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Growing Garlic from bulbils  RSS feed

 
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Anyone grows Garlic from bulbils? I receved some really nice bulbils from ebay and planted them in December. I expected the bulbils to grow into a larger ine-clove head, but instead they shot scapes and yielded small heads, divided into 3-5 cloves. I guess my question is - what now? Do I divide them and plant separately, or do I plant the 2-ng year bulbil head whole?
 
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The bulbils you purchased sound like they were probably rounds, or second year bulbils, or even cloves. 

If I fail to take my scapes off, they turn to produce bulbils.  These are numerous in a tight cluster and are generally quite small (pea size or smaller).  If I allow them to completely run there course, the seed stalk falls over onto the ground and the cluster plants itself, sort of like walking onions, so I know that it can be planted right away and that it's capable of growing up dense like grass.  At any rate, I have tried to grow bulbil garlic, but I find that I'm a bit impatient for the finished product, and I find the work tedius.  Two seasons is what it should take to produce proper heads. 

At any rate, I plant by cloves, expanding my crop with cloves from my biggest heads, selling the medium heads, and eating the smaller ones. It's easier that way for me.

One reason that a plant bolts to seed or goes into a more mature state is because it was stressed and it wants to multiply.  But that might not be the case; just saying that it could be. 

The way I planted my bulbils was to separate them from the stalk head, then take a few at a time and plant them at the desired spacing for garlic.  For my variety, that is greater than 5 inches and less than 12.  I go for six to seven inches.  Then when the grass like garlic comes up from the bulbils, I cut out the two or three weakest ones, and allow the strongest single one to live.  I nurture the ground surface of my raised beds with compost and manure and mulch with hay, and water it well in the spring and early summer, but allow it to dry in the later summer, particularly on the final year. 

One of the benefits of growing from bulbils is that the garlic stays in the ground for two years, thus developing a very strong associated community in the no till raised bed, when compared with an annual crop done with fall planted cloves harvested the next late summer. 

I just find that the hassle of all the finicky little plant is too much for my brain to deal with.  I've got a lot going on.  But anyway, that's the method that I used and grew it with some success.  I never found that it produced quite the same size as my big clove plantations though. 

Another benefit of growing from bulbils, if you have your own garlic to get them from, is that you can multiply your crop into a much larger crop much quicker than by just using the cloves.  In this way, if you have a good market you can produce a lot more garlic, faster, for very little to no extra cost.     
 
Roberto pokachinni
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So as far as your final question, I think the only thing you can do is to separate your cloves from your heads and plant them out as clove garlic.  Or buy some proper larger heads from someone to divide and plant.  I wait until just before freeze up to plant garlic. 

Also, if you let a garlic plant produce a maturing scape, one that has a large pointed ended round ball bursting with bulbils, it will drain energy from your garlic head, and thus reduce it's volume by anywhere from 10 to 25 %.  That's why most garlic farmers remove their scapes at a mid growth stage.  They get more pounds in their garlic heads.  In my case, the time to get the scapes off is coming up pretty soon.  The scapes come up, bend over, and do a loop.  If they do a second loop, then they go up straight and produce the bulbils.  Before the second loop stage I snap them off.  The cook up great as a fry or steam veg and make great pickles. The bud on the end, and the stalk, are both very tender at this stage, are fairly mild on the garlic scale, and can be eaten like asparagus as a side dish. 
 
Tatyana Piven
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:The bulbils you purchased sound like they were probably rounds, or second year bulbils, or even cloves.   


That seems to be the consensus among the fellow growers I talked too, and I would make the same conclusion if I did not take those bulbils out from the scape casing myself. They were unusually large, up to half of an inch. Some were smaller. The guy who sold it to me said that he kept it in his barn, so they had some winter stress by the time I got them. Here is a picture of them after I took them out of the casings and sorted by size:
891B84D8-33B5-45D1-A784-5F703E08E888.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 891B84D8-33B5-45D1-A784-5F703E08E888.jpeg]
 
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Large bulbils can produce full heads with cloves within one season, yes. If they're very small it can take 3 seasons as well. That's at least what I know from Elephant garlic - I'm not sure it goes for ordinary garlic as well, but seeing what you're posting here it could be similar.
 
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Do you remember how many umbels that you received and how many bulbils in each umbel? That may help determine which varietal group they were. Rocamboles and Asiatics have large bulbils that are capable of producing fully cloved bulbs in the first season. I've also found that some of the larger Marbled Purple stripe bulbils can produce cloved bulbs too. This is a useful reference http://greyduckgarlic.com/How_to_Grow_Garlic_from_Bulbils.html

There are a number of other websites that have good information about growing garlic from bulbils including but not limited to Snakeroot Farm, Filaree Farm. Paul Pospisil of Beaver Pond Estates wrote a really interesting article about growing garlic from bulbils that is well worth a read. I figure that it's worth the effort growing out bulbils since it means that I don't need to hold back any full sized bulbs to replant, I just keep the rounds and small bulbs that I've grown from bulbils and keep replanting them.
 
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Do you need two plants to "flower" in order to get pollination?

I have a couple that have produced heads but the second one is only opening up now after the first one has been open for quite a few weeks already and looks really sad now. Are they actually flowers? I assumed they were as they look like purple petals but never took a lot of notice, happy with my assumption. I'll have a look later, maybe get a photo if I remember. I'm bad at photos cos normally rushing around with hands full and leave the phone in the truck.
 
Tatyana Piven
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Megan, what I have on the photo came from 4 or 5 “flower heads”. I suspect Rocamboles? Thank you for the references, I will have 6 hours tonight on the plane to read up in the subject.
 
Tatyana Piven
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Steve, the “flower” heads are not really flowers, and the bulbils are not seeds, but rather clones of the parent plant. So no polination takes place in this case. You can get good bulbils from just one garlic plant.
 
J Grouwstra
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I have a question about how to best save the bulbils for planting. Will this mean keeping the plants in the ground much longer and risking the heads?
I have some garlic plants where I didn't cut off the flower stalks. The leaves are now fading, it's getting near harvest time for the heads, but the flowers are not in bloom yet.
If all the leaves have deteriorated the cloves of the heads in the ground will become exposed and could also start deteriorating. I'd rather not risk that for the sake of letting the bulbils in the top ripen. Cutting the stalks off and put them in a vase? Not sure if that would work. Can anybody advise me here? 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Do you need two plants to "flower" in order to get pollination? 

Modern Garlic varieties have been bred to highly via cloning, so most varieties do not produce flowers at all.  The bulbils are formed where the flowers would be.


Garlic can be forced to revert back to flowering, but this is a tedious process that begins with carefully plucking out tiny bulbils with tweezers and allowing the flowers to grow out.  According to those who have done it, after planting the true garlic seed, and having it produce more seed, the process becomes easier and easier as the years progress, until the garlic is flowering fully naturally like an onion.  I think that Joseph Lofthouse, on this site, has done this. 

I'm not sure if they are self polenating or if they need a second plant.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi J Grouwstra.

Will this mean keeping the plants in the ground much longer and risking the heads? 

  No.  If you are keeping the scapes on to produce bulbils, you dig up your plants on schedule, and cure your plants as you normally would.  You can either tie a paper bag over the bulbil head and it will catch any bulbils that might be released, or cut off many bulbil stalks from the curing garlic plants and hang the bunches of them inverted in a larger paper bag.

The leaves are now fading, it's getting near harvest time for the heads, but the flowers are not in bloom yet.

  As mentioned above, the bulbils are not flowers and will not bloom, as they have been cloned for too long.  The bulbils are mini asexual clones of the parent, and will appear as in the picture posted above by Tatyana.  To get sexual reproduction, see my post above.
 
J Grouwstra
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Okay, that's clear info, thank you Roberto.

I still have to see how garlic 'flowers' really look like. I grow St John's Onions, actually a shallot, they also grow sterile flowers that just become bulbils and nothing more, but the appearance is still that of flowers. The Pskem garlic I've got has big, still wrapped up flowers on long stalks, so I'm curious to how they'll turn out (Pskem is the name of the variety).
 
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I have grown garlic from pollinated seeds. Most commonly available varieties of garlic are functionally sterile, even if they produce flowers. I get grow reports from dozens of people that have harvested pollinated seeds. Sometimes a rank amateur will have outstanding success. Usually, though, it is a slow and methodical process to find a strain that will produce (a few seeds) reliably in any particular location, with lots of attention and fiddling. Then germination might be around 5%. Then getting plants established after germination is questionable. It's an exciting project.

Garlic Flowers from my most reliably seedy variety. Bulbils removed to allow space and energy for flowers.


Pollinated garlic seeds with the flower stalks that produced them.


The total seed harvest from hundreds of flowers.
0625180845-00.jpg
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Garlic grown from ~200 pollinated seeds.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Usually, though, it is a slow and methodical process to find a strain that will produce (a few seeds) reliably in any particular location, with lots of attention and fiddling. Then germination might be around 5%. Then getting plants established after germination is questionable. It's an exciting project. 

  I see no exclamation mark at the end of that.  Are you being sarcastic about the exciting part?  Do you think that there is a concern with diseases that we have reached the max that so many decades or centuries of cloning will provide, and that we really must get back to seed garlic to reinvigorate/strengthen the genetics?   What do you think, Joseph?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Growing garlic from pollinated seeds is so important and exciting to me, that I have devoted a decade to the project. I have collaborated with many dozens of growers, some of them have far exceeded my meager successes. I'm very proud of everyone that has worked on this project, whether or not they have produced seeds, or new varieties.

Some of the seed grown plants are truly remarkable: Unlike any variety of garlic currently available.

My longest term goals on the garlic breeding project, is to develop a strain of garlic that is so prolifically seeding, and so easy to germinate, and so vigorous, that it can be planted as seeds, and that it will produce a large and fully mature bulb in a single growing season. Just like we currently do with onions.

Generally in plants, seeds are the least likely part of a plant to be infected with virus, so growing garlic from pollinated seeds may be helpful in reducing virus load in the species. I can't measure viruses on my farm, so I tend to not write about the garlic/virus connection.

Here's an example of a unique specimen. What isn't clear from this photo, is the massive size of the plant. It's huge!
weeping-garlic.jpg
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Seed grown garlic.
 
Steve Farmer
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Steve Farmer wrote:
I have a couple that have produced heads but the second one is only opening up now after the first one has been open for quite a few weeks already and looks really sad now. Are they actually flowers?



The first one (pics 1 & 2) looks like a flower to me. The second smaller one (pics 3 & 4) look like bulbils. If i have just one flower am i going to get some seeds, what should i do next? These fotos taken just now.
IMG_20180625_192733.jpg
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IMG_20180625_192809.jpg
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Joseph Lofthouse
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I pick seed heads after the stalk looses it's green color, and store them in bowls or paper bags, for a month or two, while the seeds continue to dry down. Now would be a fine time to pick the head in Steve's photo, since it's already broken, and thus not receiving any more nutrients from the roots.

I treat bulbils about the same. Pick them, and store them until I feel like planting them.

For what it's worth, Steve's first photo looks like elephant garlic to me, which is technically a leek, and a different species than common garlic. I'd save seeds from it anyway. The photo of the seed head with huge bulbils fits the phenotype of Rocambole. I can't remember anyone in my network getting a pollinated seed from that group. We have the best success with the Marbled Purple Stripe group.
 
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Here's an example of a unique specimen. What isn't clear from this photo, is the massive size of the plant. It's huge!

  Well, lets hope that it has a huge amount of high quality viabe seed!!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:Well, lets hope that it has a huge amount of high quality viabe seed!!



That plant was declared contraband, and destroyed by a bureaucrat.
 
Steve Farmer
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:The photo of the seed head with huge bulbils fits the phenotype of Rocambole. I can't remember anyone in my network getting a pollinated seed from that group. 



Well if that aint a challenge.... Any advice for best chances of success, should i plant them tomo?
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

For what it's worth, Steve's first photo looks like elephant garlic to me, which is technically a leek, and a different species than common garlic. I'd save seeds from it anyway.



I'll dig the bulb up later in the week. Just watered the palm its next to tonight so will let it dry for a day or two first. Then see if i can ID it as an elephant garlic. Thanks for the observations. I started with 4 bulbs from the grocery shop that already had green shoots sprouting. These are second generation from letting these shop bought bulbs grow a year then throwing the cloves about. I wasnt expecting anything except genuine garlic but i just let stuff go to seed and scatter it around, reusing soil from pots etc, not too careful about noting what went where. That palm its next to spent its first 5 years in pots then got planted out august last year, the (elephant)  garlic must have been in a pot with it.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Steve Farmer wrote:Then see if i can ID it as an elephant garlic.



Elephant garlic often has corms, which are small bulbs that grow outside the main bulb. They are typically covered in a hardish brown shell. Also, the flavor and smell of elephant garlic are significantly different than common garlic. Elephant garlic does not have bulbils in the flower. I haven't seen a common garlic flower that didn't contain bulbils.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Steve Farmer wrote:Do you need two plants to "flower" in order to get pollination?



To answer the question more directly. It depends. There may be hundreds of flowers in an umbel. The general pollination strategy of the onion family, is that the anthers in a single flower release their pollen at a time when the stigma isn't sensitive to pollen, thus increasing the chances of cross-pollination. In garlic,  it's more complicated, because some plants don't produce pollen, and some plants are not capable of making seeds even if pollen were available.
 
Steve Farmer
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Elephant garlic often has corms, which are small bulbs that grow outside the main bulb. They are typically covered in a hardish brown shell. Also, the flavor and smell of elephant garlic are significantly different than common garlic. Elephant garlic does not have bulbils in the flower. I haven't seen a common garlic flower that didn't contain bulbils.



Great info thanks. I had a "garlic" like this late last year. It was huge and as i opened the bulb i thought this is weird, the cloves aren't all arranged neatly in a circle, but i thought they were cloves anyway so tossed them about. That must be where this came from. Ill toss the cloves/bulbils from this one about too, after taking a couple to eat.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Steve Farmer wrote:Then see if i can ID it as an elephant garlic.



Elephant garlic often has corms, which are small bulbs that grow outside the main bulb. They are typically covered in a hardish brown shell. Also, the flavor and smell of elephant garlic are significantly different than common garlic. Elephant garlic does not have bulbils in the flower. I haven't seen a common garlic flower that didn't contain bulbils.



So, what does elephant garlic do? Does it produce true seeds, or is it generally sterile?

I've been interested in true elephant garlic seed if it exists.
 
Tory Ruszkowski
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Tatyana Piven wrote:Anyone grows Garlic from bulbils? I receved some really nice bulbils from ebay and planted them in December. I expected the bulbils to grow into a larger ine-clove head, but instead they shot scapes and yielded small heads, divided into 3-5 cloves. I guess my question is - what now? Do I divide them and plant separately, or do I plant the 2-ng year bulbil head whole?



I've planted bulbils before, and cloves. Where you plant them seems to make a difference. The cloves and bulbils in quick-drying, sunny soil fared about the same (they grew, but not much). The next year, the ones I had planted in a place with soil that takes longer to dry and that had more shade did very well by comparison—the clove became a head (which I had left where it was, and it became several plants). The bulbils, which I also let overwinter, each became a nice plant (just one, but bigger than the first year). I initially planted them kind of late. The bulbils and cloves were ones I saved from our garlic. Neither of the soils had much organic matter.

For sunny locations with quick-drying soil, I much prefer to grow garlic chives. They don't seem to mind the conditions.

Regular garlic is very hardy and can live just about anywhere (but that doesn't mean it prospers there).
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tory Ruszkowski wrote:So, what does elephant garlic do? Does it produce true seeds, or is it generally sterile?

I've been interested in true elephant garlic seed if it exists.



Elephant garlic is fertile, and very seedy. It crosses readily with leeks. I'l love to see people growing new varieties of elephant garlic.

 
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