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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert


Updated: Jan 12

Growing Garlic from Garlic Bulbils
Garlic Bulbils Seed Packet Montana

Forget the boring beige cloves, this year we're getting funky with garlic! Picture it: spring sunshine dances on your garden bed, and bam! Up pop a million miniature green mohawks, like a punk rock Chia Pet colony. Those, my friends, are hardneck garlic bulbils, bursting from their winter slumber.

No need for peeling or patience with bulbils. These tiny, adventurous cloves skip right over autumn planting, chilling in a papery slumber cap all winter. Come spring, they explode into leafy spears that shoot for the sky, faster than a garlic-fueled rocket. Water them, weed them, watch them conquer the garden like an army of tiny green fists.

By summer, they've morphed into adorable "rounds," chubby little garlic babies with their own personalities. Some plump and bulbous, others long and elegant, each a testament to their wild mohawk past. Dig them up, combine them into garlic groups, and hang them in your kitchen like a victory banner.

Next fall, the rounds take center stage. Plant them like regular cloves, and boom! Garlic glory in two years, bursting with the spicy attitude of their mohawk origins. So ditch the beige, embrace the green, and grow your own garlic rockstars from bulbils. It's gardening, punk rock style!

Bulbils are the small round objects found in the garlic scapes or stems of the garlic plant. Growing garlic from bulbils, growers can rejuvenate garlic strains and establish a reliable backup source of garlic, just in case the garlic bulb and cloves die or become infected with disease. Growers use bulbils to develop a supply of garlic at a very low cost and to avoid the transmission of potential diseases. Garlic propagation is typically achieved by planting garlic cloves, also referred to as "seed garlic". Garlic bulbils are not true garlic seed. That is a whole other discussion.

The bulbils will produce what is called a round. A round is a single-clove round bulb. The "round" looks like a ping pong ball. It is necessary to replant the round the next year. Then, in the second year, it will split into cloves and make a normal garlic bulb. Planting bulbils takes two years to get a normal-sized bulb. Patience, Patience.

"Why even bother growing garlic from seed when growing garlic from cloves is much easier? Asexual reproduction, growing garlic from cloves or bulbils, produces a genetically identical clone of the mother plant. This can be desirable for ensuring uniform continuance of a preferred cultivar. However, if asexual reproduction becomes the exclusive method of reproduction, as has essentially been the case with garlic over the centuries, the implications become quite negative.

Garlic growers sometimes refer to garlic cloves that are reserved for planting as “garlic seed,” but what we want to talk about here is garlic from true seed---the product of sexual reproduction. Garlic seed is a bit smaller than onion seed, but otherwise resembles it. In the first generations of garlic seed production, growing garlic from seed is not particularly easy, but neither is it out of the scope of the average grower---and with subsequent generations of seed-produced garlic, the process becomes much easier, as we will discuss later."

Read more at Ted Jordan Meredith's Blog site:

If you are interested in growing garlic right now, check out the seed garlic available at GROeat Farm in Montana. Follow this link. . Growing garlic from cloves (seed garlic) is known as vegetative reproduction or cloning. This is the most common method of growing garlic. Another method for commercial propagation involves growing garlic from bulbils.

(Garlic Bulbils Harvested from a Garlic Scape)

Bulbils are tiny, undivided "bulbs" that can be used as seeds. Garlic does not have fertile flowers so it does not produce true seed. These tiny bulbils vary in size and general appearance. Garlic cultivars such as Music and German Extra Hardy (Porcelain garlic) can produce over one hundred (100) small, rice-size bulbils. Purple Stripe garlic may contain 50 or more rice-sized bulbils. Rocamboles may only have four or five bulbils, each the size of a pea.

The scape is a garlic flower and has the appearance of a Plum Bob (a bob of lead or other heavy material forming the weight of a plumb line); These reproductive garlic parts are for show only, there is no cross-pollination. Essentially, the bulbils are clones of the mother plant that can be planted to produce a replica of this parent.

Successive replanting of the progeny from the bulbils apparently produces a garlic strain that is superior to garlic produced from cloves of the original "mother plant". It can take two or three years of successive plantings for the initial bulbils to mature into a robust and healthy plant with large bulbs and cloves. In the first year, the individual bulbils are planted in the soil 1 to 2 inches deep. The second cycle begins with "rounds" from the harvest of the planted bulbils. These "rounds" are about the of a ping pong ball and do not (typically) contain individual cloves. The larger the bulbils, the larger the rounds produced. "Rounds" are planted in the soil 2 to 3 inches deep. By the third and fourth year of successive plantings, you should begin to see garlic plants with large bulbs, (depending on the variety) each containing many cloves.

If you want to experiment with growing garlic from bulbils, do not remove the garlic scape when it appears. Instead, let the scape fully mature on the top of the plant. This means holding off on harvesting the garlic plant and bulb. Letting the plant fully mature and produce a capsule of bulbils takes an extra week or two. When the garlic plant fully matures, take extra care to remove the bulbils from the scape's capsule. The capsule can burst open as it drys and disperses the bulbils to the ground below. Clean and cure this tiny crop. Keep the bulbils dry and store in a non-sealed container such as a brown paper bag. Plan to plant the bulbils in the fall (Between Halloween and Thanksgiving) or at the same time garlic cloves are planted. Plant the bulbils 1 - 2 inches into the soil, approximately 3 -4 inches apart. Mark the planting location with a weather-resistant label. Another option is to plant the bulbils in containers using fresh, sterilized potting mix.

(Garlic Bulbils, Garlic Rounds and Fully-Developed Garlic Bulbs with Cloves)

There may be advantages to planting garlic bulbils over cloves. Although it can take three or more years to produce a robust and large garlic plant, propagating from garlic bulbils can prevent the transmission of soil-borne diseases and revitalize garlic strains. Also, the cost of bulbils is significantly less than the cost of garlic cloves or seed garlic. What are the disadvantages of planting garlic bulbils over cloves? It can take two, three, or more years for the garlic plant to produce a full-sized bulb. If you don't remove the garlic scape and let it mature (as nature intended?) hardneck garlic will produce a flower (see photo below). The flower appears similar to other allium species - such as chives. This "globe" flower also includes many very small garlic seeds known as garlic bulbils.

Growing Garlic from Bulbils Garlic is a popular vegetable that can be grown in many different climates. It is typically grown from cloves, but it can also be grown from bulbils. Bulbils are small, immature bulbs that form at the base of the garlic plant. They can be purchased from garden centers or online.

How to Grow Garlic from Bulbils To grow garlic from bulbils:

  1. Begin in the fall, a few weeks before the first frost.

  2. Plant the bulbils in a pot or garden, spacing them 1-2 inches apart.

  3. Cover the bulbils with soil. About 1" of soil is fine.

  4. Water the bulbils regularly in the spring and summer.

The disadvantage of Growing Garlic from Bulbils It can take three years before the planted bulbils produce full-size bulbs. The first year after planting, you'll likely see a "round," which is a single bulb which looks like a ping pong ball.

Benefits of Growing Garlic from Bulbils There are several benefits to growing garlic from bulbils:

  • Bulbils are easier to find than cloves.

  • Bulbils are more likely to grow into healthy garlic plants.

  • Bulbils can be planted at any time of year.

If you are looking for a way to grow garlic, bulbils are a great option. They are easy to find and grow, and they will produce

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Old Fashion Seed Packet Containing Garlic Bulbils for Growing Garlic

Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range. The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

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