Garlic Planting Day
A full two weeks before last year. I am so proud of myself. Still, my box of high dollar “seed garlic” has been sitting around for 6 weeks waiting for this day.
Let me tell you about the seed stock I got from Territorial Seed. First I should say, I ordered it early in the summer to be sure I could get the varieties I wanted. They shipped it to me on September 19 and I presume they thought that was the proper planting time for my area. But on September 19, the garden was at its peak and I had hoop house on the brain.
So, back to the garlic. I had 8 ounces each of four varieties. It’s all been sitting in the box it came in, opened for circulation, out of the sunlight, but otherwise at room temperature in the house for the last six weeks. First out of the bag was 3 heads of Duganski. Those three heads yielded 24 huge cloves.
Then the German Red. Again 3 heads, yielding 26 large cloves.
The Spanish Roja was next. There were 6.5 heads in the bag. The cloves were much smaller, about like what you get in grocery store garlic. Yield 75 cloves.
Chesnok Red rounded out the Territorial Seed order. This variety was starting to degenerate, which says bad things about its keeping ability. From 6 heads I got 50 cloves plus 5 that were soft and marginal. Clove size is similar to Spanish Roja.
The Territorial Seed garlic planted 19 feet of a 30” bed using a 6 inch spacing, with a possible yield of 175-180 heads of garlic sometime next summer, all from just 2 pounds of seed stock costing $54 plus $7.50 shipping. So let’s do a little math. Assuming I do better than this year and I get a 75% success rate on the planting, that will give me 131 heads at harvest time. I have to hold half of that back for planting next fall giving me roughly 65 heads to sell. At a dollar a head, I basically break even.
Looking at it another way, the 8 ounces of Duganski cost $13.25 before shipping and has a total possible yield of 24 heads. If I hold half the heads back for next year’s seed, and I sell the other 12 heads, I lose money at $1 a head. If I have less than 100% production from the Duganski, I definitely lose money. You begin to see that a garlic business isn’t built in one growing season.
In fact, there’s an excellent article on this very subject in the September 2013 issue of Acres USA magazine. In the article entitled “Growing Great Garlic – Consider this Low-Maintenance Cash Crop”, author Emily Sides interviews Pennsylvania garlic farmer Brian Fox who lays out a plan on going from nothing to 2,500 pounds of garlic in 4 years with a potential income of $14,000 (at $7/pound) off a $2500 investment over 3 years. (Acres USA is one of the few magazines out there that has useful articles with enough details to get you started on a venture. Most other magazines geared toward gardeners/farmers/homesteaders give you pretty pictures and some cool ideas but are woefully short on details. Acres USA also gives updates on legislation pertaining to agriculture.)
Enter saved seed and the remaining 31 feet of my 50 foot row.
Time to dip into my stash from the July harvest. A few words about that harvest. I did not actually inventory how much I harvested but I suspect I pulled up between 40 and 50 heads of the softneck variety I planted last year. About a 50% success rate or failure rate depending how you want to look at it. The hardneck I planted was a total failure. Other than lettuce, kale and snow peas, garlic was the most successful thing in the garden this year.
Still, I had to use almost half the harvest to fill in the remaining 31 feet in the row. The cloves on my softneck braiding garlic were large, though not as big as the Duganski or German Red. I don’t know the varietal name of my softneck; I got it at Wal-Mart last year. (Maybe Rose du Var or Inchelium Red, but I really don’t know.) So for now, it’s just Apriori Softneck and there’s 200 cloves in the ground, all of it tucked under a blanket of well-seasoned straw from this summer’s straw bale gardening disaster.
So how much row will 8 ounces of garlic plant? The answer to that depends on the size and number of cloves per head of garlic. Eight ounces of Duganski with its 24 cloves will plant 12 feet in a single row. Eight ounces of Spanish Roja yielded 65 cloves that will use up roughly 37 feet of row space. How much should you grow? I figure one head of garlic a week for use in the kitchen, plus enough to hold back for seed knowing that not all will make it. 100 cloves of the garlic of your choice ought to keep your kitchen stocked. If you are feeding garlic to livestock as a flea/tick/mite deterrent, grow considerably more.