Garlic Harvest

I’ve been watching my garlic patch for the last few weeks, trying to determine whether it’s time to harvest yet. Ten days ago, I pulled the first plant, just to see where it was in the bulb-making process. There was a decent-sized bulb there, maybe two inches across. But once I peeled back the layers of papery skin, the cloves themselves seemed rather small. The trick with garlic, I’ve been told, is to get it when the bulbs are fully segmented but before they start to split open, letting in dirt that will shorten their shelf life. I decided to wait another week or so and try again.

Well, a week came and went, and every day as I passed the garlic at the front of the garden, I thought to myself, Oh, it’s probably not ready yet. I’m always rushing things. Then today I saw one of the stalks completely bent over and lying on the straw mulch. It didn’t look like the result of foul play. No, it looked like the stalk might have caved of its own maturity-determined will. So I decided to see what the bulb looked like. I yanked it out and found this impressive specimen you see to the left. It’s almost three inches at its largest width, and one of the cloves is starting to break away from the bulb. Guess that means it’s harvest time!

I went down my two little rows of Inchelium Red and yanked out each bulb. Some of them were smaller and some bigger, but they all looked gorgeous: white with purplish-red markings near the neck and nary a split head among them. I separated those that had been planted last October from those I put in the ground on January 30, and there was a slight difference in size in favor of the fall planting, but the largest heads from the spring were still larger than the smaller ones from the fall. It was definitely worth planting those extra cloves, even late.

I spread all of the bulbs out on the concrete floor under our deck to dry for a few days. To dry well, garlic needs shade, protection from rain, and good air circulation. After two or three days, I plan to remove a few of the outer leaves of each plant to strip off the dirt, and then I’ll let them continue drying a while longer until the leaves are ready to braid. When I get to that point, I’ll be sure to post a picture of the finished result!


10 Comments Add yours

  1. kate says:

    Wow, your garlic looks beautiful! Around here garlic usually isn’t ready to be harvested until mid- to late-July, but the outer leaves of mine are already starting to brown so I think it may be ready early this year. I might just have to pull one now just to see what’s going on down there.

    1. Sharon says:

      At least for the variety I’m growing, it seems like the “three brown leaves” rule holds up well. So if you’ve got three wilted leaves, I’d say take a peek! (I’ve also heard that, if the garlic isn’t quite ready for storage yet, it has a nice mild flavor that’s good on salads. I haven’t tried this out myself, though.)

  2. I love growing garlic, although it’s just my second year to plant it. I’m looking forward to seeing how mine has grown.

    1. Sharon says:

      What variety do you have?

      1. The people who gave me my seed garlic (the couple from the blog Whittled Down) told me that it was found growing behind an abandoned house in the New Mexico desert area. I don’t think they named it, but I need to check and ask them if they want to.

      2. Sharon says:


  3. Garlic is one of the things I didn’t do this year, but I’m planning to plant some in the fall. Yours looks super! How many rows did you plant to get the harvest you had? Did you use the “scapes”?

  4. Generally, they say early July here for garlic harvest. But I just kept watching it brown, so I pulled them up last week, and they’re HUGE! Because of the warm spring, I think we’re just ahead by a month.

  5. garden.poet says:

    I’d read so little on growing garlic when I planted what sprouted in the compost heap (bad idea, so it’s said, but I’m not prone to listening to experts…). Perhaps it’s time for me to start pulling my couple up, too.

    1. Sharon says:

      I’m with you. Listening to the experts is overrated. Yes, it’s nice to have some sound advice when the stakes are high, but in the garden, I feel like I learn most–and get the most enjoyment–when I fool around a bit!

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