Planting garlic from a farm stand

I picked up some garlic from a mennonite farm stand. Can anyone see a reason why I shouldn’t break it apart and plant it instead of paying $25/lb for seed garlic?

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I bought my current garlic from a local Hmong fruit stand. It has worked quite nicely for me.

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There’s a bit of risk of spreading garlic bloat nematode, which can wreck your site for growing garlic for up to 5 years. It’s probably ok, but no guarantees they have it and just don’t know it yet. Otherwise, it should work. I don’t mind paying for disease free seed garlic, as it’s usually a one-time investment. And your per-pound price is usually about the same as supermarket garlic after year one, and basically free after that.

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I initially bought garlic from farm market and planted them. I harvest garlic scapes and bulbs every year. I read that the garlic bulbs you buy as seeds might be larger than the ones you buy at farmers market. The bigger the seed, the larger the plant . Therefore produce bigger bulbs.

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The same reason you wouldn’t plant seed for say a peach, apple, or other fruit you got from a farm stand - lack of providence. It’s the same reason people would put the time or effort into buying specific fruit tree cultivars as opposed to growing it from grocery or farm bought seed.

The world of garlic is more complicated than most people think. It’s not just hardneck vs softneck. There are 10 different garlic families, 8 hardneck, 2 softneck. Of those 8 hardneck, there are substantial differences in strength of flavor, climate suitability, harvest time, clove wrapping tightness (which affects storage), clove size and number, scape production etc…

Organic Garlic Seed Variety Comparison Chart | Filaree Farm - I don’t find this chart hard and true for every detail, but it’s still a very good guide.

“Creole” garlic for example has hotter growing requirements, but grows nice size bulbs, many describe as sweeter garlic with almost a year of storage similar to softnecks. Meanwhile “Asiatic” garlic cultivars harvest much earlier in the season (June for me), but are more sulfurous, looser wrapped, poor storing (maybe 4 months), with very large cloves.

If none of that matters and you just want garlic, then it’s perfectly fine to go ahead and plant from grocery bought or fruit stand bought. Though, I’d imagine the fruit stand or garlic stand should be able to tell you cultivar.

If you have clear objectives concerning flavor, storage, scape production, bulb size, onion maggot resistance, then the $25 or whatever per pound may be worth it.

Here’s my example of some of the differences between garlic families. These are some of the larger though not largest bulbs from each cultivar planted.

Left to right:

  • Uzbek - Turban garlic
  • Spanish Roja - Rocambole - This family produced a lot of whooper sized bulbs. Like Elephant garlic sized in some cases. There are larger bulbs but we have eaten many of them already.
  • California White - we think this is Cal White, it’s from replanted grocery store bought softneck garlic
  • Nooka Rose - Silverskin

We trialed like 30-40 something cultivars this year. There are substantial growth differences in most of them, mainly between families. You won’t know until you try for your location. Asiatics should produce scapes, but for our location, they are stingy. Turbans which should struggle meanwhile, produce nice scapes here. (This should be the reverse according to the chart and conventional knowledge.)

Garlic can exhibit epigenic differences so localized strains can quickly arise. The downside is that the world of garlic can be quite costly if you like sampling different cultivars. The cost can add up like it does in the world of figs.

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We sell 80+ varieties of garlic at our farmers market. We have just started to bring out the larger bulbs now that folks are shopping for seed garlic. My wife got her original stock from Filaree, Seed Savers, and other places. She does most of the work and takes great care. In the more than fifteen years of growing and selling the only disease problem was a minor outbreak of pink root, and she destroyed the garlic affected and planted elsewhere the next season. We have multiple repeat customers for seed garlic year after year, including a woman from Ohio who now plans her annual trip to see family in the Finger Lakes around when she can buy seed garlic from us.

If the farmers behind the farm stand are as meticulous and careful and generous as my wife is, you should have confidence in the garlic being sold there. So I guess it is a matter of trust.

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A few years ago, I added a sign by the garlic corner of our pavilion space: “Margaret’s One-Woman Garlic Festival.”

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The garlic i’ve been growing for close to 10 years came from the local food coop. I just save cloves to replant every year.

I like that table. The one missing is Middle Eastern. Here is another source of information on the various types grown:

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One advantage of planting from a local grower is that it should grow well in your climate.

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I would say it depends on what you are looking for in garlic. If you just want one that you can plant and will do well for you, buying from a local farmer is probably a good way to go, except for the possible disease concern depending on the vendor, since they aren’t going to keep planting something that doesn’t grow well or doesn’t provide a large bulb to harvest. I started growing garlic with some German white hard neck garlic I got from our local farmers market and it is actually the best performing garlic for me to this day. I’ve ordered a bunch of other types that sounded interesting from several vendors, but most haven’t done nearly as well or, just as importantly for me, don’t keep as well. A lot of that is because of my soil type, weather, etc.

You may want to ask them what variety it is or at least from the bulb you should be able to determine if it is hard neck or soft neck. There are all the other types discussed above, including the various types of hard neck (rocambole, etc.), but if they are just growing one or a few varieties and they are hard neck it is most likely going to be something like German white, music, etc. which are all in the porcelain group.

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Middle Eastern are I think unclassified right now. I grew one of those. I remember reading Ted Meredith’s book The Complete Book of Garlic

Quotes from the book. Concur based on my growing experience.

This cultivar group grows very poorly in North America, at least in temperate-climate regions.

The weak growth and bulbing of the Middle Eastern cultivars have made it difficult to access their morphology characteristics with the assurance that they have fully expressed themselves, but even at a very small blulb size, they produce numerous cloves in multiple layers. This suggest a kinship wit h the Silverskin group, yet the cloves are more separated, with rounded sides and an inner surface that is curved but not flattened or concave as is typical of Silverskin cultivars.

There could be more than 10 garlic families with further analysis, but right now they sort it based on AFLP markers.

I find Porcelains to be quite sulferous. I think they are suppose to have on average the highest allicin concentration of all the garlic families. I believe this family is the one that the garlic industry prefers to use for all dried garlic processing products because of that characteristic.

Agreed.

The only reason to buy seed garlic is if you have specific goals you want to achieve.

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I always use the biggest bulbs. I found bulb size increases with each generation. I have added others to try but it is sort of a bad comparison as it takes some types multiple generations under your local conditions to start producing good sized bulbs. So I’m not adding anymore, I’m happy with the garlic I have now. I grow both hard and soft. I have grown one soft the longest and it now produces impressive bulbs rivaling the hard necks. So find the flavors you like and start developing them to adapt to your area. If they fail to get larger after 3 generations try something different. Always save the largest for seed.

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I do find that there are limits to that. After a certain point, you’re actually better off planting your medium-larges and keeping the biggest ones for the kitchen. That being said, I usually still do the largest because it’s easier to figure out.

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I heard if you get any small bulbs that are just one clove, that they make good seed. I heard that from the owner of Filaree Farms. He did a podcast interview on the joe gardener show. A good episode on growing garlic.
On the original question heck yeah use the local stuff.

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i had a several 1 clove bulbs leftover of georgia fire that i threw in the ground this spring because they started to sprout. pulled one the other day it was as big as a softball but upon cutting it up it was 1 mass like a onion. i read this happens when you dont cold stratify cloves before planting. still good to use but doesnt keep long once theyve been cut into. sorta like a onion.

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It’s called “solo garlic”. I think you’re suppose to plant in the spring for this. I had this happen a few times unintentionally as well. The benefit is easy peeling. The downside I would imagine is poor storage since the there aren’t individual cloves wrapped tightly. I never got to the point to test the storage issue though since they were consumed relatively fast.

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I have that happen too sometimes. Some garlic in the variety will clove, but a few will be like baseballs. I do cold stratify but I wonder if they don’t lose the cold stratification sometimes, what with Texas’s up and down climate.

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mine werent cold stratified. they were leftovers from the summer befores crop, sprouting in the cupboard by early spring so not thinking , i just planted them out as soon as the snow melted. at least they werent wasted.

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