Greetings! I am still around. But gardening season is upon me. And ...
It's the time of year when the bulbils are waving in the air in my garden.
Bulbils are not aerial artist Hobbits. They are the clusters of small bulbs that form in the garlic scape that is left on a garlic plant.
I hadn't planted garlic until a few years ago, when I began planting what I call "redemption garlic" Redemption garlics were the one or two cloves I'd keep from the imported garlic - China! Philippines! - that I was reduced to buying when I ran out of Ontario grown. I figured that if I let the cloves grow in good soil - instead of what I assumed was pesticide-treated - and grow in my backyard - instead of traveling fuel-oil-packed miles - then they would be cared for, redeemed somehow. Plus, it would redeem me for buying the imports!
So I started growing garlic and did a bit of reading to figure out when to plant ... but basically popped cloves in whatever ground I had available whenever I had some. As things grew, I began to notice scapes and bulbils. "Bulbil" turned out to be the correct term for what I was calling the funny seeds that formed at the top of the tall garlic stalk.
Bulbils. Such interesting thing! Edible themselves. Different on different types of garlic ... and I still have no idea what types of garlic I have because there were never any labels or hybrid names on the imports, or on the Ontario grown from market. I started to wonder if the bulbils could be planted fresh, straight from the plant top or if they needed to be kept from a late July garlic harvest - given time to cure - and then planted in late October.
How long did it take to get from bulbils to garlic? Is it a one year or a two year process?
Lots of questions.
And I still don't have definite answers - sorry! - because I'm a lousy note-keeper, because I planted so randomly and because I seem to have at least four different kinds of garlic growing. They all grow at a different pace.
But I'm inspired to pay more attention to the bulbil-to-garlic growth cycle by a couple of recent articles in The Canadian Organic Grower quarterly journal*, that pretty terrific publication I've mentioned before.
There's even a project going on for people to report in on their experiences with growing garlic from bulbils. I've taken the project notes that follow from the Winter 2010 issue of COG from Paul Pospisil's article Growing Garlic from Bulbils.
Check out the information below and if you are intrigued send Mr. P. an e-mail
The Bulbil Project
Growers and gardeners, especially home gardeners, are invited to participate.
Purpose: to grow garlic by the bulbil method in as many regions and soil conditions across Canada as possible to validate the utility of this growing technique in maintaining a strong, healthy stock of garlic for planting.
What do you need to do? Plant different types of garlic bulbils. Harvest, weigh and measure the first year's crop, and replant. Continue with this until you have full-size bulbs (i.e. at least two inches in diameter). Each year record the planting and the harvest, as well as any growing observations. Growing instructions and record forms are provided. Your information will be consolidated with other reports into a database that can be used by growers. A set of five bulbil strains will be provided to start or you may use bulbils from your own garlic. Provided bulbils will be free but The Garlic News asks for a small contribution to help pay the mailing costs. Any garlic you grow from this project is yours to keep. If you already grow from bulbils, your information would be appreciated.
Contact for further information: The Bulbil Project: Paul Pospisil, editor of The Garlic News, 3656 Bolingbroke Rd., Maberly, Ontario K0H 2B0, email@example.com
*The Canadian Organic Grower quarterly magazine is wonderful. It may be available in your library. It is not published online, but is available with membership in the the excellent Canadian Organic Growers organization (www.cog.ca).