Knowing when to harvest garlic can sometimes feel like a bit of a guessing game. If you harvest too early you will have small bulbs but if you leave it too late you run the risk of having split and rotten bulbs. In this post we will show you the 3 signs that we look for to determine when our hard neck garlic is ready to harvest.
3 Signs that your hard neck garlic is ready to harvest
- The plant has grown garlic scapes.
- All but three leaves have turned brown.
- The stems have started leaning.
What are garlic scapes?
- Garlic scapes are a thin, green stalk that grows from the bulb and holds the bud of the flower head.
- If left to develop they will grow curvy and eventually produce a flower.
Scapes are a sign that your garlic is ready to harvest, however we like to cut the scapes off to give our garlic bulb a little more time to grow.
If you want to do this it is important to cut the scapes before they flower. If left to grow, the plant will divert nutrients away from the developing bulb and put it into growing the flower.
Why should I wait for all but three leaves to die on a garlic plant before harvesting?
If you harvest your garlic whilst all the leaves are green you will likely have small bulbs. Alternatively if you wait until all the leaves have browned you will have split or even rotten garlic bulbs that will not store well.
It is very unlikely that all our garlic plants will be at the same growth stage at the same time so we harvest all of our garlic when the majority of the plants have only 2-3 green leaves left.
Things To Do Before Harvesting Garlic
- Stop watering the plant at least 1 week before you plan on harvesting the garlic.
- Pick a dry day for harvesting so the compost is dry and loose.
We wait for a dry spell before harvesting because we don’t want the soft, papery skin of the bulb to be moist. Moist skin on the bulb can lead to mould once hung and left to dry out.
How to harvest garlic with help from the kids
- Keeping the garden fork straight and downward facing push it into the compost to a depth of at least 1 inch (it needs to be under the bulb) and at least 1 – 1 half inches away from the stem of the plant.
- Then use the fork to lever the bulb whilst pulling upwards on the stem until the garlic bulb is free.
- Give it a little shake to remove any compost.
NOTE: If kids, especially younger ones are harvesting the garlic themselves just double check that they have the garden fork underneath and away from the bulb so that it does not get damaged.
How to prepare harvested garlic for storing
- Using a pair of sharp scissors or secateurs trim the roots as close to the plate of the bulb as possible without damaging it.
Roots can be added to a compost bin, we add ours to our potato bags.
- Separate into two piles
- Bulbs that are not split and will store well.
- Bulbs that have split and will not store (Once dried these will need to be used up first)
- String them up in bunches and leave to hang in a cool/dark area.
- Leave them to hang until the stems are completetly dry that way the bulbs will have every last bit of energy from the plant and will taste stonger and nicer.
NOTE: Out of the pile of garlic that will not store well, choose the biggest bulbs to plant in September for next years harvest.
We hope you have enjoyed this weeks post. If you have any questions please feel free to get in contact.