I love garlic—I mean, who wouldn’t? Right? Unlike other crops you’re growing in the garden, however, it can be pretty hard to tell when your garlic bulbs are ready for harvest. Because the bulbs are hidden away beneath the ground, the right time for harvesting garlic turns into a guessing game. That is unless you know what signs to look for!
Mature garlic bulbs are best harvested from late spring to summer, about 6–9 months after planting. Warmer climates, as is experienced in Texas and Hawaii may also result in earlier harvests of garlic bulbs. Garlic is ready for harvest when 1) lower leaves start yellowing, 2) cloves are fully formed, and 3) skins are papery dry.
Do you know the difference between garlic scapes, green garlic, and young garlic? Are you wondering if there’s any difference when it comes to the best time to harvest these? I’ll give you all the answers to these questions and more if you keep reading!
The Right Time for Harvesting Garlic (It Depends!)
The right time to harvest hardneck garlic is in summer, typically around June and July. Meanwhile, softneck garlic can be harvested late in spring, around May. Garlic may be harvested earlier in southern states due to longer day lengths and warmer climates.
Although there may be slight differences in terms of growing region and variety, fall-planted garlic is generally ready for harvest as early as late spring and as late as late summer.
Nevertheless, it’s best not to wait for longer than 9 months before you go on and start digging up your hardneck garlic bulbs. Hold off for at least 6 months before harvesting softneck garlic varieties.
For example, if you planted your hardneck garlic cloves—let’s say Spanish Roja—in October, then you can harvest them around June or July the following year.
Here’s a simple table listing some of the different garlic varieties.
|9 months (at most)
|6 months (at least)
Early Red Italian
Give them enough time to fully mature and grow as big as they can get! However, home gardeners should also keep in mind that both day length and warmer temperatures help garlic bulbs mature faster.
Garlic bulb development starts when the day length exceeds 13 hours and the soil temperature consistently gets warmer than 60°F (16°C).
Learn more in our experiment on growing garlic indoors!
So if you live farther down south, like tropical Hawaii, where winters aren’t as harsh, you may be able to harvest your garlic a few weeks—or months—earlier. Below is a table of the suggested harvest time for garlic according to different Extension offices.
|Place Garlic is Grown
|Best Time for Harvest
Now, that all of that’s out of the way, let’s talk about when and why you can also harvest garlic at an earlier time. You see, it’s not only their bulbs that are edible and delicious!
When to Harvest Garlic Scapes? (Plus, Green Garlic & Young Garlic)
Scapes from hardneck garlic can be harvested around late spring to early summer while it is still curled. Trim it at least half an inch (approx. 1 cm) from the leaf top.
If you’ve never heard of the term scapes, it just refers to the false flower stalks that grow from garlic cloves. You could also think of it as their seed head, despite not producing true seeds.
Upon growing, it actually grows pretty much upright. Then, it coils up before straightening again if they aren’t harvested at the right time.
Harvesting garlic scapes only after they’ve unfurled again is not advisable as they’re likely to become tough and very fibrous by this time, and pretty much inedible. In such cases, it’s better to either wait for the bulb to mature or for the scape to “bloom”.
Once garlic blooms, you’ll see numerous tiny bulbs called “bulbils” which are considered a delicacy instead of the typical flower you might be imagining.
But keep in mind that letting garlic scapes flower will hinder bulb growth.
Now if you’d like to get green garlic, harvest them in spring while their leaves are still relatively small and their bulbs have not yet fully formed. Young garlic is similar but with bigger bulbs and tougher leaves. Harvested them a bit later, early in the summer.
Is it possible to cross garlic and onions? Find out now!
3 Signs That Garlic is Ready for Harvest
Garlic bulbs have fully matured and are ready for harvest when 1) the lower leaves have started to turn yellow, 2) the cloves completely fill their skins, and 3) the skins have become dry and paper-like.
You can easily harvest garlic too early or too late if you aren’t a seasoned home gardener. With such mistakes, you could either have very small bulbs or popping cloves vulnerable to disease.
But don’t fret, I’ll help you tell when is the right time for harvesting your garlic!
1. Yellow Leaves
You’ll know that your garlic bulbs are ready for harvesting once 30–60% of their leaf tops have started turning yellow and dry from the base.
Don’t wait until all the leaves have turned dry, brown, and all toppled over.
Some of the leaves should still be green. Otherwise, the garlic cloves have likely already separated from being left in the ground for too long—and that’s best case scenario!
In the worst-case scenario, your garlic bulbs have already rotten away while they’re still underground because it took you too long before harvesting them.
Warning: Other people may advise you to leave the scapes as is on the garlic—pointing straight up means it’s time to dig up. However, doing so will have your garlic plant diverting its energy and resources into the scapes for flowering instead of the cloves in the bulb.
Meaning, don’t wait for your garlic to flower before harvesting the bulbs. Better yet, trim off the scapes before they even have the chance to flower!
2. Clove Size
Fully matured garlic bulbs should have grown so big that there is no space left between the cloves and their skins.
To check, you can dig up at least one garlic bulb to see if the individual cloves have indeed had enough time to grow so that they can fill up their skins.
Just cut it sideways so you can clearly see the cross-section of each garlic clove and survey how well they have developed. No space means pick up the pace and harvest the rest!
If there is still some space between the cloves and their skins, then wait for a couple more days and check again. Then again, it’s better to harvest garlic too early than too late.
3. Dry Skin
Harvest garlic bulbs while the “test garlic” that has been dug has good-sized cloves and the skin is skin whole.
Garlic skin should have a papery texture, be dry to the touch, and must still be relatively thick and solid. This is actually closely related to checking the first sign of garlic leaf color.
When all the leaves are left to dry and fall, the skin protecting the individual cloves of the garlic bulb has most probably already disintegrated as they are connected.
Naked garlic cloves are more susceptible to attracting pests and contracting diseases.
Once you’re done reading this, consider learning how to cure garlic heads too!
When to harvest elephant garlic?
Although elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is actually classified as a leek and not a true garlic, it can also be harvested around June if it was planted in the fall of the previous year. More specifically, it generally takes 180–210 days for elephant garlic to mature and be ready for harvest.
Can you plant garlic in the spring?
While fall planting is recommended for harvesting mature garlic bulbs with large cloves, garlic can also be planted in spring. Only plant garlic cloves after the danger of the last spring frost have passed and the soil can be worked. Spring planting garlic results in a lower yield and much smaller bulbs and cloves by summer.
Summary of Best Time to Harvest Garlic
Harvest garlic by late spring to late summer when their bulbs have fully matured. There may be differences in harvesting time depending on the variety selected and the place they are grown in.
Softneck garlic can be harvested earlier than hardneck varieties, even earlier in southern states such as Georgia than northern ones like North Dakota. Garlic scapes, green garlic, and young garlic can be harvested earlier as well—from spring to early summer.
Ensure maximum clove size by harvesting garlic cloves once at least 30% of the lower leaves turn yellow, the cloves fill their skins entirely, and the skins become dry, papery, and thick.
- “Garlic Harvest, Curing, and Storage” by R Hazzard in the University of Massachusetts Amherst
- “Garlic, Allium sativum” by Susan Mahr in the University of Wisconsin – Madison
- “Growing Garlic in the Garden” by Timothy J. Malinich in the Ohio State University Extension
- “Growing garlic in home gardens” by Marissa Schuh, Carl J. Rosen, and Cindy Tong in the University of Minnesota Extension
- “Growing Garlic in the Home Garden” by Phyllis Frederick, Erika Leviant, and William Hlubik in Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
- “Bulletin #2063, Growing Garlic in Maine” by David Fuller and Steven B. Johnson in The University of Maine Extension