In this article, we provide you with tips on how to know exactly when to harvest garlic to get the most from your crop.
We also cover some basic storage tips so you know what to do with it once you remove it from the ground.
How do you know when garlic is ready for harvest?
Garlic takes about 7-9 months to grow from planting to harvest, although this will vary based on the variety you plant and your local conditions.
In Australia, garlic is usually harvested in Spring/Summer (October – January).
Here are the things to look out for that indicate your garlic is ready to be pulled from the ground:
- The lower leaves start to turn yellow or brown
- Flower stems start to soften (hardneck garlic only)
- Softneck garlic will start to lean over as the bulb is formed
However, if you really want to know if your garlic is ready, gently dig away some of the soil around a couple of bulbs and check their size. If they’re still on the small side, give them another week or two. If they look fully mature, then you can pull up the rest of your crop.
While early harvesting is problematic, you also should take care to not leave your garlic too long to harvest. Don’t wait for the leaves to completely die back.
When to stop watering garlic
Reduce your watering about 4 weeks before harvest and stop completely for the final 2 weeks.
Dry soil is a signal to a garlic plant that the bulb growing period is reaching maturity.
Once the plant has stopped producing new leaves and starts its resting phase, it will begin to break down its existing leaves for nutrients.
This process uses up the soil’s water supply, leaving the bulb mature and ready for harvest.
If you haven’t harvested your garlic yet, let the soil dry out before you pull it from the ground.
Can you leave garlic in the ground too long?
Harvesting garlic when it’s immature or not fully mature can lead to undesirable results.
Garlic bulbs can split open if left in the ground too long.
Splitting happens because as the bulb grows larger and starts to dry out, its skin weakens. It can result in the following problems:
- They become vulnerable to mould and dehydration.
- They may also start to shoot from the cloves, making long-term storage impossible.
Can you harvest garlic too early?
If you dig up garlic before the plants have reached maturity and dried out their roots, the bulbs will be much smaller than if you leave them in place until they’re ready.
To make sure you’re getting the best yield from your plot, gently remove some soil and check the size of one or two bulbs before digging them up.
RELATED: When to plant garlic in Melbourne
What should you do with garlic after you pick it?
Let’s start with a few things you shouldn’t do after harvest:
- Do not wash your garlic
- Do not remove or damage the wrapping around the bulbs
There are 3 key stages of drying and storing after garlic is harvested:
- After carefully digging up your garlic bulbs, lay them in the sun with their tops still attached for 1 to 2 days to dry out.
- Move them somewhere out of the sun but still warm and well ventilated. Most garlic growers bundle them up and hang them or use a storage rack.
- Once the wrappers around the garlic are dry (2 – 3 weeks), remove the tops and the roots from your garlic. You can then move them into long term storage in a cool, dark (but still well-ventilated) place where temperatures stay consistent. Fluctuating temperatures can cause sprouting or rotting.
Also, make sure to eat some of your garlic fresh, or “wet”, before drying the bulk of it.
Where do you hang garlic to dry?
To dry garlic, leave the bulbs intact and hang them in bunches somewhere that gets good airflow but is out of the sun. Popular places include under eaves or a patio.
Braiding and hanging garlic is a popular method for achieving better ventilation, which reduces the chance of moisture and results in firmer bulbs.
You can also lay them out on shelves if they provide enough airflow, or hang them over outdoor furniture (so long they remain out of the sun).
Should you let garlic flower?
If you want to grow great garlic, you should remove the scapes before they bloom.
The scape is the flower stalk; by removing it, you are directing all of the plant’s energy toward bulb growth. The flowers take energy away from the developing bulbs.
It’s, therefore, best to remove garlic scapes as soon as they appear.
Why are your garlic plants falling over?
The most likely reason your garlic plants are starting to droop is that they are nearing maturity (7 – 9 months from planting).
Softneck garlic, in particular, will start to lean over as the bulb is formed.
However, if you are confident your bulbs are not ready for harvest, there may be some other reasons for your leaning garlic:
- Not enough nutrients. Garlic requires rich soil. It generally benefits from compost and manure and doesn’t require fertiliser. However, if your soil is low in nitrogen or potassium this may impact growth. This can be remedied with a balanced fertiliser.
- Not enough sun. Is your garlic getting enough sunlight? Garlic requires full sun (around 6 hours per day).
- Not enough water. Garlic requires moisture to help it get the nutrients it needs from the soil.
- Too much water. Heavy rain can result in drooping garlic leaves but they should bounce back once they dry.
- Pests or disease. White root rot or other fungal diseases can also be an issue if you let your garlic get wet feet. This is why good drainage is so important. They can also come under attack from root maggots or wireworms. You can easily dig up a bulb to check for pests or diseases.
What should you plant after garlic?
Capsicums, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and spinach are all good vegetables to plant after garlic.