…and now for something completely different…
Canoe bow waves are quickly lost
on the shoreside
But go on out of sight
on the lake side.
The constant swish-swish of skis
On a day long ski.
The constant swish-swish of wiper blades
On a day long drive.
My dog, trotting barefoot
Steps on a garden slug
Nothing of it.
Word spreads quickly
as I approach the pond.
All becomes quiet.
Hidden in the vines
a large warted cucumber
jumps out of reach.
of marshmallow snow
on a branch,
await the trigger of my hat
to melt their way down my back.
Deep in the tomato jungle
Fruits of yellow, purple and red
Tell of their readiness
To go to market.
Snowflakes hurry through my flashlight beam,
As my boots knead new snow with spring mud,
On my nightly Hajj to keep the boil alive,
For as long as possible until the dawn,
To match the power of the flowing sap,
With my meager evaporator and will.
The prize at the finish line are jars of syrup
Growing Garlic Rounds From Bulbils
by Tom Roberts, July, 2009
Click on photos to enlarge.
For fifteen years I have been planting most of my garlic crop with rounds I have grown from
bulbils. This saves having to hold back sellable garlic for seed, and many rounds can be grown in a relatively
small area. Additionally, while they are growing the bulbils have never touched the soil, thus breaking links to
carrying over soil borne diseases to the next crop. The photos below were taken in July, 2009, just prior to harvesting the rounds. The photo at right shows
the bulbil clusters at the top of the garlic plants. We harvest all of our smallest scapes to sell fresh at market, allowing only the largest to continue on
to form bulbils.
Several Maine garlic growers have told me that when they planted bulbils all they get is tiny
bulbs of garlic, and no rounds at all. I am at a loss to explain why this happens, for it has never happened to
me. I do get a percentage of bulbils going straight to small bulbs, but nowhere near all of them. So in 2008, I
decided to try to see if planting date affected the percentage of bulbils that skipped the round stage and made
little bulbs instead. The dates I chose were: 8-Oct-08, 20-Oct-08, and 11-Nov-08. The final date was at just
about ground freeze-up, and the first date turned out to be approximately a month before ground freeze-up.
The photo at the right is of the 8-Oct-08 planting, taken in mid July of 2009 immediately prior to harvest. The
bulbils were planted in two rows on this bed. You can see the many rounds with their tops laying down similar to
how onions "go down" when they are ready to harvest. There are a little over half that have gone down, and the
others are standing upright since they have skipped the round stage and gone straight to little bulbs, complete
with scapes. (In these shots all the scapes have already been harvested and sold at farmers' market.) At
the time the photos were taken, all of the rounds had gone down, yet still had green tops. I have found that this
is the easiest time to harvest them. In two more weeks the tops of the rounds would have dried and weakened
greatly, making harvesting by pulling them much more difficult.
Another section of the same bed, this one planted on 20-Oct-08. You can see that
there is a far higher percentage of bulbils that grew rounds instead of little bulbs compared to the 8-Oct planting
in the previous photo.
The detail view of rounds laying down versus bulbs standing up is more evident when the photo is viewed enlarged. This
planting looks to have produced around eighty percent rounds.
The last planting was on 11-Nov-08, and was almost the last day they could have been planted
before the ground froze. Here we see the percentage seems to have gone back to half rounds and half small bulbs.
However, the total number of germinating bulbils was far smaller, resulting in an overall sparser stand.
Conclusion: The result of this trial tells me that mid October is the preferable date to plant bulbils for producing rounds,
resulting in not only a higher rate of germination and a thicker stand, but also a far more favorable ratio of rounds to little bulbs.
- Since rounds and little bulbs are often growing with their roots entwined, we have found it more
efficient to harvest the entire planting at one time, even though the little bulbs are not quite ready. We sell
the largest of these immediately at the farmers' market. The larger ones range in size from a quarter to fifty cent piece and
comprise about fifteen percent of weight of the total little bulb harvest.
- When harvesting rounds, grabbing the top near the base and wiggling it from side to side often releases the
roots of a stubborn round better than a straight tug will.
- In the past we have planted bulbils by making a shallow furrow with a hoe, dribbling the bulbils in, then
covering the furrow and mulching. We have discovered that covering with soil isn't really necessary, so after the
bulbils are placed in the furrow, they are simply mulched. This results in their being easier to pull at
- For mulch, we use three inches of shredded leaves or five inches of pine needles on the beds, each of which allows the garlic shoots to
easily penetrate in spring. In the aisles between beds, we use whole leaves to aid in weed suppression.