On our farm, garlic harvest starts around the second week of July with 2nd year bulbils.
What are bulbils?
Garlic bulbils are the small bulbs that develop in the garlic scape if you leave it on the plant.
Garlic scapes are often referred to as garlic flowers. However, scapes aren’t true flowers – the reproductive parts only partially form and they are not viable. As such, there is no cross pollination. The bulbils that form are clones of the mother plant. They are essentially mini-bulbs that will grow to be large bulbs if they are treated like normal garlic cloves.
Growing 2nd year bulbils
This year, I grew 5 garlic varieties from bulbils harvested in 2009 (4 Rocambole varieties and 1 Porcelain variety).
They were planted in mid-October 2009:
- 5 rows to the bed (instead of 3 for large garlic)
- Rocambole bulbils were spaced 4″ apart in the row
- Porcelain bulbils were spaced 2″ apart in the row
In early June:
Two Rocambole rows on the left, a porcelain row in the middle, and the rocambole rows on the right.
In late June:
Harvesting 2nd year bulbils
I knew it was harvest time when the small Porcelain garlic started to flop over.
When the leaves start to die off, it isn’t long before the stem disappears hiding traces of the little bulbs.
I use a broadfork for harvest. I push the tines completely in vertically and then pull back on the handles.
When the earth splits, I know the bulbs are loose. I pull the 2nd year bulbils out carefully. They are more delicate than full size bulbs. It is quite easy to pull the stems right off.
I then lay the bulbs on the ground.
Comparing 2nd year bulbils
These are rocamboles. The small bulbs mostly have differentiated cloves. Occasionally, I get one-clove bulbs called rounds.
Notice the tag with
- the harvest date (JL9),
- the year the bulbils were collected from scapes (BB09),
- the row number (1),
- and the variety name (Québec).
This tag will stay with the garlic until it gets planted in the fall.
Not all garlic bulbils grow out the same way.
The difference between the two garlic types is quite pronounced.
Left: Porcelain round. Right: Rocambole Bulb. Both from 2009 bulbils. The difference in size is solely due to the variety.
After the harvest
The garlic bulbs and rounds are cured in the barn.
All the Rocambole bulbs are bunched by variety with their tag hanging from a nail. I put the Porcelain rounds in the paper bag as they were too small to bunch effectively.
I will ignore these until the end of August when I start thinking about next year’s crop.
My next posts will also be of a pungent garlic nature – about scapes and bulbils, and, as we harvest the main crop, on the differences between different garlic types.
I hope you’re all doing well with the heat!!