Starting your own garlic growing business can be a profitable and fun way to make a solid income in a small space, as the price of many garlic varieties, such as elephant garlic and the hard neck garlic such as Rocambole and Porcelain, is now over $15 a pound.
But doesn’t it cost a lot of money to get started growing garlic? The good news is that you can get started on a small scale and expand your garlic patch, using the profits from each year’s harvest to grow your business. Plus – starting small will give you time to discover which garlic varieties do best in your unique microclimate and which varieties sell best at local venues, such as the farmer’s market.
Gourmet garlic continues to grow in popularity, as more and more people discover the unique tastes, flavors and health-giving benefits. In fact, gourmet garlic growers from Maine to Oregon report that demand exceeds the supply of high-quality, fresh gourmet garlic varieties. As Roberta Bailey, a Maine grower said, “ There is never enough garlic.”
That’s what has been happening to gourmet garlic sales around the country. Folks love the exotic varieties, such as Romanian Red or Carpathian, which can’t be bought at the supermarket, and are lining up to buy from local garlic growers who have what they are looking for.
Add to that the fact that garlic is an easy crop, especially for small growers, , as it’s labor-intensive and has few pests due to it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Put the two together – easy to grow and strong demand – and you’ve got a winning combination for a profitable backyard enterprise!
So just how do you start a profitable garlic growing business? First, you need to get the tools and supplies together. Most gardeners already have the basic gardening tools, so the main expense will be for the garlic seed bulbs needed to get you started the first year. After your first harvest, you’ll be able to set aside a portion of the garlic bulbs you’ve grown for next year’s seed planting, so this big cash investment for seed is only a one-time expense.
Here are the numbers: A pound of garlic seed (bulbs) will produce 40-60 plants, depending on the variety, and the bulb weight will average about 2 ounces. A good rule of thumb to remember is that a pound of seed will produce 8-10 pounds of garlic bulbs at harvest time. So, if your budget for startup garlic seed is $800, for example, you’ll be able to buy 50 pounds of assorted garlic varieties from the seed suppliers. Your harvest should be 400-500 pounds of gourmet garlic, worth around $6400 to $8000 at current retail prices.
In addition to your seed garlic, you’ll need healthy soil, like a sandy loam, to grow the best bulbs. Most growers like to use raised beds, as the soil drains better, and garlic hates wet feet! Climate is not a big concern, as there are garlic varieties that thrive in Siberia, and varieties that love a hot, dry climate.
Next, don’t forget compost to improve the soil quality, and fertilizer to provide nutrients to the garlic plants. It’s important to use organic fertilizer whenever possible, for healthier plants. In addition, most customers at the farmer’s market prefer, and will pay premium prices for, organic crops. While you can get by using hand tools, a small tiller can help prepare the raised beds quickly and easily.
How much space do you need to plant 50 pounds of garlic seed? Using a typical spacing of 6 inches by 6 inches, or 4 plants per square foot, a pound of seed will plant 10-12 square feet. So plan on a growing area of 500-600 square feet.
As you can see, it is possible to make a tidy profit with gourmet garlic, even with a limited budget and a small growing area. And if legend is true, you’ll also never have to worry about vampires! To discover more about this aromatic and very profitable plant, read Growing Garlic For Profit.