Sunday, September 19, 2010

Planting Garlic Bulbils

Last year I suggested removing the garlic scapes - or little flower-like stalks that emerge from the top of garlic midsummer. This was to ensure the garlic a fighting chance and allow all the energy to go to building bigger bulbs during the summer. This year I was away when the scapes first appeared and then forgot to remove them altogether. When I returned to my garden mid-summer these little bulbils- or bulbs on a stick- were well developed. I was unsure what to do with these green sprouted miniature bulblets also called bulbils. The sprouts were pushing out of the papery shell covering them. If I pulled these fragile sprouting bulbils apart would I damage them? I decided to clip off these clumps of miniature bulbs and since I was in a rush I tossed them on the garden and abandoned them there.

Genetically bulbils are identical to root bulbs but much smaller. I took a sort of passive approach- I admit- but what could I do? I felt a bit guilty tossing them on the soil surface - thinking I would get back to them later - but else would nature have done? In the month that passed before I got back to them the little green sprouts shriveled and dried but the bulbils seem to have grown - and they look as healthy as ever. I forgot I had planted a few - as an experiment- and when I dug them - again by accident- I noticed they had started growing little roots.

That's it- time to plant these bonus bulbs now. Getting to work on it this morning I realized the bulbils break the normal rule of bulb planting. With tulips the rule is pointy side up. Suddenly I had to dig up the sprouting bulbils I had planted because I realized they are actually rooting on the narrow end. The larger round end needs to go up and the narrow end goes pointy side down into the ground. Okay I have been gardening for thirty years. I shouldn't still be learning things every summer! Go figure.

PS If you have full size garlic bulbs to plant stick with the normal rule- ie pointy side up. Do it now if you have a chance because this gives garlic a chance to root in before the deep freeze. Garlic that is not rooted in and does not have a cool spell over winter is likely to rot in the soil rather than thrive. Spring bought garlic often flops as a crop.

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