How to tell when your garlic is ready

How To Tell When Your Garlic Is Ready

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Your garlic has been in the ground since last autumn, and you are desperate to harvest it. I mean, it’s been growing long enough now, hasn’t it?!

But how do you know when your garlic is ready to harvest? Here are a few little tricks to make sure you get it right every time.

Yellow Leaves

The only above-ground sign you will get that your garlic is nearly ready is the yellowing of the leaves.

Your garlic leaves will start to turn yellow, flop, and look sad.

This is the most obvious sign to look for when deciding if it is time to harvest, but it isn’t the only one.

I like to wait until most leaves have yellowed before pulling my bulbs.

Yellowing of the leaves is the first sign
Yellowing of the leaves is the first sign

This is my patch right now in early June. Some leaves have started to yellow and flop, but most are still healthy.

Healthy green leaves mean your plants are still alive and sending energy to the bulbs.

These are a little early to harvest, but they are not far off.

Scrape The Soil Away From The Bulb

If you still want a little more confirmation and are unsure what stage your bulbs are at, then the only thing to do is scrape the soil away from the top of the bulb.

This is easily done, and as long as you take it slow and use your hands, then you won’t cause any damage.

Scrape the soil away from above the bulb until you can see and feel it.

This will give you a good feel for the bulb’s size and whether the cloves have separated.

If you don’t really feel any separate lumps and bumps from the separate cloves of garlic then I would give your plant another couple of weeks before checking again.

Scrape The Soil Away
Scrape The Soil Away

Harvesting

If you think the garlic is ready,, gently pull it out of the ground.

This is the same bulb that was in the photo above, with the soil scraped away.

Harvesting Garlic
Harvesting Garlic

You can see it is a nice size, but it could also have been left a little longer to size up just a little bit more.

Stripping Garlic

You can then “strip” the garlic by pulling down on the different layers on the stem.

This will remove the outer layers from the bulb and leave you with a really nice and clean garlic bulb, ready for storing.

Stripping Garlic
Stripping Garlic
Pull The Outer Layers Off
Pull The Outer Layers Off
A clean bulb
A clean bulb

You can also see the separation between the cloves in the above photo.

So even though it probably could have been left a little while longer, it is also fine to harvest now.

If you don’t have much separation between the cloves, then one of two things has happened.

You have pulled it way too early before the bulb has really started swelling, as this is key to the individual cloves pushing apart.

Or your garlic plant didn’t get any proper frost over winter. As it is frost that first makes the plant split its bulbs into individual cloves.

If you want to learn about storing garlic then read my article here.

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