True Garlic Seed

 
The nomenclature is a little confusing when it comes to garlic's reproductive organs; seed garlic, bulbils, umbels, scapes... what does it all mean and does garlic produce a true seed (one that requires pollination in order to germinate and produce a plant) or not?
 
Yes, garlic does—or rather—can produce true seed, but it typically requires a helping hand from an interested gardener or botanist... or agri-business person. We've not yet attempted to harvest true garlic seed ourselves and so will not presume to publish an entire page on the subject. What follows is a brief outline of what it takes to provoke a garlic plant into producing true seed.
 
For a comprehensive exploration of the process involved in collecting and growing from true seed, we refer you to the very capable hands of Mr. Ted Jordan Meredith and the in-depth description found on his website.
 
 

The Short (Really Short) Guide to Growing from True Seed

 
We repeat, the following is only meant to whet your appetite for the real thing. Please click on the link above to see a detailed, graphically illustrated description of the entire process of growing garlic from true seed.
  1. Marbled Purple Stripes and Purple Stripes work best, so probably best to begin with one of those. After the scape has uncurled and the umbel has begun to form, split open the sheath and check inside for bulbil development. Once the bulbils have formed you want to cut off the scape and place it in a vase with water. Then remove the rest of the sheath and remove all the bulbils. Use tweezers to do this and grab the bulbils from the sides and base to pull them out.
  2. The flowers will then have the space and energy to fully develop and open, exposing the stamin and allowing for the possibility of pollination. An individual flower cannot pollinate itself but neighboring flowers can do the job. Common houseflies are sufficient (no bees necessary) or using a Q-Tip or other transfer method can work as well.
  3. Allow the entire umbel with pollinated flowers to fully dry before removing the seeds from within. Collection will likely be sometime in October. Save the seeds until Winter.
  4. In early to mid February, soak the seeds in a bleach solution (1 tsp bleach to 2 cups water) for 20 minutes and then put in the fridge for 4 weeks to "cold-treat" them, also referred to as vernalization. Garlic requires this cold signal in order to grow.
  5. Remove from fridge and plant in seedling trays with clean potting soil or sterile mix. Keep moist but not too wet.  Expect a wide range of results; some vigorous and large, some tiny and weak. Anywhere from 7-15% germination rate in the first year.
  6. Transplant seedlings into greenhouse or outdoor garden bed after a month or 6 weeks of growth in the seedling tray. Watch closely and keep watered but not soaked.
  7. Allow to dry down toward the end of the growing cycle as with normal garlic.
  8. Rounds should result from this first year of growing from seed. Replant them in the fall as you would a round from bulbils and grow as usual.
  9. Voila!