Eat Your Own Garlic All Year Round: How to Harvest and Cure It

Harvesting Garlic

Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden, especially if you live in a colder climate.

And, drying garlic the right way means you can store it for many months of use in delicious recipes. In fact, if you store enough of it you can easily eat your own garlic all year round and never have to buy any from the store ever again!

(Make sure you’re growing garlic that stores well. Read this post about the different types of garlic.)

The last two weeks in July is an exciting time in my garden because it’s garlic harvest time! 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 too long or you might compromise the storage life of the bulb.

So, how do you know when it’s the right time to harvest your garlic?

Depending on where you garden, sometime during July you’ll notice the leaves of the plant turning yellow and then brown. This is your signal that the garlic will be ready to harvest soon.

At this point, keep checking the plant until you see that several of the lower leaves closest to the ground have turned brown.

Once your garlic is ready to harvest, there are a few things you can do to make sure it cures well for long-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.

Here are the steps you should be taking to make sure you’re harvesting and drying your garlic so you can eat it all winter long.

This post also comes in video form! Check it out here.

10 Steps for Harvesting & Drying Garlic

Step 1: Do not attempt to pull the garlic plants from the ground with your hands. This often results in the plant breaking off where it meets the ground, which means you’ve left the bulb in the garden bed. Garlic is best dried with the leaves on.

Use a garden fork to loosen the bulbs before harvesting and then gently pull them from the soil.

 Tools for Garlic Harvest

This post contains affiliate links.

Step 2: If you’re growing several varieties in your garden you may want to keep them separate so you can evaluate them for things like taste, storage life, and spiciness. Harvest one variety at a time and make a separate pile for each type.

Step 3: Did you know you can save your own seed for planting in the fall? Set aside the biggest bulbs of each type and label and dry them separately. This will be your garlic seed for this year.

Garlic Harvest Directions

Step 4: If you break into a bulb right after harvesting you’ll notice the “paper” around each clove is still pretty moist. Drying garlic helps dry out the paper, which makes for a longer storage life and much easier peeling.

The best place to cure your garlic is somewhere dark and dry with air circulation. A covered porch, garage, or shed is an ideal place.

Step 5: Most people, including me, hang their garlic to dry. I tie my garlic in bundles of 10 plants with garden twine. I leave one end long so I can hang the bundle from my garage rafters.

How to Harvest Garlic

Step 6: If you’re keeping track of each variety, you can label each bundle (I use flagging tape.) The bundles I want to save for seed I also mark with the word “seed” so I remember to put them aside for planting. 

Garlic Harvest How To

Step 7: Take the bundles to your drying area and hang them up.  I use my garage, so I loop the longer end of twine over the rafter and tie a knot. I usually hang the seed garlic in a separate spot so I can easily keep track of it.

Curing Garlic

Step 8: Let the garlic dry for about 6-8 weeks. You can test the dryness level by cutting a bulb down and trying to peel the paper. It should feel like the garlic you buy from the grocery store with no more moisture in the paper.

When they’re completely dry, cut them down and remove the stalks and roots (I use my Felco hand pruners for this step). You’ll need to find something to hold the bulbs for the winter. I use wax produce boxes, but a crate, cardboard box, or something else that allows some air circulation will work as well.

Step 9: If you’re trying to keep your garlic for fall and winter eating, you’ll want to transport the boxes to the coolest possible place that doesn’t freeze. I store mine in a dark closet in my basement. I’ve found that the cooler I can keep them the longer they store.

Storing Garlic

Step 10: Enjoy using your garlic in any and every recipe! At our house, pretty much every meal we make starts with onions and garlic in a pan with olive oil.

It’s such a fun challenge to try to grow all you need of as many vegetables as possible. And it’s a great practice in self-sufficiency. You’ll feel a wonderful sense of satisfaction when you eat your own organically grown garlic all winter long and never have to buy garlic from the store!

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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. 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.

  • […] I’ve written a few popular posts on growing garlic: why you should plant it, how to decide what types to grow, and how to harvest and cure it. […]

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