Feral garlic

OldDutch(4)December 11, 2013

Last summer about mid July, I found some feral garlics growing in one sister's back yard (in zone 4), already with a good set of bulbils and standing about 3' tall to the top out from tucked back in under her grape vines.

I collected a handful of bulbs with the tops and their bulbils attached and set them out to dry on my curing screens. The bulbs were tiny, about the size of a quarter but with a full set of tiny cloves in a single ring. They seemed to cure out just fine. The cloves in the bulbs though tiny seemed to be nice and plump when I cracked them to plant this past fall.

These have been growing weedy and uncared for over about 25 years or so and just plain keep coming up all over her lawn and flower beds ever since. Her soil is pretty heavy and that seem to be no problem for this type. In fact it is almost invasive. It certainly is persistent, standing up to both competition from lawn grass and weed treatment.

This past fall I put out a pretty good sized bed of cloves and bulbils and some of them even sprouted, showing some tops before winter set in among the clove part of the bed anyway. I intend to also try to start some of the bulbils under lights later this winter.

Hardiness is apparently no problem nor is heavy soil either, it seems. Bulb size is a real issue however with all its very tiny and essentially useless cloves, unless that is just the result of not separating the cloves and not fertilizing or cutting the scapes. Bulbil size is from about rice to close to pea size and there were a lot of them in each scape. I did not see what the scape was like as I did not observe them early enough in the growth cycle, not even knowing they were there. The clove wrappers were very tight and the mature and well wrapped and separated cloves did not break apart very easily. Turned out to be a tough little nut to crack and just about the size of a normal round on top of it.

My question is how do I increase bulb size if that is possible?

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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

"Bulb size is a real issue however with all its very tiny and essentially useless cloves, unless that is just the result of not separating the cloves and not fertilizing or cutting the scapes."

You hit the nail on the head. Assuming it's the type of garlic commonly planted and not actually a wild garlic, you should be able to increase the bulb size by selectively growing out the biggest cloves from the biggest bulbs and/or by growing out the bulbils. It will be a multi-year process though. But again, this is assuming it's not one of the wild garlic species.

Rodney

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 12:12PM
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OldDutch(4)

From what I could tell it is not a native American allium. The most probable last person to cultivate this was a German born aunt of my mother's who lived in that house after she and her husband retired off the farm, and she's been gone now closer to 30 years than 20. She was more than a little bit of a herbalist, and this was not the only type of allium she grew along with other plants for various teas. My sister has not kept up the herbs; some of which may actually be a little dangerous, but there are some pockets of some of them left, definitely not native NW Iowa weeds, either. To the best of my knowledge this allium is only found in my sister's backyard.

I had a thought that it might be sand leek (the other rocambole), but there were no flowers in the scape only bulbils and the tiny bulbs were actually perfect miniature garlic bulbs by appearance. I have another planting of sand leek that seems to have taken; so there will be something there to compare on that account. I looked for and did not find underground offsets either. The leaves along the stalk were also flat not round, like the normal native wild onions that grow around there (A. canadense) nor did it have the fibrous outer layer on the bulb (A. vineale or A.drummondii). Nor did it grow in a tight clump. All stems scaped out on top and bulbed out underground with a number of cloves in each bulb, the stalks standing together but spaced apart a bit and with very garlic like wrappers on the outside of the tiny bulbs and around each clove in the ring around the hardneck stem.

I am hoping to have rounds from the bulbils besides small bulbs from the cloves this coming year. Perhaps that will speed up the process. The climate here in Minneapolis, and in that part of NW Iowa are very similar; in fact we get a lot of our weather together, just there a day or so earlier.

The soil here is different, though, much sandier without the clay subsoil from down in NW Iowa; so I amend heavily with organic matter and fertilize pretty heavily, too.

Best guess right now is that this is a feral true garlic, and is definitely hardy this far north. It also seems to do quite well in heavier soils and prospers quite well with no care. Now if the bulb size increases under cultivation, I will be quite pleased. Can't say that I've tasted it yet though, not really. The one little clove I tried seemed to be real mild, but not really enough of it there to tell. I know some of what I planted took; so I am looking forward to next year.

Is the tiny bulb a normal expression in feral garlic? If so I will just have to be patient, I guess.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 1:12PM
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planatus(6)

I have a feral garlic patch in unimproved acid clay that came from discarded cloves and bulbs -- all cultivated, but of unkown name. I have harvested the topset bulbils and planted them in fall. Each plant produced a round and a curled scape, so I assume they are rocamboles.

I have plenty of good planting stock of selected varieties, so instead of bringing the feral clumps into cultivation, I dig some in spring and we eat them like green onions (g'allions).

It's worth noting that feral parsnips have established among the garlic -- they seem to like growing together. The parsnips are not of good quality because of the poor soil, but the flowers attract lots of interesting little wasps.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 8:31AM
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OldDutch(4)

I grew up and still garden in Zone 4. Virtually everything was spring planted there as I grew up, except the tulips of course. :) (and some of the other bulb spring flowers as were hardy there)

Getting serious with garlic is recent for me with successes only in the past couple of years and then only partial ones. (Once I sat down and actually followed the directions!) Music has impressed me. I hope to add Siberian and we will see what Aunt Frieda's Ferals do with a little TLC. There are bits and pieces of a couple of other garlic and allium types, too. Fun stuff and mostly experimental.

Real nice that one can plant different types in small spaces and not worry about cross pollination.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:08AM
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OldDutch(4)

I grew up and still garden in Zone 4. Virtually everything was spring planted there as I grew up, except the tulips of course. :) (and some of the other bulb spring flowers as were hardy there)

Getting serious with garlic is recent for me with successes only in the past couple of years and then only partial ones. (Once I sat down and actually followed the directions!) Music has impressed me. I hope to add Siberian and we will see what Aunt Frieda's Ferals do with a little TLC. There are bits and pieces of a couple of other garlic and allium types, too. Fun stuff and mostly experimental.

Real nice that one can plant different types in small spaces and not worry about cross pollination.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:13AM
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still_kris(z17 NoCA)

How exciting! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to hearing more.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 10:13PM
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OldDutch(4)

We shall see what next year brings. I will post updates as they happen. Next step will be after the Holidays, when I try to start some of the bulbils under fluorescent lights.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 8:18PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I think when you leave some garlics undisturbed unharvested for year after year, they get crowded out, the go deeper and deeper and the corms becomes smaller and often may not reach to a stage to divide.

CROSS POLLINATION cannot possibly happen to carlics, UNLESS you let them flower ( same time) and then propagate them by planting there bulbils.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 10:57PM
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OldDutch(4)

Crowding garlic reduces bulb size as does undug bulbs coming back the next spring as clumps. I am hoping that separating the cloves on the feral and pruning off the scapes will increase the eventual bulb size which it should. How much is the real question. I will be quite happy with first year results of bulbs pushing an inch to inch and a half.

Bulbils are not true seed, but rather another form of cloning, genetically identical to the cloves in the bulbs below, although they generally take another couple of years to produce any kind of decent sized garlic bulb. The scapes flower, but the flowers abort as the bulbils develop in virtually all hardneck or flowering garlic strains and set no seed. Same for any abnormal scaping in softnecks that sometimes happens.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2013 at 7:16PM
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zqnmegan

deleted duplicate post

This post was edited by zqnmegan on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 5:42

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 5:29AM
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zqnmegan

hello OldDutch, if you are interested in true garlic seed, Ted Meredith's site is a great starting point to learn about how to produce true seed. In October this year, Dr Ivan Buddenhagen released for sale a limited supply of true seed that he's been growing since 1999. As for growing from bulbils, this blog demonstrates the timeline really well http://goingtoseed.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/growing-garlic-from-bulbils/?relatedposts_exclude=1925
There is anecdotal evidence that growing garlic from bulbils reinvigorates your garlic although not to the same degree as growing from true seed. http://www.cog.ca/uploads/TCOG%20Articles/Growing%20garlic%20from%20bulbils.pdf
I have wondered whether growing soft necks from bulbils and deliberately planting cloves from bulbs that scaped would reintroduce the trait just as we have selected it out over the years?

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 5:39AM
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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I was aware of many road footage of feral garlic along my roads in Oklahoma. It seemed to prosper in the road right of way, but not into the fields.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 7:20AM
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OldDutch(4)

zqnmegan - virtually no garlic that can be induced to produce true seed comes true from seed due to the natural heterozygousity of the parent and to insect pollination between adjacent plants. Ivan Buddenhagen has a very interesting selection, but it is one that has been rogued and pretty harshly selected. If it was anything like what Kelly Winterton has with the true seeds he has been able to coax out of his potato onions, then what comes from seed is highly unpredictable, and I believe that Buddenhagen says as much about his garlic. OTOH it is pretty well known that seed has far less likelihood of carrying most disease than cloning a part of a plant does.

Softneck scapes are somewhat unpredictable very often depending on latitude as well as year to year growing conditions. Most folks will not see a softneck scape in decades of growing garlic. And what may produce a scape for one grower once in a while, may never do so for somebody else.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 12:22PM
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zqnmegan

OldDutch - our climate and latitude (45s 168e) must be conducive to bolting in soft necks - about 20% of the artichokes and silverskins that I plant each year routinely bolt. I am very much a backyard garlic grower, purely for consumption and have only been growing garlic since 2009. However, have been growing bulbils since day one as the first garlic I grew were hardnecks gifted to me and they all had their scapes intact. I have only recently learnt about true garlic seeds and have ordered seeds from Dr B that are currently chilling in the fridge waiting to be planted. My primary interest in tgs is to grow healthier, hopefully virus free garlic.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 9:22PM
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