Monday, July 2

Turning rusty in the rain

The weather this year has been good growing weather for some things - one being rust on our garlic. The rust thrives in low light/high moisture conditions which it has certainly experienced in abundance this year.

In common with lots of others (including Monty Don) our garlic leaves are affected. They actually look rusty with orangy spots and streaks on the leaves
The rust that affects garlic also affects other members of the allium family especially leeks and chives. Onions do seem to have some resistance although can also be affected. Luckily for us the autumn planted onions growing alongside of the garlic seems to be unaffected and the leeks and chives are some distance away. Although as the rust spores are carried by the wind this is no safeguard. It also means that, on an allotment site, rust can be spread from plants growing on someone else's plot.

If rust strikes early in the season it can affect plant growth and also affect the size of any resulting bulbs but as this is at the end of the garlic life cycle it should not have caused any problems with bulb formation.

If you research garlic rust on the Internet you will find a variety of opinions from those who consider that it is the devil's spawn and affected plants should be lifted and immediately destroyed to those who consider it's just another thing that you have to live with.

My approach is somewhere between the two extremes, at this time in the season, when garlic bulbs are likely to be as fully grown as they are going to be, in order to reduce any spread I have lifted the bulbs and I won't be composting the leaves. If rust had appeared earlier in the season I would have cut off affected leaves to curtail its progress and hoped that the bulbs would continue to swell.

Our garlic was growing in a spot which is quite shaded so to cut down on our chances of rust next year we will need to plant it in a more open area and maybe space the cloves a little further apart to allow air to circulate. Rotating crops will mean that the garlic won't be planted in an area that has been affected in the last couple of years or so  There is not much we can do about the weather though.

Rust doesn't render garlic bulbs inedible and I've also read that research has shown that you can also plant cloves from rust affected garlic without infecting the resulting crop.

A week or two ago after spotting the rust I lifted the variety that seemed most severely affected - Albigensian Wight. This was a bit earlier than I would have liked but I didn't want to leave the rusty plants in the ground for longer than I had to. Initially I was pleased with the size of the bulbs produced but when we came to use one it became apparent that it hadn't split into cloves.
Shortly after we spotted rust on our garlic, Monty Don on Gardeners' World mentioned that his garlic was rusty and lifted some which like our Albigensian Wight had produced decent sized bulbs. I was intrigued to know whether his garlic had formed cloves or not but unfortunately he didn't go on to investigate.

Garlic needs to go through a cold spell (I read that it needs one to two weeks at 0-4C) in order for the bulb to split into cloves but as these cloves were planted outdoors on 15 October that shouldn't have been a problem. I posted a question on a forum that I visit asking if anyone else had solid garlic bulbs and it seems that I'm not the only one with uncloved garlic.

I've now lifted all the garlic growing on the plot and will lift that grown in tubs shortly and then I'll produce a summary of how the varieties etc have fared so watch this space.

By the way I've read in various places the suggestion that a spray made up of a weak solution of skimmed milk (10 - 30% milk to water) can help prevent rust or powdery mildew - has anyone any experience of using this?

20 comments:

  1. Well, with my "Army hat on", I say that you ought to get out there and oil the rusty leaves! Just like one's trusty rifle, they should be "clean, dry and lightly oiled". Could be a serious challenge in current conditions though!

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    1. From what I've read - I think some people have tried just that - with a vegetable based oil of course not WD40

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  2. Really interesting post Sue. I've never encountered rust before but I do have problems with black aphids - very annoying creatures. I'm not convinced that we would get whole weeks of temperatures between 0-4C here and my garlic always splits into cloves. We get the occasional 4C night and very occasionally it gets lower but not that often and rarely for a long period at a time. Do they still taste good?

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    1. The taste seems to be the same, Liz. I'm just quoting information that I have read - obviously we don't have to worry about the temperature not gfalling low enough. I must admit I did wonder how this worked in warmer climates - maybe it's all relative. What variety of garlic do you grow - I wonder if that makes a fifference?

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  3. I don't grow garlic, but I'll be watching my leeks to check they don't get rust.

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    1. We've had rust on leeks in the past, Jo yet they have still produced edbible 'roots'.

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  4. This is really interesting and useful as we just grew garlic for the first time and the majority of it ended up getting rust. Like you, ours went rusty at the end of its growing life so we just didn't compost the leaves.

    Re bulb formation, ours formed cloves alright, but were tiny. Will look into elephant garlic next time round to try for some bigger cloves. In fact, they actually split into very seperate cloves underground, each sending up a green stem, which sounds like the opposite problem to the one you had!

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    1. Apparently elephant garlic isn't really garlic, Lee. It's more realted to the leek. I'll post about the taste which is supposed to be milder than 'real' garlic.

      When did you plant your cloves?

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    2. We planted them around Oct last year. They certainly saw plenty cold! Ps, where'd you get your garlic from? Was gonna try Isle of Wight in the autumn.

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  5. Oh that how allium rust problem look like. I hope it won't spread to your other allium plants. I never had problem with rust before. But read about it is a problem in UK.

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    1. Lots of plants get some form of rust, Diana but different sorts of rust affect different plants for instance there is a rust that affects hollyhocks. I'm not surprised that the rust is so widespread with this awful weather. It's very gloomy and damp at the moment

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  6. I never planted aliums in my garden. I have this problem with my Plumeria. Someone told me to collect all the effected leaves and burn because the drop leaves will have spores which can attack other plants.
    I have read about the skim milk solution too! Hope it works for you!

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    1. Collecting the leaves and burning is good advice Malar as it is true that the spores can stay in the ground to affect plants later. It will depend which type of rust it is as to which plants will possibly be affected later.

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  7. This was a really informative post Sue. Have not seen rust on my garlic and hope not to. Your spring has been very wet hasn't it..so perhaps it is just this year you will experience this problem.

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    1. It can strike earlier Bren which would be a worse problem. As it was dry early this year it was maybe kept at bay.

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  8. I enjoyed your article. I'm not too familiar with garlic or rust however in the future I'm sure to have dealings with both.

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    1. It can affect several alliums Kelli and other types of rust can attack ornamentals so you may come across it in a different form

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  9. I've never tried the spray you mentioned for powdery mildew....and I have never experienced or heard of rust until today when I read posts about it on both yours and Mals blogs. Now I feel I should run to the allotment and check...but it's raining again so I guess i will just have to wait until it stops.

    Good luck opening up your garlic. Will you eat those that haven't split into cloves?? I am really worried about mine this year as i didn't get it planted out before Christmas as the bulbs arrived late so it wasn't in the ground over winter...eek

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    1. We have used some of the unsplit garlic Tanya although I think we will have some that has formed cloves.

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