Fellow gardeners who grow their own garlic may be confronting an annual conundrum right around now. The harvest is here, with lovely bulbs to dry and eat. But some has to be saved to plant in the fall for next year’s crop.
Eat or plant? Doing one feels like stealing from the other. I always felt like there just wasn’t quite enough for either purpose.
Last spring I wrote about one way to get around that tug-of-war: use bulbils.
At the time I spoke from partial theory. I’d heard “Fish Lake Garlic Man” Ted Maczka demonstrate bulbil multiplication at the Perth Garlic festival in 2011. This consists of NOT trimming off the so-called flower stalks, or scapes that grow on hard-neck garlic.
By letting some of these fully develop, you get heads with bulbils that range from the size of rice to pomegranate seeds, depending on the variety involved.
I confess, I found the ones the size of rice just too exasperating to bother with. (Sometimes size does mater.) I played around with the bigger bulbils and feel they deliver a reasonable return on space. Growing and replanting bulbils has a number of advantages: they are cleaner – usually free of soil-borne disease, very cheap to produce and an easy way to boost your count.
The main disadvantage is how slow it can be. It can take several growing cycles to get to the bulb size produced in one season of conventional planting (by clove).
Anyway, I’ve been giving that a try. This year, as I deal with my harvest in early August, I can finally say “Whoa, Nelly! That’s enough garlic!” Indeed, that’s more than enough. I have garlic aplenty, to eat, plant and share. And you can too.
In my case I’ll also be sharing surplus with friends who recently moved to a large country property where they’ll have lots of space and time to pursue a self-sufficiency life style. They can plant out a big bed and be rolling in garlic – in not too long a time – at zero cost.
Here come the photos to illustrate how this worked in my garden. (Note: For those who want more info I’ve found this commercial outlet in B.C. an excellent source of details on all things garlic, including propagating with bulbils.)
POSTSCRIPT (Monday Aug 12)
I regret to add I just learned that long-time garlic evangelist from Ontario’s Prince Edward County, Ted Maczka, died on Dec 30, 2013.
Here is an obituary from the Toronto Star, in which his daughter, Barbara Campbell called him the Jonny Appleseed of garlic in Canada:
“He pioneered this,” Campbell said. “Nobody else was doing anything in garlic back in the ’70s.”
RIP “Fish Lake Garlic Man”!