When growing hardneck garlic, the garlic plant will send up a scape (flower) in late spring. The scape is cut or snapped off once the long stem begins to curl so the plant can put energy into producing bigger garlic bulbs in the ground, and not the scape. If this scape is not removed, and left to mature on the garlic plant all season, it will eventually produce a small cluster of garlic bulbils atop a tall thick stem.
A bulbil is not a true seed, but a clone of the parent plant, therefor no pollination is involved in the process. You can be sure that the bulbils will be true-to-type of the parent plant. Many varieties of garlic can be grown together with no risk of cross-pollination.
Garlic bulbils come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are as big as marbles or peas, while others are as small as a grain of rice. They come in reds, purples, and whites. One bulbils cluster can contain anywhere from a few bulbs to hundreds.
Growing with this method can be an inexpensive and quick way to increase your garlic stock or garlic collection. Because bulbils are smaller than full-size cloves, they are often less costly to ship, and may be the only way to find and grow a rare variety/variety not readily available in your area.
Bulbils take two to four years to grow into full-size garlic bulbs, therefor a little more patience, prep, and space is required when propagating with this method. Other than that, bulbils are very easy to grow and don't need much maintenance at all.
In the fall, a month before the ground freezes, plant garlic bulbils. This will allow the bulbils to grow a few roots and go through a process called vernalization. Bulbils are not planted as deep as full-size cloves, so they will need a nice thick layer of mulch to protect from winter damage. In the spring, small garlic leaves will emerge and grow all spring & into summer. Around the same time that your full--sized bulbs mature, bulbils can also be dug up, cleaned, and inspected. The bulbils should have now grown into larger cloves or a larger bulbil.
Replant the second-year bulbils in the fall a month before the ground freezes. We do this at the same time as our full-size cloves to save time. Again, mulch well for winter and in the spring the mulch can be removed. That summer, the cloves are dug up and should now be full size bulbs!
Plant first year bulbils in a wide pot, about 1 inch to 1.5 inches apart, depending on the size of the bulbils. Dig a hole in the ground and set the pot inside, making sure the soil level inside the pot is level with the ground. Mulch well for the winter. In the spring, the mulch is removed and bulbils can be easily located and maintained. In the second year, the bulbils are planted into the ground to allow for maximum growth.
First year bulbil leaves can be very tiny, like a blade of grass. Keep weeds at bay early on to ensure garlic has enough space and light to grow.
In 2017, the Seed Savers Exchange conducted an experiment which showed that garlic bulbs that had scapes removed were on average 23% larger than those with scapes left on.