What’s Wrong with My Garlic?

Call in the Garlic Whisperer!

Basal Rot

Garlic problem #22: Basal rot on garlic; University of Minnesota Extension photo

If you grow garlic for any time at all, eventually you will have “issues.” At some point along the way, you might notice that some aren’t doing quite as well as the others. Maybe you notice a little discoloration or wilting, but overall, most seem to be holding their own against rain, wind, and heat. Or maybe, much to your surprise, a whole bed will turn yellow and fall over, seemingly overnight.  On the other hand, maybe everyone appears to be doing just fine, the leaves turn yellow in summer, indicating time to harvest, but when you dig them up – agghh! The Dreaded Black Spot! Maybe even white fuzz, malformed bulbs, stunted roots, creepy-crawlies, or any number of other things. Or maybe they all look beautiful, you proudly hang them to cure and are ecstatic at the wonderful crop, but then a month later, they become soft and show signs of decay.

Many will tell you growing garlic is easy – but the truth is, it is a long, tricky process, and you – or nature – can screw it up any step along the way. By the time you notice something is wrong, it can be too late.

Don’t thrash yourself too harshly. Some things you simply can’t avoid. They are there. But you spend 9 months pampering these sweet babies into healthy, strong individuals, and you want to do what you can to ensure they grow up to their potential. I am a strong believer in unconditional love, but there are also times when tough love is warranted. However, paying attention, listening, and a little preventative care can go a long way to avoiding problems down the line.

It’s a Bit Like Fortune Telling: We Have to Learn to Read the Leaves

Garlic leaves affected by Fusarium; University of Minnesota Extension photo

Garlic problem #43: Garlic leaves affected by Fusarium; University of Minnesota Extension photo

Garlic speaks to us through its leaves – so if we want to understand garlic, we can divine knowledge of its well-being or malaise (and correspondingly, our upcoming fortune or otherwise) through leaf interpretation. Divination requires two things: a question and an answer. The real question, of course, is whether it’s the right answer, what does it mean, and what is your subsequent response. I guess that’s four questions. No matter. Life rewards action.

For example, the standard advice on when to harvest garlic is to look at the leaves. When the bottom leaves start to brown but 3 or 4 green leaves still remain (some recommend 5 or 6, but not every variety has a lot of leaves), the time is right. Each green leaf represents an associated wrapper that can protect the bulb after it is harvested, so you want to make sure you have a few green ones left.

Yellow tips are such a common garlic phenomenon that many consider it “normal.” They can be caused by any number of stressors: a hard winter, a warm spell followed by a freezing spell, mild nutrient deficiencies or imbalances, too much or too little water; a little of this and that. I don’t worry about yellow tips. My garlics usually get them. Everything I read says that unless they are extreme, yields should not be affected.

However, yellow stripes, splotches, speckles, leaf curl, thickened leaves, purple veins, or other abnormalities indicate something more serious is going on: soil deficiencies, insect infestations, fungal growth.

Multiple shoots coming from the stalk might be from cold damage in early spring.

Severely stunted, crumpled bulbs in spring might also be a vivid complaint about a rough winter or early spring freezes. Stunted plants might also indicate the presence of thrips.

Wilted leaves during mid-season: your plant might just be thirsty. Be aware that under-watering can cause the plant to mature early. Or maybe it’s just tired and hungry, in which case a little foliar or root-zone feeding might bring it back around. Then again, perhaps something more nefarious is lurking beneath the surface, and further investigations are warranted.

I used to think that garlic was an invincible super plant. After all, it is used as an insecticide, fungicide, plant strengthener, immune system booster, and it provides a number of health benefits to our homeo sapien brethren. What could possibly hurt this remarkable plant?

As it turns out, Plenty! The following is a quick summary of several of the fungi, insects, and other stressors that can affect the garlic crop. After compiling this list, I am actually quite amazed mine have done as well as they have over the years!

Mold & Fungus

Garlic White Rot (Steve Renquist photo). You do NOT want this garlic problem!

Garlic Problem #88: Garlic White Rot (Steve Renquist photo)

Aaaagggh! If you live in the Northwest, mold happens. Every year I find some – some years I find a lot. We’ve had one of the coolest, wettest spring & summers on record – conditions that would make any fungus happy – so don’t be surprised if some of your beloved garlic plants fall prey. Sometimes you can’t tell what’s going on – the plants look basically fine, maybe the leaves start to yellow, which they normally would anyway – maybe some seem a little smaller, but variations in size are common – and then you go to harvest the plant, and you find the dreaded mold. Roots that are rotted off are a sure-fire sign, as is black around the neck. I have had cold, wet years when I’ve lost most of my crop. Sometimes it’s isolated to an individual area, in which case I take a closer look at soil differences, watering techniques, or microclimates that could cause problems. These bulbs need to be thrown in the burn pile (do not compost!), and it’s a sad day. I have, in desperation, rubbed off outer skins and thrown clean cloves into vinegar for a fresh pickled garlic, but they are never as good as the cured kind. Here are some specifics:

Basal or Bottom Rot (Fusarium culmorum and F. oxysporum): This fungus is pretty much in all soils but is usually not a huge problem unless the plants are already weakened by some other stressor. It is most frequent in warmer temperatures, like late in the summer. Look for reddish decay in a single clove or the entire bulb. Yellowing begins at tips of leaves and moves down; plants may wilt; rot appears at the basal plate. Bulbs might appear ok but then rot during storage. It looks a lot like white rot, but death proceeds more slowly. If conditions are not ideal, it may not be that obvious that it is even there – but then, during storage, if temps are relatively warm, the bulbs may begin an early decay and the cloves shrivel into tough little inedible nuggets.

Blue Mold (Penicillium hirsutum and P. corymbiferum): The Penicillium Rot travels through the air and shows up as a blue-green mold on wounded garlic. It can happen in the field, where they emerge but then turn yellow and die, but it particularly occurs after harvest during storage as a result of rough handling. Be careful not to plant infected bulbs or you will get it again. It’s easy to do. One little infected clove in a bowl of popped cloves ready to plant can infect the whole bunch. If you see mold on a bulb, don’t think you can plant the “clean” cloves. They are not. Spores are invisible.

Downy Mildew (Peronospora destructor): “Destructor” says it all. It likes cool, damp/wet weather. Spores can be wind-blown over long distances, and they can even “swim” via rain and irrigation. They just love it when the weather is around 55 degrees, which it is for most of our spring and summer. The pathogen survives as oospores for many years in the soil. When the weather turns hot, the plant can regain the upper hand, but if it turns cool and damp again, the Destructor will return. It can reach epidemic proportions under the right conditions. Look for spots on the leaves that become covered with a grayish furry mold. Growth is stunted; younger plants may die; outer scales of bulbs become water-soaked; necks sometimes shrivel and turn black. Yuck.

Leaf Blight (Botrytis squamosa): Look for grayish-white leaf spots that become brownish. Usually occurs under high humidity, moist conditions.

Neck Rot (Botrytis allii and B. porri): This fungus survives on dead plants in the soil and attacks garlic leaves in warm, wet weather. It will also take over the bulbs in storage. It is called “neck rot” for good reason – the stem turns black and slimy and easily pulls from the bulb. It can be quite common in maritime climates, and usually affects the softnecks more than the hardnecks. Watch for sclerotia, those black clumps that form between cloves. Excessive rain or irrigation can encourage growth, and it is difficult to control in wet weather. I have had to deal with this in wet years when mulch and compost kept the moisture levels high in the soil and directly around the bulbs, and also when weeds (large dandelion leaves!) limited air circulation around the plants. Be careful not to bruise the bulbs, which can also invite infestations.

Rust (Puccinia allii): The rust fungus travels with the wind and loves cool, wet conditions. High humidity, low rainfall, temps between 45 and 55 – oh, yikes – that’s exactly what we get here! Look for yellow flecks and spots that turn to orange and brown. The only real controls involve chemicals. Fortunately, according to CA studies, although overall yield may be reduced in heavy infestations, you can still use the cloves for planting in the following year. Rust was a problem for me this year, which I will discuss in a future post.

White Rot (Sclerotium cepivorum): If you get this, you might as well give it up forever, because this fungus can live 30 years in the soil and is particularly active in cool, wet conditions. It looks a lot like basal rot but the garlic demise is much more rapid. The bottom leaves turn prematurely yellow, along with the leaf tips; the plants fall over and the stems and bulbs begin to rot; the plant pulls apart; roots are rotted; you can see fluffy white mold and poppy-seed-sized black sclerotia, which are smaller than what you’d find on neck rot. The sclerotia germinate in the presence of sulfur, which is produced by the garlic plant. How convenient for them.

Viruses

Yikes. “Virus” is such a scary word! It conjures up images of the plague sweeping across a field of posies and we all fall down. However, according to the U of MN: “Because garlic is clonally propagated, almost all [italics mine] planting stock is infected with some type of virus. The viruses are usually mild and do not seriously affect yield….One exception is onion yellow dwarf virus, which can cause severe mosaic in combination with other viruses. Most of the garlic purchased from seed catalogs and other garlic growers contains some virus.”

Garlic Mosaic (also onion mosaic): Look for mottling or striping on the leaves. Mosaic is caused by several different viruses that appear to be lumped under the “potyvirus” term. They can be transmitted through the planting stock or even carried by aphids. It is thought that these viruses are commonly present in all garlic (according to U of CA).

Iris Yellow Spot is a virus carried by onion thrips. It is usually seen on onions, but can also affect other members of the Allium family. Identify by a diamond-shaped splotch on the leaves or elongated brown lesions.

Yellow Dwarf Virus: Look for yellow streaks on the leaves. Not all leaves are necessarily infected, and how much it affects the crop depends on the level of infestation and the time of the season – a mild infestation late in the year might have very little effect. Stressed plants are more likely to get it – or maybe they have it all along, but a weakened plant under the right conditions allows the virus to manifest itself. In severe cases, plants are stunted; leaves and flower stalks can be twisted and pale. Of course, yellowing leaves look like just about everything else that can affect garlic, so it’s hard to tell whether it’s really the result of the evil Yellow Dwarf or not. Preventative measures are best.

Critter Infestations

Damage from Onion Thrips

Garlic problem #57: Damage from Onion Thrips (University of Maryland Home & Garden Information Center)

Aster Yellows: I put this in the critter category because it is carried by a leafhopper bug.  Signs include smaller, yellow, deformed leaves (veins remain green) and a possible “witches’ broom” appearance. The disease is relatively new in garlic, particularly up north, but I recently heard of a grower in Minnesota who lost 10,000 bulbs to this pest! What a devastating loss! Aster yellows can actually affect over 300 species of plants and is caused by a phytoplasma. When the leafhopper feeds on the plant, it becomes infected for the rest of its life. The spread of aster yellows is worse in cooler, wet climates, probably because leafhoppers don’t like hot dry areas. One has to wonder what kind of pests and diseases we will have to deal with in the face of climate change – those things that might migrate north to escape the heat and drought.

Nematodes (Ditylenchus dipsaci) can live in plant tissue for 9 years! They spread through planting infected seed stock. Plants may show no symptoms in cool growing conditions, but in warmer weather, the tops will yellow prematurely. In some cases, the stem will appear stunted or twisted or even swollen; sometimes the bulb is deformed. Look for swollen tissue at the basal plate, spongy tissue, splits where you’d normally see a bulb, yellowed skins, rot and decay. (Not to be confused with the predatory nematodes, Steinernema feltiae, aka Neoaplectana carpopapsae, which you can actually purchase, and which are known to attack some 250 or so different kinds of insects, worms, and bugs.)

Onion Maggots (Hylemya antiqua): These legless little white maggots will bore into the garlic stem underground. The plant will turn yellow, wilt, and possibly die. They generally prefer onions and shallots. As an adult, they look like a little grey housefly; eggs are laid at the base of plants in the soil; the baby maggots have voracious appetites.

Onion Thrips: These little suckers love warm, dry weather. Look for whitish specks on leaves (lack of chlorophyll – they suck the life-blood juice right out of the plant) that grow into splotches and eventually all run together. They can hibernate in the bulb wrappers and carry viruses, such as the Iris Yellow Spot mentioned earlier. Oh – and if you live in a warm place, you can have 10 generations of these buggers in your field in one season alone!

Soil & Other Issues

Punky Bulb: Seriously, Dude, this is a real thing. It is caused by a manganese toxicity due to a low pH. Cloves are loose and discolored.

Waxy Breakdown: The cloves turn translucent and rot. It can happen when the temperatures are hot during harvest (sun-baked?).

Nutrient Imbalances: Lack of nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium can all appear like everything else – yellow tips of leaves, often affecting the oldest ones first (calcium deficiency often appears as spots). Leaves die back. In nutrient overloads, for example, too much nitrogen, you might see excessive side shoots. Test your soil. The best preventative approach is to build the soil in a balanced way through compost; applying boxes of this and that can really throw things off.

Conclusions:

I don’t pretend to be an expert here. By all means, if you suspect something wrong with your garlic, look for additional resources, talk to experts, consider having your garlic, soil, or whatever you can catch tested. In my next post, I will talk about management strategies and prevention. In the meantime, here are a few good sources of information.

Some Resources:

Anderson, Bob. “Gourmet Garlic Gardens” (website for all things garlic). http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/diseases.htm

ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Updated 2008. “Garlic: Organic Production.” 28 p. https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=29

Cornell University Dept. of Plant Pathology & Plant-Microbe Biology: Diseases of Garlic http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/factsheets/garlicdiseases.pdf

Engeland, Ron L. 1991. “Growing Great Garlic. The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers.” Filaree Productions, Okanogan, WA.

Oregon State University Extension. “An Online Guide to Plant Disease Control.”

Oregon State University, Washington State University, University of Idaho. “Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Handbook,” a Pacific Northwest Extension publication. http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/

University of California Integrated Pest Management http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/selectnewpest.onion-and-garlic.html

University of Minnesota/Extension. “Growing Garlic in Minnesota.” http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/components/DC07317.pdf

University of Minnesota/Extension. “What’s Wrong with my Plant?” http://www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/diagnostics/vegetable/garlic/index.html

Disclaimer: Each of these resources contains valuable information; some present info on chemical controls, which is not something I myself use, but I do find it useful to know what might be applied on crops where chemical warfare is supported.


Comments

What’s Wrong with My Garlic? — 59 Comments

    • Thank you, Aria! Wish I could find the time to write & post more frequently! On the other hand, wait – gorgeous weather – end of summer – no, I’d rather be in the garden (or in the mountains, on the water…) than in front of a computer!

  1. my beatiful jumbo clove garlic plants seemed to to dry up and die. I guess they got too dry. If nothing appears wrong with the roots, is there anything I can do, please?

    • Sad story! It is hard to know without seeing them. Is this all dried up after they have been cured? Or are they just out of the ground? I am probably not a good person to ask, because I have been known to take garlic that is starting to mold, peel off the skins, cut out any moldy areas, & toss them in vinegar for my own use. Perhaps not the best, but I SO hate to see garlic go to waste! I have far more problems with the extra large bulbs than I do the smaller ones. Perhaps because of the greater water content? It is really sad when you save a gargantuan bulb for seed stock & have to throw the whole thing out! (or eat what you can). I am very picky about what I put in the ground – and if you’ve been handling anything that looks questionable, be sure to wash your hands before handling other good bulbs. Don’t make it easy for miniscule spores to travel to new territory!

      That still doesn’t answer your question, tho. I cut back on the watering before harvesting (unless it rains out of my control), and in a sense, it is basically starting the curing process while the plant is still in the ground. I have also taken bulbs after curing them and dehydrated them further for making garlic powder. Is that a possibility with what you have? Or are they shriveled beyond recognition? Can you rehydrate them for immediate use?

      Sorry I can’t be more helpful! I think some experimenting might be in order. Let me know what you figure out! It’s always such a learning process, even after I’ve grown it for so many years! Thanks!

  2. I’m glad that I found someone who says that growing garlic can be tricky! Everybody says it’s one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and for me every year it turns out to be one of the greatest disappointments! Like you said in the article: “By the time you notice something is wrong, it can be too late.” I’m actually thinking of trying to grow them in pots next season, to see if that makes a difference.

    • Garlic IS very hardy, but yes, things can go wrong. If you want to grow market-size bulbs, there are a lot of factors to consider. That said, last year, there were patches that I didn’t get around to watering much, and although the bulbs were smaller, they have lasted much longer and the flavor has been more intense. Everything you read says they need consistent watering and rich, moist, well-drained soil. True, drought conditions will send them into dormancy, but they are survivors; they will handle occasional dry spells and not-the-best soil conditions. Many in my personal stash are still in good shape, whereas in other “wetter” years, they would be sprouting.

      As far as pots go, it is a great way to grow garlic from bulbils, which tend to get lost in larger beds, and a great way to have some close to the kitchen, but overall, my experience of garlic in pots has not been the best. It is surprising how far the tiny root hairs extend in search of food & water. A larger root system keeps them anchored through Nature’s swings and upheavals. And I think the whole microbial network is essential to growing good garlic, which is difficult to create in a pot. Of course, you have more control in a pot. I would be interested in knowing if it works for you. There is no “one” way. Every site and every year is different.

      Thanks for checking into my site, Mark. I loved your website and pictures of your family garden. Impressive!

  3. I’m also in the NW in a VERY rainy area… I noticed my garlic has had yellowing on the outer leaves for a while and finally decided to pull some up and see what it looked like. Well, I don’t know what exactly is wrong with it, but the outer layers are all slimy and when I peel them off my head of garlic just likes like a green onion. I’m not sure what garlic should look like at this stage, but I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t be slimy! My question is, do you think I should I just pull them up now and salvage what I can, or leave them in the ground and see what happens?

    • I thought your questions to be so relevant that they deserved a response through a blog post. I think a lot of people share your problem. See “Spring Garlic Woes.” I can’t say for sure what is going on in your garlic patch, but the main clues to me are that the outer leaves are yellow (not just the tips of leaves; and not the inner ones) and that the bulb is slimy. Slimy is a bit worrisome. Consider that each leaf represents a wrapper around the bulb — so if the outer leaves are yellow and the outer layers of the bulb are slimy, then my initial guess is that your bulbs experienced some damage through repeated freeze-thaw cycles that are so typical of Northwest gardens – or else they are just plain waterlogged. They *might* be just fine if we dry out a bit. HOWEVER, your bulbs will be even more susceptible to molds and fungi, an assortment of diseases, and insects that might take advantage of a weakened bulb, so it is good to keep an eye on them. If you see signs of more serious disease, it is better to pull them (hopefully not the entire crop!). I have found that yanking out those that are showing signs of molds can go a long way toward preventing the spread of molds elsewhere. I figure what the heck, I’m going to lose them anyway, so why not save what I can – and quite often you can still eat the fresh bulb if you peel off the damaged wrappers. Green-onion size sounds about right for this time of year. Check out the blog post for ideas on planting techniques that can help prevent disease and see whether any apply to you – or whether it gives you further clues to what is going on. Sorry I can’t be of more help — these things can be complicated! Let me know what you find out, and best of luck to you! Thanks for writing – you have good questions!

  4. After a mild problem with rust about 2 weeks before harvest last year, I had a major problem this year. The rust appeared in Spring and a month later it covered every plant. I dug the bulbs 3 weeks early as I feared the plants would die completely. Most of the bulbs were much smaller than usual.

    Is there anything I can do to rid my soil of the spores? Does this fungus affect other crops that should not be planted in the affected soil?

    Thanks for all your good information

  5. Read through all your information and found it very useful. Came across my problem towards the end where you wrote about the translucent cloves due to excessive heat. Which we’ve certainly had this summer. Was worried it was a virus and that we couldn’t use those parts still relatively ‘normal’. Thanks so much.

    • Glad it was helpful. Unfortunately, the drought got the best of my crop this year, which caused a lot of stress, which led to other problems. Sometimes it is not just one thing, but something that weakens the plant and therefore makes it more susceptible to other things. I have found that even though they can’t be used for seedstock, I can salvage damaged bulbs for personal use by freezing or dehydrating them – but only if I do it right away. They won’t keep. Best of luck to you!

    • They won’t last long. Eat those first! I had a lot of problems with my garlic this year and found myself going back to this article, too. I should have been more on top of the drought earlier on. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Hi! I was wondering about an issue I’ve had with my garlic this year and was hoping someone would have some suggestions. I planted garlic in two different places this year for an experiment- some in raised bed as I have been doing for a few years and getting good results with, and some in the ground. I live in the NE and we had a LOT of rain this summer and it seems like the plants matured so fast, much earlier than in previous years. THe garlic I planted in the ground ended up being much larger, but more of the leaves were brown on the plants, which made me think that those plants matured faster than the raised beds. Anyway, most of the garlic I pulled from the ground had purple coloring on its cloves and I was wondering if this is due to it being more mature or possibly something up with the soil, or maybe a disease? I haven’t had any issues in the past with this, but I’ve only planted in the raised beds in previous years. And I’m not sure what variety of garlic I have because I inherited my first clove of garlic from a friend who has since passed away, but all the plants I have are from that first clove. Anyway if you have any suggestions I would really appreciate it. Thanks!! 🙂

    • Aggg! I can’t believe it. I spent a really long time trying to write you a thoughtful reply and the computer just lost the entire thing! I will have to get back to you tomorrow. It is too late! (and BTW – I am sure it is 4:50 a.m. somewhere, but here it is about 10 p.m. – I always thought I was relatively computer savvy, but now I am thinking they really aren’t my thing!)

    • Ok – I have wracked my brain over this one & have checked every resource I can think of and found absolutely nothing on what disease or soil condition might cause more coloring in the cloves. In my experience, bulbs that are more mature develop more coloring (there can be some variations within and among varieties, though). If your bulbs are nice & firm, are cured well, and don’t show signs of decay, perhaps there is nothing “wrong” with them. In fact, maybe it is a developing trait that you might want to encourage! I have found that my garlic has adapted to our soil conditions and has evolved over the years. Your next experiment might be doing a taste test (with friends!) and seeing which bulbs last the longest (don’t eat them all!) and selecting for seedstock accordingly.

      But if it is just a matter of maturation, why would the bulbs in the ground mature faster than the ones in the beds? Your experiment is interesting. I always plant in raised beds because 1) we get so much rain in the winter, the bulbs need all the drainage they can get, 2) our springs tend to be very cool, and the raised bed helps to warm the soil, and 3) the soil stays softer, which allows the bulb to expand better. But after this topsy-turvy year, I am rethinking this. We had a very warm spring with temperatures higher than we get most summers and very little rain. The drought really stressed the plants and made them more susceptible to disease.

      Here is what I know: more water grows bigger bulbs but can also make them more susceptible to disease, shortens the shelf life, and reduces flavor. Plants with less water and that are allowed to mature more slowly (I don’t cut the scapes) might be smaller, but are also more flavorful, cure more easily (we have a damp climate – so this part is critical), and last longer. Nitrogen, mulch, temperature, and sun/shade variations also play a big role in how fast they grow and mature – as does the changing hours of daylight. Too much nitrogen late in the season can foster disease issues – something I have learned the hard way. Essentially, though, if you can get the plant big and strong in the early spring, it will have the energy to grow a bigger bulb.

      Did your plants in the ground have any other factors that might have made them mature more quickly? Are the bulbs firm? Do they show any other signs of disease? Thanks for your comment – and if anyone else out there has figured this out, please chime in!

  7. Hello,
    I have the same concern with my garlic as well. It’s my first time growing them in Vancouver and upon removal, some cloves show the same hint of purple coloring/veins as mentioned in the earlier post. I’ve cured them for 3 weeks now (basically left to dry and threw away the worse ones) and they seem to commonly appear in unaffected ones. Is it a virus or nutrient deficiency or the way I cured them?
    Thanks!

    • Vancouver, WA or Vancouver BC? I think the purple coloring is fine as long as the cloves are plump and firm and don’t show signs of mold or insect infestation. Fungal issues & nematodes are always my biggest problem; I have never had an issue with odd coloring. Some of the varieties are more purple than others – like Vekak & Bogatyr – so very beautiful! Maybe my above reply to Alliah sheds some insight? Let me know what you find out!

  8. My first time growing garlic in Eastern Quebec. Harvested it and cured it for 2.5 weeks. So happy to try some today. Cut one clove open, and … euh … little white worms. Are these onion maggots (a gross word and grosser to see) Will my entire crop be infested? What can I do with them? Clearly, not gift any to anyone.

    • So – my reply is a little on the late side – but I was wondering whether your entire crop was infested or just a few bulbs? I was thinking that if the infestation isn’t too bad, you might be able to plunge the bulb in boiling water to kill the critters, cut off any damaged areas, & then freeze the cloves for your own use. (Briefly blanching the bulbs is an easy way to make the skins easy to remove, too.)

      Before planting any cloves, I always inspect for any worms, take only cloves that are blemish-free, and then I usually give them a brief soak in rubbing alcohol before putting in the ground. (Some years I have also soaked them a few hours in a seaweed solution.) The years I have NOT done the alcohol soak (like this last one), I have had more issues with bugs & etc. Also, be sure to rotate your crops.

      Hope the infestation wasn’t too bad!

    • The only “garlic” I know that does that is elephant garlic, which is actually a leek. Elephant garlic is delicious for roasting. And all those hard-shelled little corms can be replanted and will eventually grow into full-sized bulbs. It helps to soak them overnight & knick the shell or rub it with a little sandpaper. Doesn’t sound like a failure to me. Sounds like a discovery!

  9. Have grown hardneck garlic in my Colorado Front Range urban front yard for about eight years now. Very sunny spot except mornings, naturally clayey soil but with plenty of natural compost amendment. Soil test by CSU show no deficiencies. First crops uniformly great with over 100 bulbs mostly large, perfect and no problems. I’ve recently started to add squash plants into this garden site in early summer, about a month before I harvest the garlic for a second harvest. Watering is probably heavier than really needed for garlic. Two years ago started showing some plants with roots decayed/eaten/rotted or something. This year almost all plants with poor root system and very low yield (small bulbs, many not divided). Have looked at many internet sites for info with nothing that seems like this problem. Some kind of nematode or other soil insect? When I dig the plants I do not see any insects among the few remaining roots. This is not a grocery store garlic, but a variety that was here on this property twenty-five years ago when I moved in, and only later started to move it to a productive spot. I do not have enough land to realistically rotate garlic off this bed, and garlic is the most interesting crop for me since it has done so remarkably well in past years. Any thoughts?

    • I am really glad in some respects to see your comment, Jim, because this is very similar to what I experienced this year, only I am fanatic about rotating my crops. I am a bit baffled by what happened, and the only thing I can figure is that a combination of stressors allowed nematodes to take advantage of my crop. Mine, too, looked like stunted roots, and the only thing I can find on the Internet points to the nematode as the culprit. The plants were growing great at the beginning of the year, and then they looked a little drought-stressed. Did I water them too heavily at that point? Do nematodes have cyclic population explosions? I had my varieties spread out in separate locations, not in just one square plot of rows, and yet they ALL showed the stunted root phenomenon. Of course, if the plant can’t get food & water, it is bound to be affected by other stressors as well, and in my case, botrytis mold in the early wet months and later, drought conditions, which were quite severe this year in the Pacific Northwest. I have read that dipping your bulbs in warm water before planting will help kill off any nematode that might be lurking on the clove, but you have to be careful to make the water hot, but not too hot (100-120 degrees F) (I usually do a rubbing alcohol dip, which I confess, I did NOT do this last year, to my demise.) Every year is different. Every year is a learning experience. Hope you were able to salvage some of your crop. I feel your pain. I lost mine that I had been growing for many years. 🙁

  10. This year my garlic bulbs are pushing themselves out of the soil, to where the – very good – root system is exposed. What is happening? Should I dig them up and replant them deeper?

    • The changes from fall through late winter are certainly dramatic, aren’t they! You don’t say where you live, but winter freezes & thaws create a lot of upheaval, as does all the swelling from winter-to-spring rains. Are you planting in beds? That will help with drainage issues. Garlic will transplant easily, but it’s best if you don’t have to. The roots are rather brittle and spread out farther than you might think. Some varieties have thicker roots than others and more easily withstand all the ups and downs of winter changes. Depending on how many bulbs you have and how they are planted, you could also top everything off with a layer of soil and compost. This would be my choice. It is a good time to pull back the mulch, pull a few weeds, let everything dry out & warm up, and give them a little nitrogen fertilizer. The better they grow between now and early May, the bigger your bulbs will be. Whichever way you choose – extra soil or transplant – it will help protect them during the wild temperature swings of March. When you plant this fall, you might want to plant them a little deeper. I usually plant mine so there is a good 2 inches of soil above the tip of the clove. Some people in colder climes plant theirs a little deeper. It’s always a learning process, isn’t it – and every year is a little different. Hope this helps – and thanks for visiting my site!

      • Thank you for the very quick reply. We live in the southern interior of British Columbia and have had a very mild winter this year. Thanks for the advice. I think I will add soil to at least make sure the roots are not exposed, then next year plant deeper!!

      • We are practically neighbors! It has been really mild here, too. No snow all winter here in the lowlands. I remember one year it snowed on April 1, and another, the frost nipped all my squashes just after I transplanted them on May 1, so you just never know. Thanks again for your comments. Best wishes, and keep me posted on how it goes!

    • Hi Roger – I see you are in the UK – our climate conditions are very similar. It is hard to tell anything definitive from the pictures, but I noticed a couple of things: 1) the main damage on the garlic seems to be in the outer leaves – and those are the first to come up and take the brunt of the stress of winter and early spring storms, temperature fluctuations, etc. They often look a little scraggly. No big deal. 2) Very important: the newer growth in the center leaves looks pretty good. They are green, standing tall, and the yellow tips on those are nothing to worry about (in my opinion). 3) Your onion plants on the left look a little beat up! There are some broken stems and signs of stress, which tells me their neighbors (the garlic) probably also endured similar situations – in which case, I’d say your garlic weathered through pretty well!

      What to do: Watch for more changes in the coloring, such as yellowing that extends down the plant in streaks or blotches, especially in the center leaves. For now, I think your best defense is to take proactive measures to strengthen the plant. Now is a good time to apply a little nitrogen. The more strong green leaves it grows now, the more energy it has for producing bulbs later. Personally, I do not use Epsom salts (although I know many people are fans), mainly because of the research and writings of Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott. I would recommend compost, perhaps a little blood meal, or the chicken pellets you refer to, which sound good. In May, I stop the nitrogen and switch to applications of fish fertilizer and liquid seaweed. You could cut off your bottom leaves without harming the plant. As one reader put it, “they are not really functioning very well anyway.” It might be an area where molds could develop or bugs hang out. That said, I can’t say that I have been very good at cleaning everything up.

      It is sometimes hard to tell what is disease, soil imbalance, fungal issues, or critters – so if you find there are increasing problems down the road, you can always do an early harvest of select plants (you might want to remove a bit of soil around the plant and clean your tools afterwards). One year, I was hit really hard with rust. The bulbs had already had a chance to form, so it did not affect my harvest too much, but I later found out I could have cut off the diseased leaves and reduced the spread.

      Here is another blogpost where I addressed yellow tips on garlic.

      Good luck, Roger – hope this has been of some help – and thanks for stopping in to my site. Loved the Allotment Garden site! What a resource – and a great way to share experience!

  11. Loved reading these comprehensive replies to various garlic growing problems. My issue with my crop has not been discussed. I live in Vancouver and have planted my cloves in October. My problem may be that my garlic plant leaves are too large and not enough bulb:
    It is now mid May and I am astounded that the leaves of my plants are the largest I’ve seen in my garlic planting experience. They look very healthy BUT I started to worry that the leaves were too large and possibly compromising the nutrients to the bulb, so I pulled one plant out of the ground to examine how large the bulb was. There was no bulb at all!!! Is this normal? Does the bulb start to develop later , closer to summer?

    • I see you posted your comment about a month ago, so my apologies for a late reply – but how is your garlic growing now???
      In answer to your questions, very large green leaves probably means you have a lot of nitrogen in your soil (or at least adequate amounts). Take heart in that strong leafy green growth in the spring means the plant has more energy to produce large fantastic bulbs in the summer! My thinking is that the garlic plant starts out like a leafy green – and like all greens, they love nitrogen. I usually give them some manure tea, blood meal, or other nitrogen source in the early spring – BUT, I stop all those N feedings in May, which is when the plant starts shifting toward being a bulb-producing plant. At this time, I only feed things like kelp or other seaweed or fish fertilizer – and that’s only if I get around to it. So yes, what you saw sounds perfectly normal to me. The bulb develops later. In fact, the bulb can have its greatest growth during the last few weeks before harvest (always a balancing act to figure out when it has reached max size before starting to split apart!). If you end up with all greens and very small bulbs by mid summer, then you probably have to much nitrogen in the soil. A soil test can tell you for sure.

      Thanks for stopping in! Hope your crop does well. Vancouver BC or Vancouver WA? Either way, we are neighbors!
      Best wishes,
      Blythe

      • Dear Blythe,
        Thanks for responding. I must start by saying that I have learned a lot through your website.
        I am happy to report that I pulled a garlic plant out of the soil just yesterday to see how large the bulb was at this stage. I know it is still early to be harvesting so I was glad to see the bulb is large and healthy.
        I have stopped watering as we have had lots of rain and I hope the dry weather coming will do its job in letting the garlic develop properly in its last growing stage before harvest.
        All the very best for a great harvest.
        Claudie

      • Hi Claudie – that is great to hear! I like to plant a little extra just so I can spot-check now and then. Sometimes it is so hard to tell!
        Sometimes it takes me awhile to find the time (especially at this busy time of year) to get to the computer stuff, but I do try to answer every person that takes the time to write me! I appreciate your patience!
        Thanks for the update – and best wishes to you!
        Blythe

  12. my son has a large crop of Garlic in Auvergnue France , he said that after all the hard work of weeding in the new garden space the garlic got small worms through each one , is there any organic way to treat this situation?

    • High Mowing Seeds has a really good write-up on the issue of bloat nematodes – and I would think this would apply to other nematodes and worm-like critters. See their article at High Mowing Seeds – Bloat Nematodes and You. The practices are good ones in general for ensuring a healthy crop:
      Make sure you start with disease-free bulbs
      Rotate your crops
      Clean your tools and equipment
      Remove leftover debris from harvest – don’t leave any bulbs or leaves out there to “compost” on site
      Use a hot-water treatment on cloves before planting (It can be tricky to get the right temperature. Personally, I dunk my cloves in rubbing alcohol before planting. It seems to help.)
      Plant green manures and other crops that are reported to discourage nematodes. HMS lists several; I have heard of sorghum, mustards, and brassicas. There are probably others. By the same token, you would want to remove weeds that serve as host plants.

      Obviously, these are all prevention practices. I am not sure the crop can be saved after the fact. To kill the nematodes in the soil (and populations can really explode…everything seems to be going fine for several years and then suddenly, wham!), I have heard of “solarizing” the area by placing clear plastic down for a month or 2 during hot weather and letting everything cook. I would think that would kill a lot of beneficial microorganisms as well, so after taking this drastic tactic, you would need to add layers of compost and mulch.

      Not sure what kind of worms he has, but everything I have read about wireworms, thrips, and onion maggots gives similar advice to what I found in the High Mowing Seeds article, with prevention being the key through clean seed stock, crop rotation, and sanitation.

      Hope this helps – and best of luck to your son! I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a crop after all that work!
      Blythe

  13. Good morning Blythe.

    I have read all of the posts looking for a clue to an answer and while I did not find, there are lots of interesting suggestions.

    We live in the farm lands of south central Quebec where winters can be harsh. We have been growing hard neck garlic (Music) for the past 4 to 5 years. Aside from the normal yellow tips, catching nematodes before they can do much damage, we rotate annually, we seemed to be ok, however I have 2 questions.

    First: Last spring was the first growing season for about 100 bulbs of the Degunski brand, purchased from an on-line distribution center, however the stocks and leaves all appeared pale yellowish green and while upright seem almost lifeless throughout the growing season and seemed to ripen fast in the ground like an onion. The bulbs/roots were small but looked ok. Fine we said, and acknowledged they were the runt cloves my sister was discarding. We harvested, dried and replanted last November. This spring the plants appear to be a bit taller in size have maintained similar characteristics as those grown the last summer. They dwarf in height next to the Music (about 60% of the size). I am looking to get the same appearance as the Music… should I be??

    Second: I have read quite a bit about bunching 10 to 15 head of garlic together and hanging them to dry. We have done it this way annually (10 on one end and 10 on the other and ganging on a nail in the barn) however we noticed the stems all turn black after being hung for about 2 to 3 weeks. Could it be the bulbs (10+10) are too heavy and cause the noose to become too tight trapping in the moisture we are trying to eliminate?

    Thoughts?
    Peter

    • Hi Peter – This growing garlic thing…it’s always a learning process, isn’t it? I am not sure I have the answers to your questions. I will say, though, that I am always surprised at how very different the different varieties are growing in the field. Some start out as spirals and then straighten up; some stand tall and robust with large leaves and fat stalks; others are much more slender with narrow leaves and are quite delicate looking. The red flag in your story, however, is the “pale yellowish green” color – which I would think would indicate some sort of stresser, either in the soil or with the watering. If it is in the field with all your others and that is the only garlic exhibiting that color, then obviously, it must be the variety. I have found that when I have gotten garlic from other parts of the country, even from very reputable sources, it often takes 2 or 3 years to acclimate to our conditions (wet winters; dry summers) – and some never do that well in our soggy winter climate. Was just thinking it might be quite a change for them, moving to Quebec?

      About the hanging garlic…I am not sure what is causing the stems to turn black. My problem is usually that I don’t get the rope tied tight enough, and the stems loose moisture and then tend to slip. In my experience, 10+10 was too bulky. It did not allow enough air flow, which is particularly critical in our coastal climate where we can get a moist, low-lying fog that rolls in across the fields in late summer and early fall. I usually tie mine in bunches of 5 or 6 and stagger them in a series of knots down the twine, so there might be 3 or 4 bunches down one long string, which is hung with a loop on a nail on a cross-beam. I group them by size and put a piece of blue tape around the necks of those I want to save for seed (so I don’t sell off my seed stock). This last year, I experimented with cutting the stocks instead of hanging them to dry (I know, blasphemy, right?) and then drying them on trays with a fan turned on them. I just hate it when, after 9 months of growing these babies, mold grows during the curing process, and in the Pacific Northwest, mold happens. That might not apply to your conditions, but still might be something for you to try. I did not notice a huge difference in flavor. In fact, if anything, the tray drying was more efficient.

      I am curious – how do you catch your nematodes???

      Merci beaucoup pour votre commentaire…
      Sincères amitiés,
      Blythe

      • Peter – I was just looking up some information on nematodes, and found this on the High Mowing Seeds site:
        “Signs of Infestation (of bloat nematode)
        The most severe infections of D. dipsaci cause garlic plants to exhibit stunted growth, yellowing and collapse of leaves, and premature defoliation. The bulbs first show slight discoloration but can later become entirely dark brown in color, shrunken, soft and light in weight.”
        Hope this is not what you have! Read more at High Mowing Seeds – “Bloat Nematodes and You”

  14. Good morning Blythe and thank you for the initial reply and follow-up..

    I am happy to say that after pulling a few bulbs it does not look anything like the images of Bloat Nematodes so I would cross that off the list for now. Increased watering and some additional chicken manure seems to have straightened out the leaves however the color is still a very light yellowish green in comparison. The seed stock was purchased from a very reputable distributor where most of our other vegetable seeds are purchased. I think as you suggest young stock and adapting to the soil/climate. I have no choice but to monitor them closely and take the wait and see approach. I must add that while I have been busy removing scapes from my other garlic plants, they are now starting to appear on the Bogatyre. Will keep my fingers crossed.

    Looking at the blackening stems of hanging, this year we were going to cut half of the stems (not roots) and lying them over chicken wire tables for the first week or so and then hanging them to complete the drying. My first concern was the potential of mold build up due to the lack of sufficient air circulating even with fans and after your results, we may opt for reducing the quantity from 10×10 to 6×6 on vertical hanging strings and see what happens. Garlic harvesting in our area is only a couple of weeks away.

    Turning to catching Nematodes before they do much damage, I walk up and down the rows (4 wide) every other day and inspect for damage leaves etc and remove any substances that looks suspect ( larvae or worm) if I can catch it before it has a chance chow down. Sometimes I miss them and they get to feast so I pull the plant and eat the bulb if in good shape.

    Last year we had late blight which destroyed most of our potato crop and half of out tomatoes. We planted the garlic in that area…. any potential impact??

    Have a great weekend!!

    • Hi Peter…
      Degunski looks like a beautiful bulb! I will have to try that one.
      I hope that the yellow-leaf issue was just a soil imbalance / low nitrogen problem; although the size of bulb may be smaller, it won’t be nearly as devastating as an infestation of some sort. Seems odd, though, that it would just be that variety.
      Pre-drying them on trays to reduce the initial bulk on the stems before tying up and hanging sounds like a great idea. Plus, it would make it much easier when trying to get everything harvested to be able to just lay them out and come back to them later. Personally, I always trim the roots when I cure them. It is surprising how much moisture those roots can absorb out of thin air! I am a bit paranoid about mold during curing. I have lost far too many bulbs from molds.
      Re: blight issues. I usually experience a certain amount of blight with my tomatoes, partly because I always seem to plant them too close together and always underestimate how much humidity we get here. I have not seen it affect other plants, even potatoes, so I am afraid I am not much help there. Tomatoes are kind of iffy here, although the last couple of summers have been quite warm.
      One year, my garlic got a lot of rust, which seems to blow in with the wind and then take hold when the weather heats up and there is still a fair amount of humidity (like moving from spring into summer) — but it was limited to just the garlic. I should have immediately cut out affected leaves (it spread rather quickly), but the bulbs were already fairly established, and fortunately, I did not notice a huge reduction in bulb size. My hollyhocks always get a certain amount of rust, as do the quince and Cornelian cherries, but I don’t know whether it is the same thing. I just cut out and remove the blemished leaves, where possible. I have heard of spraying them with aspirin, but you have to do it before the rust takes hold, which is when I am swamped with spring planting, so I never seem to get around to it.
      Happy gardening, and thanks for getting back to me, Peter!

  15. hi Blythe,
    we are panicking here in Kingston Ontario that we may have white rot. what is a sure sign that is what we are dealing with? any chance I can send apicture to you?
    we have an acre and a half and if we lose this crop I am afraid we cannot grow another.
    much appreciated.
    kate

    • Hi Kate – We talked a bit offline, and I was just wondering how things went – whether you ended up with a decent harvest after all, whether you figured out what the problem was, and if you got a new crop in for 2017. Sorry I couldn’t help you definitively identify whether it was white rot or not. Hope it all went well! Sometimes being a garlic farmer is a tough row to hoe!

  16. We have 3/8″ long orange worms, and 1/4″ long millipedes ? eating off the roots, and tunnelling through the bulbs of our garlic. What are they, and what can we do to save the non infected ones ?

    • I am not completely sure, but it sounds like you might have wireworms. Check out this photo: Maine.gov: Got Pests? My understanding is that millipedes are generally beneficial because they are decomposers and feed on decaying debris. Millipedes will curl up when you bother them. Centipedes are usually a little smaller and don’t curl up. They like soil with lots of organic matter and are carnivores, so are also beneficial. Have you found out any more info since you posted this comment? Readers? Any ideas?
      It is definitely a buggy world out there!
      What to do? That is always the question. Here are some options and a few of my thoughts.
      Remove “infected” plants – Always a good idea … but if your problem is about bugs, rather than disease, an early harvest might not solve the problem.
      Introduce a predator – Perhaps an option in some cases, but you always risk upsetting the ecosystem balance, if it is not a bit tilted already; another option might be to create an environment that attracts predators, such as planting flowers that attract beneficial insects or piling up rocks or other debris to make a place for snakes. Not sure you have the time in this case. A few moles & voles might make a dent in pest populations, although they can also do some damage. Birds are also great allies.
      Hand-remove the bugs – If you can, hand removal or with a spray of water is great — but for critters underground, not so easy.
      Spray the area with something – What can you spray that will kill the bugs without hurting the plants or – and this is important – without harming the microbial populations in the soil? Always a dilemma. I can’t think of anything in this case. Maybe a strong tea of ground up chrysanthemums and tansy?
      Continue building the soil and hope for the best – My theory is that the more you build the soil, the more you nourish the microbial communities that nourish the plants, which then become stronger and more resistant to disease and bugs. Compost, kelp, and fish fertilizer are my go-to ammendments. Individual component fertilizers can easily make things out of whack. Do a soil test to make sure you need them before you spend the money, although a little extra nitrogen is usually beneficial in the early spring.
      Do nothing & wait and see – Always an option … (doing nothing is also doing something.)

      Future tactics:
      Factor in some losses. Grow a little extra if you can. We share our earth with so many other creatures, and stuff happens that is not always in our control.
      Rotate your crops! Creatures that love a particular kind of plant can build up in the soil, and populations can suddenly seem to explode, decimating your crop.
      Practice good hygiene. Clean up debris, such as leftover garlic leaves or any bulbs that might be left to rot. If you suspect fungal issues, be particularly careful with your tools. Wash down shovels, wheelbarrows, etc. Burn anything infected.
      Build your soil. Grow green manures; add lots of compost.
      Plant flowers & herbs that discourage nematodes and other bugs. I like to plant a row of marigolds with my garlic, for example. Check out this great list: Wikipedia: List of Pest-Repelling Plants
      Encourage predators. I provide habitat for snakes, wasps, and perching poles for birds.

      Hope some of this has been of help! Good luck. Hope the damage wasn’t too bad! Let me know what you found out and what you did!
      ~blythe

  17. When I harvested my softneck garlic this weekend I noticed a few of the stalks had small bubils growing on them, perhaps six inches from the soil line. Those that had these bubils had tiny bulbs compared to the rest of the plants. The only unusual conditions this year were a cold spring followed by almost no rain since the beginning of May. I did some watering but the soil under my thick leaf mulched bed was much drier than expected.

    • I have had this happen on my softnecks, too, usually when the plants have been stressed. Kind of an odd thing, isn’t it…almost like they want to make a scape to give another survival option.

  18. Waxy breakdown! That’s what I have going on with some of my garlic.I pulled up a lot of my garlic, and let it lie there like onions. Whoops! But now I know what happened, and thank you so much!

    • I am so sorry! We don’t usually get that kind of heat where the garlic can basically cook in the field. All the same, I always harvest a few and then get them in under cover. Can you maybe salvage some by freezing or putting in vinegar or are they a total loss? Maybe you could grind them up in a blender and mix with butter & then freeze for homemade garlic butter? I just hate to see a lot of garlic go to waste, especially if they haven’t started molding. Seems like even though you wouldn’t be able to sell them, you could maybe still eat them, even though they’re green / uncured. But you bring up a good point, too. I have often heard that you’re supposed to leave your onions out in the field to cure. Personally, I never do because we have too much overnight humidity and I worry about molds.
      Thanks for your comment, Robert, and wishing you better luck next year! We learn from each other.
      ~blythe

  19. i planted half of my garlic crop about ten days ago, it has rained continuously since, about 4 inches some of the bed have been under water for as long as three days . how long can the seeds survive in these conditions before they start to rot. if they do rot do i remove the seeds as soon as it shows no germination? Thanks gord hansen

    • OH MY GOODNESS!!! Where are you, Gord? 4 inches of rain – under water for 3 days – I have never experienced such a thing! We live in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains (Washington State). We get maybe 15″ rain/year (although this last year was quite a bit more), but always from October – April, and then drought through the summer.

      All I can say, based on my experience of wet winters, is that raised beds are essential. Unless you are in a really cold climate, remove the mulch so things can dry out and warm up. The mulch just holds that cold dampness in.

      I don’t know how long before they rot, but garlic bulbs are pretty resilient — be patient. But if they are UNDER water, you gotta figure out how to direct that water to someplace else if you possibly can.

      I am thinking a trench within the bed and on a bigger scale, swales or ditches that can direct the flow to where it can be better stored for when you need it. If you have some slope to your property, this is much easier, but if you are on flat ground (like I am — and it is a challenge in its own way), you can still direct the flow with raised beds and pits or ponds and also adding in water-loving plants that can help soak up some of the excess.

      Also, is all of the water just from the rain? Or might some of it be draining from somewhere else that can be diverted? And if it’s all direct rainwater, I would guess you have a lot of clay in your soil to hold it so much. Any organic material you can add to your soil will help it be more like a sponge (as opposed to a pond liner). Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight, so it might not help your immediate situation — but certainly for the future.

      Personally, I would not give up on the cloves. They might still come through. It all depends on how the weather shakes out for the next few months. Water in the soil can actually be protective during the winter, and I am always amazed at how something that is obviously frozen can still manage to come back to life. It is this hope that keeps us going, is it not?

      In the late winter / early spring, remove your mulch if you have used it and let the sun dry things out. Be sure to weed to get the air flowing through there — super important if you have a lot of moisture or humidity. Again, raised beds make drainage a lot easier. The sun hits the side of the bed and really helps to warm things up. You can feel the difference. You can always apply the mulch later when it gets hot.

      Also, I always orient my beds east-west so they can take advantage of the long side of the bed facing that southern exposure.

      Hope some of this helps! Best of luck to you!

  20. Thank you for this wonderful blog about garlic growing. Especially nice to hear you are growing garlic in a rainy climate, like I do. I live in SW Washington state and grew a lovely garlic crop this past summer. We did as you said –proudly hung them to dry (3 weeks) anticipating eating a lot of garlic.
    The problem: Now it’s December…when I open some of the hardneck cloves, many of them are dry, slightly shrivled and have a hollow, brown center. So disappointing! I haven’t seen this happening so far with the softnecks we raised.
    We did have a wet summer with a rainstorm near harvest time. Is this fungus, rot or what?
    Thank you in advance for any ideas you may have.

    • Hi Beth – I do not grow as much garlic as I used to, for a number of reasons, but difficulties with our damp climate being one of them, sorry to say! I can’t say for sure what happened with your garlic – but I can offer some ideas that might help you decipher what went on.

      You don’t say when you harvested, but hardneck garlic, in general, does not have the shelf life of the softnecks. If you think about it, it makes sense. The hardnecks are easier to peel – partly because their wrappers are a bit more loose, which also allows in more air, which allows faster deterioration. I always eat my hardnecks first. Depending on the variety, they may only last 3-4 months.

      How the bulbs were grown can affect shelf life. More water, a little too much nitrogen or too rich a soil, and faster growth can all lead to a shorter shelf life. Also, big bulbs do not last as long in my experience. My longest lasting bulbs are the small-to medium-sized bulbs grown a little on the dry side. I eat the big ones first (or save them for planting).

      Did you cut the scapes? When you leave the scapes on, the bulbs take a bit longer to mature, resulting in better flavor and longer shelf life (again, in my opinion – some people debate this).

      How soon did you harvest them? If the bulbs are a little past their prime when you harvest them, they do not last as long. If they are starting to open up, eat them first or plant them. Also, if you harvest them when there are still a couple of green leaves, they have more wrappers to protect them and do not dry out as quickly.

      How were they cured? Too much humidity and too little air flow when curing can lead to molds and reduce shelf-life. I used to hang my garlic outside under the eaves of the barn to cure, but always ended up moving them inside because we would get this low-lying fog that would roll in off the water and just keep everything a little too moist for too long in the morning. It would dry out during the day, but then return in the evening. Disastrous. I would always end up cutting the stems, putting them on trays, bringing them into my crowded little shop, and turning a fan on them. Not the best set-up, but it worked.

      And finally, how were they stored? A dark place in a mesh bag for ventilation, 35-50 degrees, with about 60-70% humidity is supposed to be ideal. Putting them in the fridge is not good – it makes them spoil & sprout. Try putting them in different places to see what works best for you.

      If you know you’re not going to eat them right away, it’s good to freeze or dehydrate them for later. I really like putting peeled cloves in a jar of vinegar, too. Storing in oil is not recommended because of the risk of botulism, and I am really lucky I’m not dead (for an assortment of reasons)! Hardnecks start sprouting after just a few months, especially if the conditions are right. Give them what they need – some dirt to grow in – or eat them sprouts and all (even if a bit bitter). I will say, though, once you make your own garlic powder, you’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff. Make it while they’re still fresh. I recommend chopping them up first before dehydrating, because the whole cloves get as hard as rocks and can be hard to blend!

      Sorry I can’t tell you for sure whether you have a fungus or rot issue, but I think you would see definite signs of mold if that was the problem. It sounds like they are just old – but you might be able to extend the shelf life the next time around with a few of these tips. Hope it helps!

      Thanks for stopping in, and glad you like the site.
      ~blythe

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