Garlic tells you when it wants to be harvested, but there are a few ways to plan ahead so you know when to harvest garlic well in advance and don’t get caught off guard.
Firstly, almost all garlic takes a little over 8 months from planting to harvest, so if you plant it in October or November, you’ll be harvesting garlic in June or July. If you plant garlic in February or March, you’ll be harvesting in October or November.
As well as breaking down the details about the harvest dates for garlic in this article, we’ve got a handy table to use for most varieties that you’re likely to grow in your own garden, as well as guidance on the signs that garlic is ready to harvest.
Signs that garlic is ready for harvest
When garlic leaves start to turn yellow and weaken in late summer/fall they are ready for harvest. The timing of garlic harvests depends largely on when they are planted, as garlic bulbs take around 8-9 months to reach maturity.
Garlic planted from seed is easy to germinate, and will usually catch up to bulb planted garlic, so knowing when to harvest garlic should be decided mostly through visual signs.
When should you harvest garlic?
Garlic harvesting times depend on a number of important factors, not least when they are planted. Garlic planted in fall is ready to harvest around 4 weeks earlier than garlic planted in spring, but the harvest dates depend largely on variety. We have put together a garlic harvesting table later in this article, but here’s some important breakdowns on the signs that garlic is ready to harvest depending on the basic groups:
When to harvest spring planted garlic
Garlic planted in spring is ready to harvest in July, August and September. The wide range of harvesting times depends on soil conditions and weather, but is mostly dictated by the variety you grow. Many varieties of soft neck garlic, even if planted in spring, will be ready to harvest in early summer.
When to harvest fall planted garlic
Garlic planted in autumn is typically ready to harvest from the end of June, but some varieties of softneck garlic can be harvested as early as May. As a rule of thumb, fall planted garlic is ready to harvest 4-6 weeks earlier than spring planted garlic.
When to harvest garlic from seed / bulbils
It’s rare to plant garlic from seed, largely because growing garlic from bulbs is much easier and garlic bulbs are more readily available, but if your garlic bolts and sets a scape (the flower head), it’s possible to keep the bulbils for propagation.
If planted in autumn, the young bulbs that appear from the center of the scape will take a little longer to set roots, but produce an identical crop, with all the age signs as fall planted garlic. It will usually take garlic from seed an extra 4-6 weeks to reach maturity as they need a cold period in winter to trigger proper germination.
When to harvest hardneck garlic
Hardneck garlic should only be planted as fall plants so knowing when to harvest should become part of your gardener’s instinct as the signs and dates are usually pretty similar across all varieties. As you get used to growing garlic it’s easy to recognise the signs that hardneck garlic is ready to harvest and it’s all down the leaf.
When hardneck garlic is ready to harvest its leaves will droop, and look visually weaker beginning with yellow tips. At this point you should stop watering, and check your plants every few days until half of the leaves have turned yellow or brown (from the tops towards the base).
When to harvest softneck garlic
I’m a newcomer to softneck garlic, and much more used to hardneck as we garden in a relatively cold climate (zone 9a) where hardneck garlic, or wild garlic, are far easier to grow. Unlike hardneck, softneck garlic it can be planted out in fall or spring depending on what space you have available.
Check this comprehensive article on the differences between softenck and hardneck garlic if you’re curious to learn more.
Softneck garlic time to maturity varies greatly depending on variety, with some fall planted softneck garlic ready for harvest in late Spring (late May), while others are ready in late summer (August).
When to harvest wild garlic
When I tell people that we grow wild garlic on purpose I’m often met with raised eyebrows, but it’s a true delicacy. You can eat the bulbs of wild garlic, but they’re pretty low in flavor and too small to bother with for most cooks, so it really is all about the leaf.
You can harvest wild garlic leaves at any time from March until they start to turn brown and die back in summer, but make sure to leave enough leaves to feed the bulb for net year. They are a reliable perennial, and will come back every year, but do need a little bit of controlling and they spread easily (particularly up North).
Anyone who has ever sauteed spring greens with crushed garlic will know just how versatile garlicky greens can be a side dish, but with wild garlic, you get the entire meal ready for you – just wilt it for 2 mins in a pan and enjoy.
Garlic varieties and days to maturity
The table below outlines when to harvest different garlic varieties depending on when you plant them. While there is a general rule of thumb for harvesting garlic that is is ready for harvest 8-9 months from planting out, there are some quite wide variations in the dates, sometimes up to 4 weeks for different garlics planted at the same time in the same location.
In the table below, the varieties with no spring planted harvest dates are all hardneck garlic varieties, as they require a cold snap to germinate properly so should always be planted in fall.
|WHEN TO HARVEST GARLIC|
|GARLIC VARIETY||Fall Planted||Spring Planted|
|Marbled Purple Stripe Garlic||June-July||–|
|Standard Purple Stripe Garlic||June-July||–|
Garlic harvesting guide
How to water garlic before harvest
Throughout the growing season, garlic only needs watering during droughts to make sure there is regular moisture in the soil, and should never be allowed to sit in damp conditions. As soon as garlic starts to show signs of yellowing tips, you should stop watering entirely, as they begin to develop their dry outer skins.
How to harvest garlic
In an ideal world, your garlic will be planted in loose, rich, well drained soil in a raised bed. Pots and ground grown garlic are fine, but when it comes to harvesting garlic, the looser the soil, the better.
If your soil is loose enough, simply pull out the garlic by gripping the base of the stem and pulling gently but firmly. If there is resistance, carefully dig a fork into the soil and prise the garlic out of the ground, being mindful not to pierce your bulbs in the process.
Shake off any excess soil, and leave the bulbs to dry on the greenhouse shelf for 1-2 weeks until the entire stem is brown and the outer skins have dried out completely. Don’t worry about leaving soil in place as this will shake off once the bulb has dried.
Do not, in any circumstances, trim the leaves, or the roots when you harvest garlic. Trimming roots or leaves allows bacteria into the bulbs and will reduce storage, and increase the risk of mold.
What happens if you harvest garlic too late?
Harvesting garlic too late allows the bulbs to start growing out of their skins (you’ll be familiar with sprouted garlic cloves in the cupboard). As they break out of the skin they are more susceptible to infection and are more likely to rot in storage.
Having said that, if you’re growing a limited amount of garlic, and know you’ll be able to get through it within a few weeks of drying, then there is little harm in leaving them in the ground for too long as they will cook fine. The only issue is that they won’t store properly.
What happens when you harvest garlic too soon?
If you harvest garlic before the leaves begin to turn brown, not only will the outer skin not be properly formed, but the individual cloves will be smaller and more moisture packed, so they will take longer to dry, and give you a far smaller crop.
Garlic puts a lot of its growth on in the final months of growing, so harvesting too early is a waste of your own effort growing it in the first place.
Even a week too early can make the difference between a sturdy skin which protects garlic from disease, and a thin skin which allows rot to set in during storage, so keep a steady eye on the yellowing of the leaves; when they are half brown and half green, they are ready for harvest in most varieties.
How do you know when garlic is ready to pick?
Most garlic is ready to pick 8 months after planting out, when the lower leaves begin to turn yellow. Once the leaves are visibly starting to brown, and half the stem remains green, that’s the perfect time to harvest garlic.
Can you leave garlic in the ground too long?
If you leave garlic in the ground too long it can split open and damage the protective skin. This will lead to moisture loss and leaves the bulbs at risk of bacterial infection and mold. Always keep an eye on garlic plants around harvest time for signs of maturity so you don’t leave it too late.
Can you eat garlic immediately after harvesting?
Yes, garlic can be eaten raw or cooked straight from the ground. The flavor mellows over time in storage so is more useful for stir-fries and salads, but there is no risk to your health in eating freshly harvested garlic, and indeed, it can be a pretty powerful flavor hit when eaten straight from the ground.
When you get to the end of your garlic’s growing season, it’s one of the most important vegetables to watch. If you harvest too late or too early it can harm the chances of successful storage and the window is much smaller than other root vegetables.
Watch for yellowing leaves and dropping leaves as the first signs that your garlic is ready to harvest, around 8-9 months after planting your bulbs into the garden. As the leaves turn progressively darker and weaker and reach 50% green, 50% brown, it’s time to harvest garlic.