Knowing Exactly When To Harvest Garlic

By , July 11, 2010

In this post I described how to harvest and cure your garlic (and onions too). However, knowing exactly when to pull your garlic out of the ground isn’t always easy.

There’s a period of time — a “sweet spot” — when the garlic will be perfect. Harvest too soon and the head won’t yet have formed into distinct cloves…harvest too late and the protective papery skin that encases the head will have broken down, allowing dirt and worms into the crevices between the cloves. So I took some pictures for you that will hopefully help to identify the sweet spot.

Harvest your garlic when the leaves have mostly turned yellow or brown, but the stem is still green. It’s okay if a few of the leaves are still green, too, though if all the leaves are still green, it’s too early to harvest.

Harvest your garlic when it looks like this. (Click for larger image.)

And if the leaves and stem are completely dry and brown, like in the photo below, you’ve missed the sweet spot, so definitely dig the garlic immediately.

Left in the ground a little too long...but do still dig it up ASAP! (Click for larger image.)

Left side: Harvested at the perfect time. Right side: Left in the ground a little too long. (Click for larger image.)

In the picture above, the garlic on the left was harvested at the perfect time: the stem is still green, the cloves are fully formed, and the outer papery skin is intact. The garlic on the right was left in the ground a little too long (notice how the stem is completely brown and the outer papery skin has mostly broken down).

If you miss that sweet spot and find that the outer papery skin of your garlic has disappeared and the dirt and worms have gotten in between the cloves, attach a spray nozzle to your garden hose and spray a forceful stream of water straight into the middle of the garlic head, which will blast out the dirt.

For further info on how to cure and store your garlic, pop on over to this post.

Left: Harvested at the perfect time. Right: Left in the ground a little too long. (Click for larger image.)

One Response to “Knowing Exactly When To Harvest Garlic”

  1. Kyle says:

    Hi Lindsey, I hope you can help me. I am new to veg gardening and my garlic is happily growing away but new shoots are coming out of the ground along side the stem. Its definately garlic so am I right in thinking the new cloves are starting to grow? Should I leave the garlic or harvest it? Thank you Kyle.

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