Getting Ready For Harvest Season
Updated: 4 days ago
Depending on your growing zone you can expect to harvest your garlic anywhere from mid-May to mid-July. Here in Northeast Washington state we typically harvest around July 1st. Depending on the season we may have a long harvest window of up to 2-3 weeks between our earliest and latest varieties or we may have a short window of only 3-5 days, so watch your garlic carefully and remember that each year is a unique growing experience.
Garlic Plant Maturity
If the proper conditions have been met (water, fertility, weed management, proper planting time, etc.) your plant will grow 10-12 leaves before scaping (for hardneck varieties) and bulb development begins. For maximum bulb potential, you want a large plant with as many leaves as possible that dries down slowly, allowing the bulb to convert all that plant energy into maximum stored energy (bulb size). Remove scapes (the immature flower stalk of the plant, a long slender stem with a birds-like beak at the tip) at 4-6" for more bulb size or allow to lengthen and curl for a tasty treat similar to a garlic flavored green bean. If scapes are left on, they will continue to curl until they begin to unfurl and eventually point straight to the sky at harvest time. Failing to remove the scape, or keeping it on for too long, will result in reduced bulb size. For a nice balance of bulb size and scape length, harvest when the scape has completed one complete curl.
When the scapes emerge stop fertilizing. Be sure to provide adequate water but avoid having overly saturated soil. As the bulb swells the energy stored in the leaves is used and the leaves begin to die, starting at the bottom and moving up. When your plant has dried about 50% it is time to harvest. Large plants with 10-12 leaves should be harvested with 5-6 green leaves left. Each green leaf represents a papery wrapper on a cured bulb of garlic. Taper off water the week before harvest.
If you harvest your garlic too early, you sacrifice size and may harvest before the cloves and their wrappers have fully formed. Harvested too late and your wrappers will quickly deteriorate, and your risk of disease and pathogen problems greatly increase. Here are 3 mature bulbs sliced to expose their clove formation. Notice the fully formed clove wrappers and slight pulling away from the stem, this is the best stage to harvest your garlic. The 3rd bulb is just beginning to open a little and the clove formation is not very tight, it should have been harvested 1-2 days earlier. It is a harvest window, as plants begin to mature your harvest begins. In a small garden it may be a few bulbs a day for a few weeks. In a large garden, particularly if only a few varieties are grown, the harvest may be done all at once when most of the bulbs are fully mature and only a few are over/under mature. In our garden, harvest season typically lasts about 2 weeks, with early varieties like Purple Glazer and Russian Red getting us started and Carpathian always the last to maturity.
Don't forget to enjoy your garlic scapes! They are great roasted, in pesto, pickled, chopped and frozen or dehydrating, grilled, fermented, sauteed, deep fried, or pan fried. Kept in a plastic bag, in your fridge, these will store for at least 4-6 weeks. Here's our favorite garlic scape pesto recipe. We freeze it in small portions and enjoy it all year. GARLIC SCAPE PESTO RECIPE (FREEZES GREAT!) 1 pound garlic scapes, cut into 2-inch pieces 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese 1 cup olive oil 1/2 cup toasted walnut, sunflower seed, or omit 1 tablespoon lemon juice salt and pepper to taste Blend the garlic scapes, Parmesan cheese, nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice together in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Other herbs such as basil, parsley, and cilantro are great additions. Freeze for year round use.
Need more scapes than your garden produces? We can ship them to you!
Available by pre-order and ships in June and July, you can order here:
Plan early and order your garlic seed for next Fall. If you're still discovering what grows best in your garden, consider one of seed garlic samplers. Samplers contain 3-5 different varieties of Certified organic, heirloom garlic along with our Guide to Growing Garlic to help get you off to a good start.
Learn more about our Seed Samplers Here
We wish you all the best in your garlic growing adventures, we'll be back soon to talk about the process of harvesting and the "How To's" and importance of curing garlic properly.