Growing Rocamboles from bulbils is easy, satisfying, and economical. There are generally 10 to 20 bulbils in the capsule or umbel of a single topset of a garlic plant. If these are planted in the fall they will produce large rounds or small bulbs the following summer. These themselves are good to eat and if the rounds and larger cloves are planted in the second fall they can produce full sized bulbs the following summer.
This page is devoted to Rocamboles. For growing bulbils of other varieties see our bulbils page.
We generally select the larger bulbils and eat or discard the smaller ones. The rule with garlic is that, other things being equal, the larger the clove, round, or bulbil you plant, the larger the bulb or round you harvest. We prepare a bed with lots of nutrients in the top few inches of the soil and space the bulbils 2 to 4 inches apart and cover with ½ to 1 inch of garden soil or potting soil. The bulbils are planted with the pointy end, the end that was attached to the stem, down. Small rodents like mice and voles love Rocambole bulbils and like to make their homes under the mulch. We try to wait until the critters have made their winter homes elsewhere before we cover the bulbil beds with mulch for winter protection. In the spring we pull the mulch off and keep the bulbil patch weeded. We water regularly until a couple of weeks before we expect to harvest. We consider the rounds ready to dig up when the tops fall over. We assess the readiness of the small bulbs for harvest like we would large bulbs – nicely filled out cloves showing as bumps through the wrappers. We harvest the bulbs and rounds in the summer and cure them by spreading them out to dry in a shady spot with good air flow. When the roots, leaves and wrappers have dried up we clean them and store them in mesh baskets or paper bags until planting time, a few weeks before the ground freezes in the fall.
|Rocambole Round Shown on 4cm diameter dish|
First Year Harvest
The second year we select the largest cloves to plant, usually one or two cloves from each small bulb, and most of the rounds as they are usually larger than the divided cloves. We give them the same spacing we do regular bulbs as that is what we hope to harvest. However, we fertilize them a bit more heavily than regular bulbs as we want to push them to produce full sized bulbs in their second year. If the weather cooperates big, beautiful bulbs result. If the weather has been less than ideal in either the first or the second year it may take another year before the full potential of the garlic is realized.
|Large Sized Rocambole Bulb shown on 4cm diameter dish|
Second Year Harvest