Saturday, September 24, 2011

Seed garlic

Garlic is the first crop sown of the season. And because it has such a long growing season, that means it gets planted in the fall for a summer harvest. In our neck of the woods, garlic is usually sown in October - late enough that you don't get too much green growth to be killed over the winter and early enough that the roots have enough time to establish before the ground freezes.

Seed garlic (L) and cooking garlic (R)
Garlic loves fertile ground, a slightly acidic pH, and good heavy mulch to keep it protected from winter's elements. So preparing the earth is a very important task.

Another important task is selecting good seed garlic. When you sow garlic, you plant individual garlic cloves. The bigger the clove, the bigger the head of garlic to be grown. Many farmers who grow garlic will sell their smaller heads to cooking customers and keep their larger heads (about 2.5") for planting. The picture here shows seed garlic and one of its large cloves on the left and garlic purchased at the farmer's market and one of its medium cloves on the right. Besides difference in size, there is also a huge difference in price: seed garlic goes for $15 per pound, while market garlic is usually $3-$6 per pound.

So we sourced our seed garlic from three places: a local farm in Westchester County who sold us seed garlic of the Porcelain Music variety; an organic seed garlic source in Vermont who sold us various varieties (Belarus - Marbled Purple Stripe, Georgia Fire - Porcelain and Killarney Red - Rocombole); and our local farmer's market who sold us cooking (not seed) German Stiffneck. We hope to plant these varieties with friends and family at our upcoming October-fiesta.

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