Growing Great Garlic and Homestead or Farm Profit


organic garlic curing at Inn Serendipity straw bale greenhouse

Organic garlic curing at Inn Serendipity straw bale greenhouse 

As Lisa Kivirist and I write about in our Farmstead Chef cookbook, growing garlic is nature’s ponzi scheme. That’s what happens when you plant a head of garlic which usually consists of about 6 to 12 cloves. We harvest our garlic in July, curing them in our straw bale greenhouse.

When it comes time to plant garlic late in the fall, we break apart the bulb and separate out each of the cloves: our seeds. By the second season, that original bulb or head of garlic has produced new six heads. By Year 3, as many as 36 bulbs (6 heads x 6 cloves each). In Year 4, there’s 214. You see where this is going. By Year 10, more than 10,000 garlic bulbs. So, we can sell some of the garlic for profit, while retaining the largest heads to plant for next year’s crop.

Unless we suffer a catastrophic crop failure, pretty uncommon for garlic crops, it’s practically impossible to go bust. Nature is hardwired to cover itself, reproductively speaking. For proof, try counting the blossoms on an apple or cherry tree in the spring. Some blossoms become apples or cherries, others don’t (blame it on the bees, a late frost or some other weather calamity). The point here is that nature, more often than not, goes overboard on abundance. And if you tend your own orchard or garden, it doesn’t take long to realize that the bushels of apples don’t cost a penny. Just your time and some labor.

Our 'German Red' hardneck garlic is a cash crop at Inn Serendipity Farm and Bed & Breakfast, generating more than a thousand dollars a year. So, we sell a lot of garlic locally, and ship it, too, taking orders online. Now that we’ve been selecting only the largest and best cloves on our particular Wisconsin site to plant the following year, our German Red garlic is ideally suited for our soil, climate and seasonal weather conditions. This means it becomes easier to grow every year and the crop increasingly reliable, since we’re planting the best plants for the following year.

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