Subject: Planting Garlic "Seeds"
Answered by: Conrad Richter


Question from: Linda Parker
Posted on: February 21, 2008

I found the information {in Richters InfoSheet D2780] about planting garlic to be very interesting! But it also has me a little aprehensive about the garlic I planted last fall. My neighbour gave me what she called "garlic seeds"... they looked like little tiny cloves of garlic... she said they should be planted in the fall... which I did. But from this info sheet, it sounds like my garlic crop is going to fail. Do you have any advice for me?

You must be referring to the instructions in our garlic InfoSheet. Under the section on separating cloves in preparation for planting we say, "Small cloves less than 5mm (1/4") thick should be discarded. Each clove will grow into a new bulb, but the larger the clove is the larger the bulb will be at harvest time." This instruction to discard the small cloves was not meant to suggest that the small cloves will fail, only that they probably will not develop into the large bulbs that garlic lovers are accustomed to. Small cloves will likely produce small unsegmented bulbs (not divided into cloves) the first season. But they can be left in the ground to grow a second season in which they should reach a decent cooking size.

Like small cloves, garlic "seeds" usually will not produce a full sized bulb by harvest time next fall, but they can be left in the ground to grow another season. Garlic "seeds" are small bulbs produced at the top of the stems after flowering. They look like true seeds to the untrained eye, but they are not. They are clones of the parent plant with the same genetic makeup as the parent. True seeds are formed after pollination and the subsequent fertilization of ovaries in the flowers, producing seeds with genetic makeups different from the parents. Garlic and some onions have over time lost the ability to produce true seeds and instead produce these rather unique seed-like small bulbs at the tops of the plants. Somehow they have learned that sex is not everything it is cracked up to be!

Besides leaving the small bulbs in the ground to grow another season, you have another option: you can pull them up next summer and fall and eat them fresh. So what if they are small bulbs: they are no less tasty than full size ones.

Also, just to let you know, I have joined a "gardening group" on "Facebook" on the internet called "happy gardeners". In this group we trade specimens and ideas and information. I have told the members of the group about your very helpful information and seminars, as well as let them know about your wonderful shop and garden center. Thank you so much for being there for us beginners!!

Thanks very much for your kind words. We love to help people to grow and use herbs. We have been doing it for almost 40 years now. So keep sending your friends on Facebook over to us!

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