Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Umbils of Garlic

      You thought you were done reading about garlic.  I thought I was done writing about garlic.  But a couple of days ago I was cleaning up the porch and found some garlic seed heads that I had kept from the summer.  Not one to waste anything garlic, I decided to clean them up and plant them since I have some open space in a cold frame at the park.

Umbil of Garlic,  December 18th,  2012
      I found a helpful website today: http://organicgarlicbc.com/Organic_Garlic_BC/Garlic_Bulbils_and_Rounds_For_Sale_in_2012.html.  It was there that I first saw the term umbil, defined as the seed head of hard necked garlics.  The umbils are full of little individuals bulbils, which can be planted to grow into full garlic bulbs over a two to three year period.

Umbil separated into individual bulbils

Five umbils and many larger bulbils
Hopefully the last of any garlic to plant
      I was encouraged to plant these bulbils, knowing that I had a nice empty spot at a park cold frame from where the glass panels had been stored over the summer.

Bulbils sprinkled on top, mushroom soil to follow
Open space used
      Garlic is extremely cold hardy and does not require the cover of the cold frames.  I just had that space available and weed free, so in they go.  I also expect that the cold frame will help the bulbils to germinate better in the mid to later part of December.
      Is the trouble worth the effort?  I just went back through previous posts about garlic, and found that I had planted bulbils last December 15th:

       The picture above shows the garlic planted from last year, though the cold frame itself was moved to a different location and the cardoon plants were transplanted.  I pulled a lot of the bulbs that grew, and promptly forgot to keep track of the experiment.  Luckily I somehow lost track of these garlic plants, so I can follow their progress.

A closer shot of the top left corner

      This garlic plant was pulled from the bunch of plants in the previous photo.  It could be used at this stage as green garlic, using it like a scallion.  Slices of the garlic "scallion" would have a delicious garlic flavor, and can be used as if it were clove garlic.  I may dig, separate, and replant the shoots next spring, hoping to have some full sized bulbs in July.  If not July of 2013, certainly July of 2014.  If it were to take that long, I think I would eat the second year garlic as green garlic.  
      Finally, in the article from the link above, the author suggests that their garlic kept much better when the seed stalks were allowed to remain on the garlic plant until harvest.  Like a good reader, I cut most of my garlic scapes off this early summer.  And have a bunch of garlic with lousy wrappers.  Coincidence?  I don't know, but next year the scapes will stay.
      My wife just sneezed.  She will be eating some raw garlic to see if she can cut short an oncoming cold.  Google "garlic cold remedy" for some ideas.


  1. George I have never ever ever been able to grow Garlic. I have no idea why, it just doesn't seem to swell as it should.
    I've planted it in the polytunnel, the greenhouse and even outside in these harsh conditions but it never seems to get any further than a shoot of green. I'm wondering if I am not patient enough?
    Thank you for your garlic posts, I am going to re-read them and see if I can glean some info from them that may help the bulbs I planted in my PT to actually grow up this year!


  2. Linda, did you plant your cloves in late fall, or in the spring. If all else fails, you can eat the shoots as green garlic. You will still get the benefits and flavor of the garlic.

  3. It's winter here and I planted them about 3 weeks ago in the polytunnel. Should I just leave em and hope they work?
    Thank you for the tip :)


    1. Linda, they should work, particularly in the PT though I expect they would do OK outside of the tunnel. The reason for planting them in the fall is to allow them to get a good root system going. I would suggest pulling them at the latest in mid July, or earlier if the tops have browned.