How To Know When Garlic Is Ready To Harvest


Are you growing garlic in your garden this year? Sometimes it’s not always easy to tell when it’s ready to harvest because everything is happening under the ground. Here’s how to tell if it’s too early, too late, or just right.

While sometimes garlic can look the same while it’s growing and especially as it is nearing harvest, there are a few signs to tell when harvest time is near. You just need to know what to look for.

Beginning garlic growers, then, will naturally ask the question, “when is the right time to harvest my garlic?” Most of the time, they want to know a timeframe, but when you harvest garlic not only depends on your climate but also what kind of garlic you grow.


Some gardeners will harvest in May and some won’t harvest until July. Typically, growers in warmer zones harvest earlier, and growers in cooler zones harvest later.

Softneck garlic also harvests earlier than hardneck, typically. You can tell the difference in the two because the hardneck will produce a scape, also known as an immature flower stalk. When the hardneck garlic produces the flower stalk you are about three to four weeks away from harvest. A lot of growers will cut off the scape so that the plant will send its energy into bulb production. The scape can be used in the kitchen in a variety of ways such as stir fries and pesto.

garlic scape

If you’re growing softneck garlic, which doesn’t offer that scape to help you know when to expect to harvest, you’ll need to look for other signs.

How Do You Know When It’s Just Right

One of the first signs that the plant is almost ready for harvest is when the leaves begin to yellow and die back. The leaves will begin to look lackluster and not as healthy. This simply means that the plant is shifting from leaf production to bulb production.

Many new gardeners worry that this loss of vigor in their otherwise vibrant green garlic leaves is a sign of malnutrition or disease. This is possible but not likely. Most of the time, it’s a good sign — a sign that harvest is soon!

garlic growing

The next sign you’ll see that shows you that the garlic is ready is when half to two-thirds of the leaves have turned brown. Sometimes garlic plants will also flop over at this stage, but most likely due to the good loose compost in the soil. Don’t expect garlic leaves to keel over like onions do when they are ready to harvest.

Again, the key to when garlic is ready to harvest is when at least half — but no more than two-thirds — of the leaves turn brown and die back.

What Are The Signs If It Is Too Early/Too Late?

What happens if you harvest too early? First of all, your garlic bulb won’t be as large. While it will be usable right away, it won’t store well nor will it have peak flavor when you go to use it. Another thing you’ll notice is that you will have to peel away a lot of skin in order to access the garlic cloves. This is because each of the leaves above ground correspond to a layer that is covering the clove. So if you don’t allow half to two-thirds of the leaves to dry back prior to harvest, this will be a challenge you will notice.

gardener with garlic

Opposite of harvesting too early, harvesting too late can also be less than ideal. When more than two-thirds of leaves have dried back before harvesting, there are fewer leaves protecting the garlic bulb and the cloves will begin to separate. Again, this is still usable in the kitchen, but it reduces the shelf life if your goal is storage for later use.

If harvested at the proper time and cured correctly, garlic can be stored for up to 9 months, depending on the variety. (Learn more about garlic variety options here.)

It is inevitable that life will get in the way of always being able to harvest at the ideal time. When this happens, just use the garlic that has separated cloves in the kitchen first, and store the rest after curing. To learn more about garlic, you can check out this post for more info on growing, curing and storing your garlic.

If you want to see a visual example of garlic that was harvested too early, just right, and too late, I show those differences in this garlic harvest video here:

If you haven’t grown garlic before but want to grow this easy crop, grab your free garlic planting cheat sheet below!

Garlic Planting Cheat Sheet

Garlic is the easiest and most rewarding plant you can grow! All you have to know is some basics:

  • WHEN to plant
  • WHAT KIND to plant
  • WHERE to purchase
  • WHERE NOT to purchase
  • The simplest WAY to plant, whether you have a raised bed, a plot of land, or container. This step is SUPER EASY!

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