The first step to harvesting garlic is to determine WHEN to harvest the garlic. To a certain extent it’s a personal decision, e.g. Do you harvest your tomatoes just before they’re ready to burst or as soon as they start to turn red?
Actually, there is really NO BAD TIME TO HARVEST garlic. Many growers harvest some plants before they have even formed bulbs and then enjoy them as a mildly flavored garlic that looks more like a green onion than fully developed garlic. Young garlic tastes sublime and it’s a perfect appetizer for the fully formed garlic that we pull later in the season.
But for best flavor and storage, you want to pull your garlic when the bulb has achieved maximum size but before all the wrappers have dried up. The wrappers (a.k.a. papers) provide protection in storage. Each leaf above the ground is actually a wrapper below ground.
Many growers believe that it’s time to pull your garlic when 1/2 of the leaves have turned brown, some say it should be 1/3 brown, others say 2/3 brown. Your best bet is probably to dig up a bulb after a few of the leaves have turned brown and check it out. If it looks good, pull it out!
If you are really anxious about it call your local extension service/agent and ask when garlic is generally harvested in your area. Here, where were are in Zone 5, harvesting takes place from late June through July, depending on the variety.
Getting It Out Of The Ground
To say that garlic is “pulled” is actually incorrect. Although, you probably could pull it out, it’s not a good idea because it puts a lot of stress on the bulb which could result in cracking or breaking.
BOTTOM LINE: Dig it out! Use a shovel. We use long thin spades but you can use any kind of spade. Depending on your soil you might even be able to use a garden fork. Place your spade a few inches from the bulb, push it into the ground at an angle, aiming for a few inches below the bottom of the bulb, then push down on your handle to lever the bulb up and out. Shake off any excess dirt. We do not wash our garlic before hanging but some people do. The main thing now is to get it out of the sun and hang it up in a shaded dry place for around three weeks. Once the leaves have dried up they can be cut away and your garlic is ready to use.
~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I've decided to quit my job, drop out of society, and wear live animals as hats."
Posts: 7253 | Location: Black Creek, WI Zone 5 | Registered: Sep 18, 2002
Hammer, I have discovered that I have a problem down here. Mine doesn't seem to stop growing and leaves turn brown....at least not the variety I planted. I have some that just came up about a month ago....they didn't come up last fall when I planted them. I know, I'm not a bit of help to you but it already looked like mgt. had that covered. I just thought it was interesting...what I've finally figured out. I need to plant in June! So we will see what happens next year with these that just came up!
"The soil is the source of life, creativity, culture and real independence." David Ben-Gurion