I knew it was time to harvest the garlic because the tops started to yellow a lot, like this picture above. Last year, I waited until the leaves were a lot more yellow, and I had a hard time finding all the garlic. Waiting so long, the tops had deteriorated a lot more and I couldn't tell where the bulbs were under the ground. About a month ago, I removed the seed and stem part of the garlic plant, called the scape. There are basically two kinds of garlic, hardneck and softneck, and hardneck is the type that makes a scape. All my garlic is hardneck this year...I would like to grow some softneck garlic though too, because that is the kind that you can braid and hang up in your kitchen. Hardneck garlic doesn't store as long as softneck garlic, they say, but mine did just fine last year. You can see a post showing the garlic scapes here. Cutting off the scapes makes the bulbs grow much bigger because they don't have to put so much energy into making their seed head.
I've found that the best way to get the garlic out is to use a large tined fork. I step down on the fork a few inches back from where I think the clove is, and lift it up, to loosen the ground up. If you have cultivated your soil well in the fall, when you planted the garlic, it shouldn't be too hard to loosen it up now. Then, since you didn't wait too long to harvest your garlic (smile), you can reach down and gently pull the garlic bulb loose from the dirt.
This is a variety called Georgian Fire. Seed Savers says this one is a true 'white hot' garlic, with a pleasant heat. I can't wait to try it out. I also grew Siberian Garlic and Chesnok Red this year. Siberian is a good all purpose garlic, while chesnok is good for baking and roasting. I tried to cover all my bases.
For the time being, I put all the garlic into my barn (aka my enclosed front porch). I will leave it there for a few weeks to cure, to dry out so it will store better for as long as possible. I'm sure a lot of it will go into marinara and salsas that I will be canning later in the summer.
I'd love to hear about your garlic experiences...especially other varieties that people grow. I need to learn how to properly roast garlic without burning the heck out of it. If you like the smell of garlic, come on on over and sit on my porch...it's smelling pretty good out there about now.