that don’t store well.
- Leaving garlic in the ground too long: On the other hand, leaving garlic in the ground too long can also be a mistake. If you wait too long to harvest, the outer layers of the bulbs can become too papery and brittle, making it harder to clean and cure the bulbs properly.
- Damaging the bulbs during harvest: When harvesting garlic, it is important to be gentle and careful to avoid damaging the bulbs. Rough handling can cause bruising or other damage that can reduce the quality of the bulbs.
- Not curing the garlic properly: Curing garlic is an essential step in the harvesting process, as it helps to ensure that the bulbs stay fresh for a longer period of time. If you don’t cure the garlic properly, your garlic may start growing moldy and rotting very quickly.
- Storing garlic improperly: Finally, storing garlic improperly can also reduce its quality and shelf life. Garlic should be stored in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. Avoid storing garlic in the refrigerator, as this can cause it to sprout prematurely.
In conclusion, knowing when to harvest garlic is essential for getting high-quality bulbs that will store well over time. By monitoring the signs of maturity, such as the color of the leaves, the size of the bulbs, and the softness of the scapes, you can determine the best time to harvest your garlic.
When harvesting garlic, it’s important to be gentle and careful to avoid damaging the bulbs. Be sure to loosen the soil before pulling the bulbs, clean them carefully, and cure them properly to ensure that they keep well over time. Avoid common mistakes such as harvesting too early, leaving garlic in the ground too long, and storing garlic improperly.
By following these tips, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of high-quality garlic that will add flavor and nutrition to your meals for months to come
How many weeks to harvest garlic?
On average most garlic varieties take around 8 to 9 months to mature from planting to harvest. However, it’s important to monitor the signs of maturity such as the color and texture of the leaves, the size of the bulbs, and the softness of the scapes, to determine the best time to harvest.
How much garlic to grow per person?
As a general rule of thumb, a single person can consume approximately 12 to 15 bulbs of garlic per year.
Which month to harvest garlic?
Garlic is typically harvested in mid to late summer, once the leaves of the plants have begun to dry out and turn brown.
When is elephant garlic ready to harvest?
Elephant garlic, which is actually a type of leek is typically ready to harvest in mid to late summer, approximately 90 to 120 days after planting.