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We offer organic garlic bulbils for most of our garlic varieties. Some varieties do not produce bulbils or do so infrequently.
Bulbils are available for sale May 1 - June 30. After that date they may not be available as we begin cutting scapes off the garlic plants.
Bulbils are harvested in July/August and shipped in early September in time for fall planting.
Garlic bulbil selections can be found in the SHOPPING CART, just look in the individual garlic varieties that you are interested in.
When garlic is ready to start maturing, it stops growing leaves and produces a scape if it is a hardneck or weakly-bolting variety. Many people harvest the scapes while they are young and tender. We like to let the scapes get more mature on the plant as we are more interested in producing garlic bulbils. At the tip of the scape is the umbel, which contains the bulbils. The umbel is covered by the spathe which protects the bulbils as they grow. The long pointy part of the spathe is called the beak.
Growing garlic from bulbils is an excellent way to quickly increase the amount of garlic that you are able to grow, but more importantly it improves the vigour of the garlic plants and helps reduce garlic viruses in your crop. As well, soil-borne diseases can be avoided as long as you are careful to keep the bulbils away from the ground.
Garlic is adaptive to it's environment, and growing from bulbils allows the garlic to adapt more quickly to your local conditions.
Organic garlic bulbils can be obtained from growers who sell them (we have lots!) or you can save your own garlic bulbils from the garlic that you grow.
An interesting thing about bulbils is that they will continue to grow and mature even after they are cut from the stalk. We cut the stalk about an inch above the top leaf and store them in paper bags such that the heads are in the bag and the the stalks are sticking out. The bags are labeled by variety (it a good idea to put a label in the bag as well) and then the bags are stapled shut around the stalks. The reason we bag the developing bulbils is to prevent contamination from other varieties that are stored in proximity. As the bulbils mature and dry they tend to become loose and separate easily. The bags are place in an airy location out of the direct sun and left until fall when it is time to replant. Sorting for size will likely be beneficial.
One good way to remove chaff and sort your garlic bulbils for size at the same time is to build a vacuum-powered seed cleaner. There are Open-Source plans for one at www.realseeds.co.uk/seedcleaner.html .
My preferred method of growing garlic from bulbils is to plant in raised beds in short rows running across the bed. Small bulbils can be crowded together, while larger ones like an inch or so of space between them. Leave a few inches of space between each row to facilitate weeding with a narrow hoe.
Plant the garlic bulbils about one inch deep and cover with soil. Sometimes we add about an inch of organic potting soil over the entire bed to help with weed suppression. We like to plant quite heavily because during the first year plants seem to like being crowded. We generally plant bulbils around the same time that we plant our main garlic crop, in the fall.
Fertilize as required and water often, as they do not tolerate getting too dry.
Keep the beds as weed free as you can, and they will be ready for harvest around the same time as garlic grown from large cloves.
By harvest time the plants have produced small bulbs with cloves, or more commonly single rounds. Rounds will generally produce a bigger bulb when they are planted, but in time they all get up to size.
We try to harvest our organic garlic bulbils while the plants are still green as this facilitates getting the bulbs out of the ground. We dig up clumps of plants and gently shake the soil out of the roots. We like to dry the bulbs in open mesh baskets, kitchen store them in large paper bags until planting time.
One important observation - plants that have produced a scape will have a bulb with cloves, while a plant without a scape will produce a single round. Both kinds are perfectly fine for planting, just make sure to separate the cloves as you would for a full size bulb.
When we plant the cloves or round obtained from our first year bulbils, we sort for size and plant on a 4 inch spacing across the bed with an 8 inch spacing between the cross rows. This facilitates weeding for us, but if desired you could plant on closer spacing. Some varieties will produce a full sized bulb by the second year, so adequate spacing is required.
First year bulbs grown from garlic bulbils will be any where from the size of a pea seed to about an inch in diameter.. The Porcelains tend to be small while Rocamboles and Marbled purple Stripes can be at least an inch in diameter.
By this time most plants will produce a bulb with cloves and there will be fewer rounds. We tend to replant these rounds or clove on a four or 8 inch spacing, depending on how large a bulb that they will produce.
Second year bulbs can be anywhere from an inch in diameter to full sized, depending on the variety. Porcelains tend to take 3-4 years to reach their full potential, while Rocamboles in particular can be full sized and ready for market at the end of the second year.
It's a good idea to renew your crop from bulbils every few years if you have the time and space to do so. We try to plant organic garlic bulbils of a few varieties every year so that we are not doing them all at once.