Garlic Seed Allotment

April 16, 2007

A gardener recently sent in an e-mail wondering about how much garlic seed should be planted to provide her family with a supply of fresh gourmet garlic bulbs from the garden:

How Much Garlic Should I Plant in the Garden?

“I loved your article on growing garlic. I have only used the grocery store kind with some success. I have already put in an order for next year.”

“My question is how much garlic would a family of 5 that uses a decent amount of garlic need (to plant)? If you have any rules of thumb, I would appreciate it.”

Kathi, your question is difficult to answer because there are a number of variables involved in choosing how much garlic to plant, including determining how much a family such as yours will consume on a regular weekly basis.

Garlic Sizes and Production Rates

There is also a lot of variableness when it comes to the size and quantities of garlic bulbs by weight. Depending on the variety and harvested size, a single pound of garlic can contain as few as five or six huge bulbs to well over a dozen smaller bulbs.

I checked with Filaree Farm, one of the garlic seed suppliers that I use and noted that the production estimates on their website average about four pounds of garlic harvested from each pound of seed cloves that are planted in the garden.

Many of the garlic seed suppliers also provide information related to the number of cloves per bulb for each garlic variety. Some varieties have bulbs consisting of as few as four individual cloves, while other varieties form multiple layers containing over twenty separate cloves in total.

Choosing the Right Amount of Garlic Seed

If you know the number of garlic bulbs you use on a weekly basis you can use the averages listed above to calculate a rough estimate of how much garlic seed you will need to plant in order to supply your family with plenty of fresh home grown cloves.

My personal rule of thumb when it comes to determining how much garlic seed to plant is to grow as much as I can allocate space for in the garden. I enjoy cooking with garlic and it’s such a great and productive vegetable to grow in the home garden!

The ideal amount of garlic for any gardener to plant will be best determined through trial and error. Over time you’ll be able to gauge the amount and sizes of garlic bulbs that your garden can produce. Keep track of the quantities that are planted each year and adjust the amount of garlic seed planted as necessary to meet your family’s needs.

Other Issues Affecting Garlic Supply and Garden Needs

Other factors to take into consideration include your storage capabilities. Some garlic varieties will last longer in storage than others, but you will probably find it difficult to store your own summer harvested garlic much longer than seven or eight months.

Garlic that becomes soft, shriveled, or begins to sprout in storage is not ideal for using in the kitchen, but it can be replanted in the garden or in containers to produce chive-like greens, garlic scallions, or small bulbs of baby garlic.

So there will probably be a few months out of the year when you don’t have any of your own home grown garlic bulbs available, unless you’re drying the bulbs or using green garlic and garlic scapes fresh out of the garden.

Finally, when deciding on how much garlic seed to order and plant in the garden, don’t forget to grow enough extra garlic to use as your own seed. This will save money and you will also benefit from developing garlic seed that is perfectly adapted to your climate and growing conditions.

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