Why Should You Buy Seed Garlic?
Why You May Want to buy premium organic seed garlic:
1) You have a source of healthy premium organic garlic:
Please make sure you buy only clean garlic to avoid introducing disease into your farm or growing operation. It is worthwhile to spend a little more to have peace of mind.
Picture: Trays of Siberian, Thermadrone and Chesnok Red garlic bulbs.
2) Saving garlic to plant means less premium garlic to sell:
Here’s an example of how to calculate how much garlic to save for seed. Let us suppose we need 50 pounds of garlic cloves to plant:
To obtain 50 pounds of large seed garlic cloves, we clove between 100-150 pounds of garlic bulbs. This amount varies depending on variety, size of garlic, and how picky you are about the size of your planting cloves. Susan is very picky about clove size and only plants the largest.
Typically, there is between 5-7% bulb waste (stem, paper wrapper on bulb etc). As your bulbs/cloves get bigger there is typically less waste. We have less waste with Georgian Crystal and Siberian and more with Red Rezan and Thermadrone.
Unless you have a market for the small cloves or plant them for green garlic, they are wasted. You may be able to sell smaller cloves for green garlic, give most of the rest away or eat them. We used to trade small green garlic to neighbors in exchange for delicious canned goods and tamales!
If instead of cloving the garlic for seed, you sold that 100-150 lbs hardneck garlic bulbs to a restaurant for $10/pound you would make $1,000-$1,500.
It may be cheaper to buy 50 pounds of seed garlic from a reliable source.
3) Growing organic garlic takes land, fertilizer and labor:
It takes us 600 square feet to plant 50 pounds of Siberian garlic* (we plant in 4 x 50 feet beds of approximately 600 cloves so this is 3 large beds). To raise that 600 square feet of garlic from planting to harvest it takes us**:
Rototilling: 10 minutes with tractor, 1.5-2 hours hand tiller
Popping bulbs and sorting cloves: 6-10 hours
Planting: 2-4 hours
Mulching: 1 hour
Weeding: 10-15 hours
Harvest: 4-7 hours
Cleaning and curing labor: 3-4 hours
Picture: Chris reseeds our plowed under fallow garlic field with peas. We rotate garlic with a green cover crop.
Cost of labor: 26-43 hours labor @ $15/hour $390-$645
This does not include:
Cost of land (rent or taxes)
Cost of mulch
Cost of fertilizer or manure
Cost of fuel or equipment
Cost of storage space
Loss of profit for alternative crops we could plant in that space
Loss of time you may want to spend elsewhere
Do your own math to calculate your personal costs. You may end up spending more in time, energy and money growing your own seed cloves than you would spend buying seed cloves.
*Plan on a 400-600% increase of your planting stock (i.e., if you plant 10 lbs of garlic you will usually get a 40-60 lbs of garlic bulbs at harvest). Your yield will depend on growing conditions, garlic variety, the greenness of your thumb, and weather. On average, to grow 200 extra pounds of garlic (to sort for 100 pounds of large seed cloves) you will need to plant an extra 50 lbs of garlic. See our page on how to determine how much garlic you need to plant for more information.
**All times are rough estimations for one person using Grey Duck Garlic past records; you may need more or less time depending on your enthusiasm, weed load and energy level.