Harvesting Garlic on The 80 Minute Allotment

Growing your own garlic might be the easiest gardening you can ever do. They are a low maintenance crop, and easy to harvest too...

Garlic is so easy to grow. All you have to do is plant some individual cloves and leave them! It's best to plant them in the autumn as they need a cold spell to make sure they develop properly into the bulbs we use to cook with. 

Planting in autumn pretty much guarantees that at some point they will have a couple of weeks or more (depending on where you live) of low temperatures.

You don't need to do much else until midsummer. I weed by hand between my garlic plants as they grow, but I don't water or feed them. They don't need much water so unless you have very dry soil you can just leave them to establish and grow themselves. 

How and when to harvest garlic 

Assuming your garlic has grown successfully, you just need to look out for the right time to lift them from the ground. It will be easy to see when they are ready.

When to harvest garlic

Your garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn from green to pale yellow, and fall over. In the UK, this is usually in midsummer, around the end of June.

Garlic ready to harvest Green Fingered Blog 80 Minute Allotment
Garlic is ready to lift when the leaves fade and fall over
Don't leave it too long! If you leave it too long before harvesting your garlic, the leaves will fade completely and disintegrate. If this happens you may not even be able to see where your garlic was planted, depending on whether you grew it in orderly rows or not!

How to harvest garlic

If the soil is fairly loose and pliable at the time you want to harvest your garlic then you may be able to simply grab the stems and pull the garlic out of the ground. Pull gradually but steadily without too much force, and the roots may slowly come loose and release the plant. 

Pulling too hard or suddenly will make the leaves break and then you'll have to dig up the bulbs anyway.

If you are digging them up, use a fork and push it into the ground several inches away from the garlic plants. You are trying to avoid pushing the fork right into a bulb and skewering it.

Get the fork deep enough and then lever the plants out of the ground from underneath.

You should then be able to grab the stems, lift out the garlic and shake off as much of the earth from the roots as you can.

Garlic drying Green Fingered Blog 80 Minute Allotment
Garlic drying in the sun

Drying your garlic

Garlic bulbs should be left to dry out. Apart from anything else, this makes it much easier to brush off the rest of the earth from them, but it will ensure that you can store garlic for a long time. I still have a few bulbs left that were lifted this time last year!

If the weather is dry, and forecast to stay dry, you can simply leave garlic on the ground where it was lifted from, and let it dry in the sun there. Alternatively, take it somewhere where it can be spread out and kept warm and dry.

This year we have had a very hot spell of sunny weather and my garlic dried very quickly left on a table outside the back door.

If rain is forecast then keep garlic inside to dry, avoiding anywhere too humid.  

Storing garlic

When dry, garlic will keep for at least a year if stored in a dry, well ventilated place out of the light.

If you leave the stems on, you can use these to hang garlic up somewhere. If you feel really  ambitious, try plaiting lots of them together in a bunch and hang them up.

Whatever you do with them, they should keep for ages, allowing you to use fresh home grown garlic whenever you want to.

Happy harvesting.


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