It’s been blissfully pest-free so far at the allotment this year, so I admit to getting a bit complacent, or at least not vey attentive, because I didn’t notice that rust had got a grip on my precious garlic and was spreading through the plants.
Garlic rust is a fungal disease (Puccini allii) transported around by the wind, so it can easily effect nearby onions (alliums) in your plot and those of your neighbours.
It isn’t as devastating as it looks, especially at this stage in the year when most of the growing has been done, apparently the flavour isn’t affected either.
My plot is organic so I wouldn’t use any chemicals, as it happens there aren’t any to deal with garlic rust. I’ve snipped all the affected leaves off, and the few that are left should be enough to continue photosynthesising and providing nutrients for the plant.
The important thing is not to put the leaves on the compost bin, mine have gone in the recycling bin at home and the scissors or secateurs need to be cleaned really well. I gave my scissors a scrub with hot, soapy water.
I dug a couple of cloves up to see how big they are, they look fine, not huge but perfectly adequate, and they smell gorgeous.
I’ll leave them in the ground a bit longer to give them the chance to grow bigger.
Prevention is better than cure, so here’s some tips to avoid garlic rust:
- it’s more likely to be around in mid-summer so keep a look-out for it then and snip off any leaves before it gets hold of the plant
- it’s more likely to appear on plants grown in nitrogen-rich soils so don’t use too much fertiliser
- the virus loves warm, humid conditions, allow plenty of air to circulate through the plants by planting the cloves a reasonable distance apart (20cm/8in). Mine were too close at 15cm apart.
- avoid watering in the evening when damp can linger
- rotate crops around the plot each year.
I also planted some cloves in a plant-pot as bit of an experiment, they haven’t got rust so it’ll be interesting to compare them.
Happy gardening, Jill