Episode 402. When do I harvest my onions and garlic?

Join Richard in this weeks vegetable gardening podcast where this week he is discussing about how to tell when its time to harvest garlic, onions and first early potatoes. Richard also shares the latest from his allotment and vegetable patch.

The diary

This week Richard has had the first real opportunity to test his rainwater harvesting system attached to his shed. He noticed that an airlock had developed between 2 water butts and had to take action in order to capture as much rain as possible.

Richard has also been covering areas of his allotment with weed suppressing membrane due to the high levels of couch grass. This area will not be wasted of course as he will be placing tubs of plants on top in order to maximise growing space.

What have you been tackling in your garden or allotment? Let us know by dropping an email.

When do I harvest my onions and garlic?

Its the summer equinox, the middle of the year when the days is the longest. For me this is a date where I often feel we can start reaping the rewards of our harvests. From this day on our garlic and onion will be ready for harvsing as will some of our Early or first potatoes.

So how do you know when these are ready to harvest and what do you do with them after  harvesting?

Early potatoes

Well the easiest one first of all is first early potatoes. Usually we would harvest these 10 to 12 weeks after planting depending on the variety. However I usually use this rule as a guide as as we all know we can have years where the weather might have slowed things down and this year is certainly one of those years. Discussions I have been having is that this year we are about 3 weeks behind. I bring this up because if we go back to when I planted my potatoes which was mid march and we add 12 weeks that would have taken us to 3 weeks ago but the main trick I use to tell when my first potatoes are ready is whether flowers have started to develop. 3 weeks ago we had no sign of flowers but this week they are now starting to show.

For me this means I will start harvesting some early potatoes simply by digging them out the ground. The trouble with first potatoes is they do not store very well at all. 5 days is probably the longest we can store new potatoes. So what I try and do is harvest new potatoes when I need them and leave the rest in ground to continue to grow. They will of course get bigger potatoes and may not taste as good but at least they will get used.That being said if we are harvesting our potatoes when young you might only get a few potatoes from a plant at first might only be ebough for one meal. If I do have to harvest lots of these potatoes and want to preserve them, I will turn them into meals to freeze. Bombay potatoes or saag aloo is possibly some of the best examples for this.


Moving onto Garlic and if sown in autumn this is usually ready to harvest by the end of June. So I will be harvesting my Garlic next weekend. However I also sown some garlic very late as an experiment and these will be left in the ground for a little bit longer.

So what are we looking for to tell when garlic is ready? One of the signs I look for is yellowing leaves. This is usually a good sign that the bulb has got all the energy its going to get from its leaves, If the garlic is a softneck variety then the stalk will also topple over which is a second sign to look for but only if its a softneck variety and this is what I will be looking for with my spring sown garlic before harvesting.

To harvest I try and gently ease the bulbs out the ground as my soil has become quite lose I have found this pretty easy to do but if your soil is a bit tougher then a small fork to slide under the bulb to ease it help might help lift it without damaging the bulb itself. Once harvested I like to let my garlic dry in the greenhouse just simply by laying it on the shelf with plenty of airlow around each bulb. If you don’t have a greenhouse anywhere dry warm and well lit will do. Some even dry outside which can work but if we do get showers it can put you back to square one.

After a week I find garlic is ready to have all remaining dirt cleaned off and the roots trimmed off then Ill shall dry for another week before placing the garlic in my garage for storage and garlic can be stored for a long time especially elephant garlic. Before storing we can plait the stalks together to create a garlic plait which is attractive way to store garlic although often I just cut off the stalks and place the bulbs in my garage.

This year I am going to preserve a lot of our garlic by pealing a few cloves and placing these cloves in a food blender with some oil and basically blitzing it all down to a paste. Of course this does need care in order to make sure we don’t get ill.


Onions next and this is another one that as I have experimented this year with overwintered and spring sown so much of this is based on what I know about my overwintered onions I always have tended to grow over wintered onions in the past as I have had much better results but spring sown onins are less licky to bolt. Just like garlic my overwintered onions will be harvested this week because I large propartion of the stalks have started to flop over and turn brown which is a good indication that they are ready and this is what I will be looking for in my spring sown onions to work out when to harvest those. Again conversations I ahve had with other allotmenteers has lead me to believe that spring sown onions will bulk up in size after the longest day. We shall see if thats the case.

Like garlic when it comes to harvesting we want to get the whole builb out the ground. I often actually pull these out by the stalk but that might not be a great idea as it could of course damage the onion. A better way would be to tease them out with a fork. Once out these will all need to go in the greenhouse to dry for a week before cleaning any dirt and trimming the roots. After another week in the greenhouse I will then trim off the stalks and place my onions in some trays which again go into the garage or somewhere cool drya nd dark where they can last a while. I do check on them often and any onions that are going soft get removed. Overwintered onions are difficult to store for a long time although I ahve managed till febuary in the past. A way to get longer storage of onions could be to chop them all up evan dice then and the freeze in small batches. Again this method has worked very well for me in the past.

There you have it 3 crops that we may well be harvesting this very week if you know what to look for. I hope that has helped you if your looking at your vegetables and thinking when do I harvest these. If you got any tips on this subject or want to add anything to the show then why not get in touch. You can email me richard@theveggrowerpodcast.co.uk

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