Woohoo! Is your favorite part of June gardening the garlic harvest? Mine too! We've waited patiently as it grew for 9 long months. We mulched it, overwintered it, plucked off the scapes, FINALLY the bulbs formed, and its ready to come out of the garden! It's not only exciting because it will be so delicious, but it will also make space to plant something new... maybe pumpkins!
You know garlic is ready to pick when you notice the plant starting to "die back". Look for yellowing or browning of the bottom leaves. This in an indication of harvest readiness!
I like to do a "test dig" before popping up all my bulbs. Pierce the soil with a shovel or harvest fork about 6 inches from the plant. Go straight down then angle the fork to pop up the bulb. This will prevent puncturing the bulb. If you can see and feel well formed cloves, they are ready to harvest. If the bulb is simply round, the cloves need more time to form. Check again each week.
Fun facts about what to do next... Garlic can be eaten "green", uncured, or cured. If you want to store it, however, it must be cured. After harvesting, knock of any excess dirt at the root to reduce moisture during curing. Tie the plants into bundles and hang in a well ventilated area. This can be a basement, garage, barn, or under a covered patio. I run a fan on mine to ensure air circulation. Be sure your location allows the garlic protection from direct sun or rain. The preferred curing temperatures range from 60-80 degrees for about one month. Cut each bulb from the plant as you need it, or cut them all at once and store them indoors in a low humidity environment.
They may last anywhere from 3-6 months depending on the variety! For the differences in hard neck vs soft neck varieties, and how to replant your cloves this fall, click HERE.