Growing garlic is easy, but many people wonder when to harvest and how to store garlic. I share my tips in this article.
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When to Harvest Garlic
For crops that grow underground, it can be hard to know when to harvest them. Luckily, garlic gives us a clue. When the bottom 3-4 leaves of the plant have died, it’s ready to be harvested. In my USDA hardiness zone 6a garden, my harvest window is anywhere between late May to early July.
Not sure when to plant garlic? My fall planting guide can help!
The ideal time to harvest is 3-5 days after a rain. That’s because the drier the bulb is, the better it will cure and the longer it will store.
Lift the bulbs gently with a digging fork to prevent damage.
When I harvest my garlic, I make garlic powder from last year’s leftover garlic.
Would you like to yield delicious harvests while partnering with nature? Check out my mini guide, The Permaculture Inspired Vegetable Garden.
How to Cure Garlic
Curing garlic is an important part of the garlic grower’s journey. This two-week step prepares garlic for long-term storage. Garlic should be cured in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area.
We cure our garlic on our patio table. The only thing we’re missing is coverage from rain, so we have to be sure to bring the garlic in if there’s a chance of rain.
There have been years that we harvested garlic and had to dry it on metal racks in the basement to keep it out of the rain. (Not ideal, this garlic does not store as long.) We set a fan on low to keep the air circulating.
Air conditioning will make the air cooler than the ideal curing temperature, but this is preferable to rotting from too much moisture. Moisture is not your friend when curing or storing garlic.
Preparing Garlic for Storage
After the garlic has cured for two weeks, it’s ready to store. If you are growing a softneck variety, you can braid the necks and hang for decorative charm. Softneck garlic generally stores longer than hardneck, but hardneck varieties (like my favorite variety) are hardier for cold winters.
For both types, trim roots to 1/2 an inch long.
To store hardneck varieties, clip off the stems just above the neck. I then store the garlic bulbs in hanging wire baskets or mesh produce bags. Air circulation is essential.
Bonus: Make Garlic Mulch
Cut the stems into 3-5 inch pieces and use as mulch around pest-prone plants. Pests are repelled by the garlic scent.
How to Store Garlic
Keep in a dry, dark, cool area. I store my garlic in the basement or in a dark, spare bedroom with a small fan circulating air on low. The ideal storage temperature is 35-40 degrees, but that’s hard to come by in modern-day houses, so we do the best we can.
The refrigerator is NOT ideal for garlic, as the moisture and condensation will encourage rotting.
Save Seed for Next Year
Use up the smaller bulbs in the kitchen and save the bigger bulbs for planting your fall garlic. You’ll never have to buy seed garlic again! You might even plant some garlic in your medicine garden.
Where do you cure and store your garlic?
Love this how to article.
Amy Stross says
Thanks for reading! Good luck with your garlic harvest in 2014!
Andrea@ LittleBigHarvest says
This is EXACTLY what I needed to know. I’m a garlic newbie. 🙂 Looks like mine is not quite ready, yet. I love the idea of using the old bulbs for garlic powder, and for using the garlic stems/leaves for mulch! Thanks for yet another awesome article.
Yay, glad it was helpful 🙂
Arthur Pradeep says
Very good Idea to use garlic stems/leaves for mulching of pest -prone plants, Very very good for small moringa/Mango plants.
Stacey Summitt-Mann says
Thanks for this article! One question–my garlic bloomed this year (did I harvest too late?) and it appears to have little seeds/kernels? Would these produce a plant if kept for the next year?
You probably grew a hardneck variety, which forms scapes. Scapes are the green stem and flower bud that forms. Scapes are the main reason why many people choose to grow a hardneck variety, because the scapes are a delicious harvest of themselves.
If the scapes aren’t harvested, these flower buds form a ball of seeds, which are actually small bulbs called bulbils. You can harvest these and plant from them, since the plant they grew from may not produce that great of a garlic head (because the scapes weren’t harvested). It will take 3-4 years to achieve a normal-sized head of garlic from bulbils. Here are instructions for how to grow garlic from bulbils.
Interesting! I’d love to see a post about what to do with garlic scapes. I’ve never used them before (and just composted them, boo). Are the bulbils formed from sexual reproduction? As in they will be genetically slightly different from the ‘Music’ garlic I originally planted (and ideally moving toward a regionally better suited variety)?
The bulbils propagate vegetatively and will be clones of the parent plant.
K Smith says
I love how your garlic is used as landscape as well!
Kristin Rickard says
How long will correctly cured garlic last? Lately, the bulbs I’ve been using are dessicating…
There is a lot of variability in the life span of correctly cured and stored garlic. Temperature, humidity, light and air exposure, etc. will vary from climate to climate, and the storage environment can even vary within the same climate from home to home.
Typically the expectation is 3-5 months. I’ve been able to keep my garlic bulbs for around 10 months. If yours are desiccating before 3 months of storage, they probably need a bit more humidity. When my garlic heads start to desiccate, I turn them into garlic powder for longer shelf life.
Kara @ Nourishing Pursuits says
I love the link you provided in another comment about how to grow from bulbils. In the past, I wondered about the garlic flowers and whether or not they are the seeds of the garlic plant – so fascinating!
It’s my second year growing garlic and this article was a great reminder of harvest time. I have found that I have to spot check mine to see if they are ready for harvest since I haven’t found a magic number of dried leaves to indicate it’s time. Thanks again!
Hello I’m new here I appreciate all the good ideas. I braids the stocks and hang my garlic in the garage to dry there’s plenty of air in there and it’s dry near the door. It also stores where that way just break off a head when you need it.
Braiding works great for softneck but I wouldn’t risk it with hardneck varieties.
I put some garlic pods in a small jar covered with olive oil for later use. The garlic is saved and the oil is great to use.
Patricia Habbyshaw says
Hi Amy…Great Article ! I do have a question…I cut the garlic off the greens, about 3″ above the bulb and then set out to cure. Is there a reason I shouldn’t be cutting off the greens ? I do this for both hard and soft neck. zone 6a. too ! :} NE Ohio
Hopefully your “greens” are actually brown when you’re cutting them off. 🙂 But yes, you can clip the stems/foliage off for both types before storing. Because softneck dries out more quickly, many people do not clip the stems off, but rather braid them together. But this isn’t necessary for good storage.