A few weeks before harvesting stop watering the garlic. Different growers have different rules of thumb regarding the best time to harvest. The dying back of the leaves is only an approximate indicator. To determine whether the garlic is ready to harvest inspect a few bulbs in the ground by carefully scraping away the dirt. You can feel the bumps of the cloves through the wrappers of a mature bulb. Harvesting:
It’s time to harvest your garlic when half to three-quarters of the bottom leaves have died. This usually happens by mid- to late summer – July and August for most areas.
Harvest the bulbs by digging them out with a small garden shovel or fork. Dry the bulbs by hanging them from their foliage or placing them on a drying rack for 7 to 10 days before using them. Store the dried bulbs in a cool, dry place and save one or two bulbs from the harvest to propagate the following fall.
Lift the garlic from the ground when the bulb has reached a good size and before the wrappers begin to deteriorate or the bulbs begin to split open. If a bulb is not well-wrapped, and the skins on the cloves are not intact, the garlic will not keep well. Learning exactly when to stop watering and when to harvest is a matter of judgment that comes with experience.
We have a late spring and in our location in the mountains; we begin harvesting our earliest varieties in mid to late July. The main harvest continues into August, with the late varieties and spring-planted beds being harvested in late August.
We use a flat, narrow-bladed shovel to loosen the ground beside the garlic – we pierce fewer bulbs with it than we did with a fork – and lift the plants by hand. Be careful as garlic bruises easily.
Garlic can get sunburned and some varieties of garlic change flavor when left in the sun and so we take each load of baskets of garlic into the curing barn as soon as it is harvested.
Harvest a test bulb or two to determine maturity. Garlic should be well-wrapped but not split. To harvest garlic, loosen the soil with a shovel or fork and pull up plants by hand. Use caution because garlic bruises easily. If you are raising bulbils to propagate new garlic, harvest them now and dry them separately from the bulbs.