How to Plant Garlic from Garlic Bulbs/Cloves:  Next Year Results.



Q: How do I Grow Garlic Bulbs from Bulbils?

A:

YEAR ONE:

  • Keep umbel/bulbils in a dry place, out of direct sunlight, at room temperature, at a humidity of 40-70% until they are ready for planting.
  • Plant bulbils in well drained, fertile soil in October or before the first frost.
  • Separate individual bulbils from the umbel capsule.
  • Space bulbils 1” apart in rows that are 4-6” apart. Plant ½” deep.
  • Cover with mulch if you live in an area that gets very cold winters.
  • In spring, after bulbils sprout, weed often.  Fertilize if needed. Irrigate if necessary.
  • You might get the odd scape popping up in June.  You can remove and eat these if you want. 
  • Harvest in July/August of the following year.  The result will be a round (an undivided garlic bulb), or a mini garlic bulb (with individual cloves).   You may also choose to leave the rounds in the ground and harvest after another year of growing.  However, I have found that this makes weeding and amending the soil much more difficult.  I have also found that the rounds sprout too early (in the fall before we get our BC coast cold snap as opposed to the following spring) and they don't care for the frost much.
  • Dry and cure your rounds as you would garlic bulbs.  At this point you can a) Eat your rounds or b) Save for replanting in the fall.  If saving for planting, keep out of direct sunlight, in a place with good air flow, at or just below room temperature, at a humidity of 40-70%. 


YEAR TWO:

  • In October, or before the first frost, plant rounds in well drained, fertile soil.
  • Separate any mini bulbs you might have grown into individual mini cloves. Rounds do not need to be separated as they are like one clove.
  • Space rounds and mini cloves 4-6” apart in rows that are 6-8” apart. Plant 2” deep.
  • Cover with mulch if you live in an area that gets very cold winters.
  • In spring, after rounds and mini cloves sprout, weed often.  Fertilize if needed.  Irrigate if necessary.
  • Harvest in July/August when plant leaves begin to die back.  The result will be bulbs with individual cloves.  These plants will grow scapes and umbel/bulbils of their own.  Remove scapes after they have made a loop if you want to increase bulb size.
  • Dry and cure your garlic bulbs by hanging them in bunches of ten, out of direct sunlight, in a well ventilated area.  At this point you can a) Eat your garlic bulbs or b) Save for replanting in the fall.  If saving for planting, keep out of direct sunlight, in a place with good air flow, at or just below room temperature, with a humidity of 40-70%. 
  • Note: If you intend to re-plant your garlic in the fall and you want to increase bulb size, plant the largest cloves.  Big cloves = big bulbs.


 Q: Is There Anything Else I Should Keep in Mind When Growing Garlic from Bulbils?

 A: Yes...

  • When choosing which bulbils or rounds to plant, keep in mind that the bigger bulbils/rounds produce larger sized rounds/bulbs.
  • Bulbils and rounds are very sensitive to drought stress.  Make sure to keep watered in times of drought.
  • If you are planting a large amount of bulbils, I recommend making furrows and sprinkling the bulbils into the furrow, then spacing them out.  It is better if you give the bulbils space to grow, however, If you intend to harvest your rounds, I have found it is ok if the bulbils are planted as close as a 1/4" to one another.          


Getting to Know Garlic:

Helpful Garlic Links


Q: How do I plant garlic?

                   A:  If you live in the Lowermainland of BC, or if you get a lot of rain where you live, it is best to plant garlic in raised beds.  Pick a location that has full sun for most or all of the day.  Amend your future garlic bed's soil with bonemeal, compost, composted manure and an organic, slow release nitrogen source such as bloodmeal.  Break the bulb apart carefully into its individual cloves being careful not to damage the clove skins or basal plate (the blunt end of the clove where the roots will emerge). Be sure to plant the cloves the within 1-2 days of "cracking" as once cloves are broken apart, they will dehydrate more quickly then when they are in bulb form and this invites the development of molds and funguses.  In your raised bed, put the cloves into the soil pointy side up and space them about 6-8" apart in rows 6-8" apart at a depth of 2-4".  Tamper soil around the cloves.  If whether is dry, give the planted cloves a good watering.  If you choose, cover the planted cloves with a layer of mulch (weed seed free grass clippings, shredded leaves, chopped straw, etc).  Mulch will help protect against frost heaves in the winter and will help keep soil moisture more constant in the summer as well as help keep weeds down.  Then wait.  Over the winter, your garlic will grow its roots, then in the early spring shoots will emerge!


Q: What do I do once my garlic shoots emerge?

                      A: Side dress with some organic fertilizer that is medium to high in nitrogen to promote lots of green leaf growth.  Your local nursery or growing centre will be able to help you choose the proper fertilizers for your garlic.  Stop fertilizing once bulbing starts (usually bulbing starts in May).  At this point, we want the plant to focus on putting its energy into growing the bulb underground, not in growing more leaves.  Make sure to irrigate regularly once the weather gets hot.  Try to keep soil moisture at around 50-90%.  We use the time tested ball test... remove the top 2" of soil, take a handful of the subsoil and make it into a ball.  If it holds its shape without being slimy, drippy (too wet) or falling apart (too dry), then you have the right soil moisture level.  Scapes will emerge in June.  You can either a) Cut the scapes which results in a bigger bulb size, or b) leave the scapes on to grow and harvest the umbil/bulbils and use them or plant them.  Be sure to stop irrigating 2 weeks before your intended harvest date, in order to let the garlic start to dry down.


Q: How do I know when my garlic is ready to harvest & how do I cure and store it?

                 A: Harvest garlic when the bottom 4 leaves have died, or when about 40% of the plant is browned and 60% is still green and after a 2 week period of no rain or irrigation.  Use a shovel to dig under the bulb and gently pop it up being careful not to damage the bulb.  Knock off all of the dirt from the roots.  Once all of your garlic is out of the ground, hang it to dry or lay it on a flat surface in a single layer, out of direct sunlight but with plenty of air flow (it is a good idea to set up a fan).  If you are keeping the umbil/bulbils, do the same with them.  Make sure you eat some of your garlic fresh out of the ground!!!  After 2 weeks, cut off roots and leaves.  Continue to dry the garlic in the same fashion for another 2 weeks.  Garlic & bulbils should be fully cured at this point and you can now use it or keep it and plant it in the fall.  Store at around 10*C (or room temperature) at a relative humidity of around 40-65%, with good air flow and keep out of direct sunlight. NEVER put garlic in the fridge (it will sprout prematurely)! Enjoy!  


Links to Seed Suppliers


Above two images courtesy of: Growing Great Garlic - The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers. Ron L. Engeland. Filaree Producions 1991, (top image) inside cover page (bottom image) inside back page. Link takes you to a website were you can purchase this book.

Garlic Education & Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a garlic bulb versus a garlic clove?

                    A: A garlic bulb is the part of the garlic plant that grows below the soil.  It consists of several cloves.  When planted, one clove becomes one bulb.  The new garlic bulb is a genetic clone of its parent bulb.  


Q: What is a garlic scape?

                    A: A garlic scape is the green stem that grows up out of the hardneck varieties of garlic.  The scape supports the garlic plant's umbel when left to mature.  Young scapes can be harvested and eaten in stir-frys or they can be pickled or used to make pesto sauces.


Q: What is a garlic umbel and bulbil?

                    A: A garlic umbel is the garlic's "flower" that grows at the end of the garlic scape.  It contains the bulbils.  A bulbil is like a mini garlic clove that grows within the umbel (it looks like a seed, but is actually a genetic clone of the mother plant).  Bulbils can be eaten in the same ways garlic cloves can be eaten, or they can be planted and will eventually turn into a garlic bulb.


Q: How long does it take a garlic bulbil to turn into a garlic bulb?

                    A: Depending on variety, 2-3 years.  Typically, if a bulbil is planted in the fall (lets say October), when it's harvested in the following Summer (July) it will be a round.  A round is like a single garlic clove.  If the garlic round is planted that fall, when it's harvested in the following Summer, it will be a small bulb with individual cloves. How big the bulb will be depends on soil (fertility, ph, type etc...), variety of garlic, and growing conditions/climate.


Q: What is a garlic round?

                  A: A garlic round is what a garlic bulbil turns into after one season of growing.  It is like a clove.  It can be eaten or planted.  If a round is planted it will turn into a bulb after a season of growing.  Occasionally, large bulbils will skip the round stage and produce a small bulb after only one season of growing.    


Q: To grow large bulbs what matters more, clove size or bulb size?     

                 A: To grow the biggest bulbs, select medium to large bulbs with big cloves when buying seedstock.  When you break apart the bulb into cloves, plant the largest cloves.  Clove size is a better indicator of future bulb size than parent bulb size. (For example: we grew some bulbs that only had two cloves that were both HUGE.  We planted these huge cloves and they turned into Large bulbs with large cloves at harvest).  You can also look at the basal plate of the clove to be planted... a bigger basal plate on a clove usually means a bigger garlic bulb at harvest time.  Keep in mind, soil fertility, irrigation & climate will also affect bulb size.

How to Plant Garlic from Garlic Bulbils: A Two to Three Year Process.

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