What gardeners need to know about planting, harvesting, curing and storing garlic - East Idaho News

What gardeners need to know about planting, harvesting, curing and storing garlic

  Published at

To protect the large Idaho onion industry, all allium products are subject to Idaho quarantine laws. The reason for the quarantine is to reduce the possibility of introducing onion white rot fungus into onion-growing areas of the state.

Eastern Idaho counties under the quarantine rule are Cassia, Power, Bingham, Bonneville, Jefferson, and Madison. It is illegal to grow garlic in any of these counties that have not been certified by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Gardeners in the quarantined counties are permitted to save garlic they have grown for replanting but cannot sell it for planting if it is not certified.

Now that it’s out of the way, it’s nearly time to harvest garlic.

Garlic is planted in the fall. It overwinters and is one of the first plants you will see poking up through the snow in the spring. By late June to mid-July, it is ready to be harvested.

Many question how you know when to harvest garlic. It is important not to leave it in the ground until the tops die. This allows the skins around the bulb to deteriorate, and they fall apart when they are handled.

When garlic leaves die back about one-third to half brown, they are ready to harvest. Also, as the bulbs gain in size, they will cause the ground to split between the bulbs. This is not as obvious in sandy soils.


It is easier to harvest garlic if they are not watered for a couple of days before harvest. A garden fork is the easiest tool to use. Since garlic are planted deep, insert the fork straight down about six inches away from the stem, then gently pry them up. Once they show signs of loosening, grab them by the stem and gently pull up and free of the soil.


Remove any clinging dirt and clods, then place them in an open-air location out of direct sunlight.

Leave them in their curing location until the tops are totally dry. Once they are dry, any remaining dirt can be removed with the outer layer of skin. There should be several layers of skin to keep the bulb intact during storage.

Garlic can also be braided into a garland when the tops are still somewhat moist. A hemp cord can be braided in with the garlic tops to provide strength and a loop to hang the garland—an attractive decorative item to hang on the kitchen wall.

white garlic
Ron Patterson


Garlic can be stored in an open container in the kitchen for several months. They can also be stored in a cold refrigerator or even a freezer. Garlic in cold storage will start to turn green as soon as they are removed from their chilly environment.

Garlic is a fun crop to grow, and you can’t beat fresh garlic in most savory recipes.