Knowing when to harvest garlic is very important. If you harvest too soon, the bulbs will be very small and not ready. If you harvest too late, the bulbs will have begun to split. The time to harvest garlic bulbs varies; it depends on the location, the variety of garlic and weather conditions.
The best way to determine if your garlic is ready for harvesting is to look at the leaves. The leaves are important because the leaves form the layers that wrap around the picked garlic, not enough leaves and the stored garlic won’t have enough protection.
As the summer growing season winds down, the leaves slowly turn brown and die off. Stop watering after the garlic tops reach about 12 inches in height, this signals that the plants are approaching maturity. It generally takes 90 to 110 days from planting to harvesting.
The time to harvest is when half the leaves are green; the other half should be a mixture of yellow and brown leaves and beginning to droop. You can check and see if the bulbs are the right size, by removing a little dirt and actually look at the bulb without pulling them out. If too small, leave to grow some more. Don’t wait too long, if the leaves turn comply brown, the crop is ruined.
When the bulbs are ready, knock down the aboveground growth to hasten curing. A few days later harvest your crop. Dig the plants out, don’t pull them out; you don’t want to break the leaves off. The fresh garlic bulbs will bruise easily; dig each one up individually so you don’t cut the bulb open.
After harvesting, keep the bulbs out of direct sunlight, they burn easily and the taste will be affected. Don’t wash the bulbs, just brush off the dirt. Store the garlic in a dry, cool place with good circulation. You can twist the garlic and braid into ropes or cut the tops and place in a mesh bag or netting.
Cured bulbs will last for up to a year in the refrigerator if well wrapped or for several months if hung up; plenty of time for garlic bread.