When to harvest garlic: how to tell when this flavorful crop is ready to pick

With our guide on when to harvest garlic, you can enjoy the biggest and best homegrown bulbs

holding bunch of garlic
(Image credit: Zbynek Pospisil/Alamy Stock Photo)

Knowing when to harvest garlic is crucial for getting the very best out of your crop. 

Part of the allium family, these flavorful bulbs are a worthwhile addition to any vegetable garden. After all, a clove or two will enhance almost any savory dish, from pasta sauces to cozy winter casseroles.

'We always make space in our garden to grow garlic as we use so much of it in cooking,' says Ruth Hayes of Amateur Gardening magazine. And not only is growing garlic easy, but it's also straightforward to harvest, once you know the right time to do so.

person holding harvested garlic

Garlic is a valuable ingredient in the kitchen

(Image credit: Johner Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

When to harvest garlic

Garlic can be planted in your kitchen garden in autumn, winter, or spring. The time of year that you plant it will impact the time you need to harvest it.

'For autumn- and winter-planted bulbs this will be in early summer, while spring-planted bulbs are lifted from late summer to mid-autumn,' says Ruth.

The telltale sign that your garlic is ready to be lifted from the soil is in the leaves. You need to wait until they turn yellow and start to flop, says Ruth. Do it before then, and it'll be too early. 'You'll miss the final growth spurt,' warns The Garlic Farm.

harvested garlic bulbs

Harvest garlic when the leaves are turning yellow

(Image credit: Svetlana Akifyeva/Alamy Stock Photo)

It's a good idea to lift just one or two to start with, to check that they're ready, before harvesting the whole crop. 'Take care when lifting, as damage and bruising will make the bulbs harder to store,' Ruth says. 

Once you've left them to dry out for a few weeks, you can remove the stalks for storage. Or, if you've grown a softneck variety, learn how to plait garlic and hang them somewhere cool, dark and airy. There are more tips from Monty Don on harvesting garlic, as well as shallots, in our dedicated guide.

Before the bulbs are ready for harvesting, you can pick some of the leaves when they are still green to use in the kitchen, says the RHS. They have a milder taste than the cloves, and are ideal to use in salads or as garnishes.

harvested bunch of garlic on ground

Harvest your garlic once it's ready, rather than leaving it in the ground

(Image credit: Johner Images/Johner Images Royalty-Free/Getty Images)

Should you stop watering garlic before you harvest it?

Refrain from watering the plants entirely for about a week or so before you plan to harvest your garlic. This will prevent the bulbs, which will be well-formed by this point, from rotting. 

What happens if you leave garlic in the ground too long?

Once the time is right, don't delay harvesting your garlic. Leaving the bulbs in your raised garden beds, borders or pots can cause them to open up and impacts how well they will store, says the RHS. It can also result in them rotting.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.