How to Harvest & Cure Garlic

Harvesting Garlic

I’m on a mission to get as many gardeners as possible to grow garlic! It’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden, especially if you live in a colder climate. (In this post I share the other reasons you should plant it!)

The last two weeks in July is usually garlic harvest time in my garden (Madison, WI, zone 5a). Depending on where you live, your harvest time may be a little earlier or later. You don’t want to harvest your garlic too early – that could result in immature bulbs.

But, you also don’t want to wait until the entire plan turns brown or you might compromise the storage life of the bulb. I generally harvest my garlic when several of the lower leaves closest to the ground turn brown.

Once your garlic is ready to harvest, there are a few things you can do to make sure it cures well for longer term storage. This is especially important if you grow a lot like I do! We plant about 220 each fall and eat our own garlic all year round.

How to Harvest & Cure Your Garlic

  1. I use a garden fork to loosen the bulbs when harvesting. Trying to pull them out of the ground by hand often results in breaking off the stalk.

 Tools for Garlic Harvest

2. I grow several varieties of garlic in my garden and I like to keep track of them from year to year. I harvest one variety at a time and make a separate pile for each type. I like to save my biggest bulbs for planting in the fall, so at the point I cull through the piles and set aside the best bulbs to cure separately.

Garlic Harvest Directions

3. If you break into a bulb right after harvesting you’ll notice that the “paper” around each clove is still pretty moist. Curing your garlic will help dry out the paper and make for longer storage and much easier peeling. The best place to cure your garlic is somewhere dark and dry.

4. I tie my garlic in bundles of 10 with twine. I leave one end long so I can hang the bundle from my garage rafters.

How to Harvest Garlic

5. I label each bundle with the variety and also mark it as seed if I’m saving it for fall planting.

Garlic Harvest How To

6. Lastly, I take the bundles to the garage and hang them from the rafters.  I hang the seed garlic in a separate area so I can easily keep track of it.

Curing Garlic

7. I’ll let the garlic cure for about 4-6 weeks. When it’s dry I cut it down, remove the stalks and roots and store the bulbs in waxed boxes in my basement for the winter. I plant varieties that store well, so we’re able to eat our own garlic all year round. (Want to know more about what type to plant? I explain the options in this post.)

Storing Garlic

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Growing Garlic

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My eBook, The Essential Guide to Growing Garlic, walks you through the process of planting, growing, harvesting, curing and storing it successfully- from start to finish. To celebrate garlic season the eBook is on sale for only $5! Check it out here.

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Comments

  • Darlene Gakovich

    Thanks for the tips. I harvested my garlic last week and left the bulbs with stalks to dry in a bushel but now I will adopt your method. Which varieties do you prefer to plant? I have never seen Romanian red!

    Thanks, Megan.

    Darlene

    • Darlene- I plant Romanian Red, a mix of random bulbs I’ve gotten over the years, and a porcelain variety. Porcelain is the best for storage. I still have some left from last year!

  • […] Want to see how I cure my garlic so that we can eat it all winter long? Read all about it here. […]

  • What a fantastic post. As a novice gardener living in Alaska, this is quite helpful!

  • Michelle Wohlgemuth

    I live in the Panhandle of Oklahoma, would I still plant the last week in October or would I plant later?

    • Hi Michelle- Thanks for stopping by! I checked out the map and it looks like you live in zone 6 or so. I live in zone 5, so if I were you I’d plant during November instead, a little later than me.

  • Where do you get a waxed box?

    • Hi Paulette- I’ve picked up waxed boxes from my local grocery store. Lots of produce is shipped in waxed boxes. Good luck!

  • Where do you purchase bulbs for planting? I’ve not seen it at my local nurseries.

    • Hi Sue- One of the best places is from your local farmers market. That way you know it’s a variety that does well in your area. You can also order garlic from seed companies like High Mowing and Seed Savers Exchange. Or search garlic seed company on Google. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  • Hi Megan – Great post! You mention keeping your seed garlic separate. How do determine which garlic will be your seed garlic?

    • Great question, James! I like big bulbs and cloves because I find them easier to peel and use for cooking. So, each year I put aside the biggest bulbs for seed. It’s really a matter of preference, but overall you want to try to pick the ones that are the most healthy – no disease, no nicks, etc.

      • If you keep the biggest for seed, does that mean year after year you end up growing all big bulbs? I would cook the biggest lol but small seed gives small bulbs? Is this correct?

        • That’s correct in theory, Renee. But, it depends on what types you’re growing. Soft neck garlic tends to produce smaller cloves and hard neck larger bulbs. You could pick a hard neck type to plant this fall if you like big bulbs and cloves. I do save the biggest each year for seed.

  • Thresia Ross

    Being that I live in Mississippi we usually don’t have a basement for storage so how do you recomend storage for the garlic?

    • Hi Thresia- Do you have a cool, dark spot somewhere in your house or in an attached garage? Garlic likes to be kept at about 33-50 degrees F, with good air circulation and darkness.

  • Andre Paquet

    I leave in the province of Quebec, Canada, many years ago a bought différent type of galic from a seed Farmer, my région is 4, and a still have garlic from l’ast year . My question is, i have worm that come after the end curl and make their way through the bulb. And turn into flys. I have to cut half of stalks to prevent thèmes to go further down, What should i do to prévent Thierry
    Merci pour votre aide
    Andre

  • Darlene Gakovich

    I bought German porcelain garlic at the Farmers’ Market yesterday to use for seed. The seller cut off the stalks within a few inches off the bulb, saying it is too moist, which prevents the bulb from drying properly. You keep the stalk throughout the drying period. Which is the better way? Thank you.

    • I like to keep the stalks on, and most of the farmers I’ve worked for do the same. But, that’s the nice thing about gardening, there’s isn’t only one way to do things. You could try both ways and decide which one you like.

  • Gorgeous photos!! Great post! 🙂

  • Thanks for the info, it’s very helpful. I am growing some shallots for the first time, and wonder if I should use the same process for harvesting and curing those. Again, many thanks!

    • Hi Joan- You can spread your shallots to cure instead. Somewhere that has good air circulation like an old screen. You can try hanging them but sometimes the tops break. They’re not as sturdy as garlic.

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