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Cultivation ....continued

White Rot


Pests: All pests that attack onions will affect garlic crops. The most significant pests are likely to be nematodes (eelworms) which attack the roots and bulbs. Thrips and onion maggot are two other potentially serious pests although both can be effectively controlled by the use of insecticides and/or crop rotation. Use the links below for a more detailed examination of garlic pests.

  • Stem Eelworm can devastate crops and reduce yields. It is transmitted vegetatively in the cloves so clean stock should always be used for planting. Hot water treatment can be used to control the problem in planting stock.
  • Onion Thrips (Thrips tabaci) are a major pest which causes severe foliage damage in warm weather.
  • Onion Maggor Fly (Hylemia antiqua) can cause heavy damage to young crops.
  • Stem & bulb Nematode (Ditylenchus dipsaci) can cause severe distortion and distruction of crops. The pest can be eradicated from planting stock by presoaking bulbs for 2 hours in a soltion containing 1% formalin and ).1% detergent.
  • Bulb Mite damage leads to bacteria and fungi entering the bulbs and this leads to typical microbial rots.

Harvesting: Once bulbing has finished and the plant matures, the top leaves will begin to turn brown and yellow and die back. Garlic is ready to harvest when about half the leaves have died back - always make sure that at least six green leaves remain to ensure intact bulb wrappers after harvesting and to give protection during winter storage. Aim to harvest during dry weather so that wet soil does not adhere to the bulb when lifted. Loosen below the roots with a fork - be very careful at this stage to avoid damage as fresh bulbs are easy to bruise - lift the plant, shake off loose soil and leave to dry on the surface of the soil for a few hours. Garlic at this stage is termed `fresh market garlic' and has a superb flavour quite different from cured (dried) garlic.

German Red drying in the field

Curing: To prolong storage life garlic bulbs must be properly cured after harvesting. Curing can take place in the field if the weather is warm enough but garlic grown in the UK is typically dried in sheds, polytunnels and glasshouses to avoid the problems of unexpected rainfall. Wherever your garlic is dried ensure that there is good air movement and if dried under glass provide some shade to avoid scorching. Depending upon the conditions, drying will take between 14-25 days after which time the bulbs should be trimmed of their roots and leaves (unless you intend to braid then leave top-growth intact). Trim roots flush with the base plate and tops to within 5 cm of the shoulder of the bulb.

Storage: Garlic will keep for many months if maintained at a moderately high temperature 25 °C.) and low relative humidity, but dehydration and spoilage are problems to look out for. Commercially, garlic that is required after December is stored just below freezing point (-1 to  -2 °C.) and at a relative humidity less than 65% - although this method is not necessarily a viable option for amateur gardeners. Good air movement is essential to keep spoilage to a minimum and garlic will keep for between five and eight months depending upon variety and storage conditions.

* A Soviet researcher has discovered that soaking cloves in a solution of magnesium sulphate (0.01%) or zinc sulphate (0.1%) prior to planting can boost yields - apparently by causing faster shoot growth. Horticultural Abstracts 60(5), 379
* Night hoeing may be an innovative way to manage weed germination. Research in Germany indicates that hoeing in the absence of light does not stimulate photo-sensitive weed seeds to germinate. Large-seeded weeds and crops germinate in the light or dark but small seeds tend to require some exposure to light before they will germinate. Thus, night-time hoeing can avoid causing weed seeds to germinate when they are brought to the soil surface and then reburied. In side-by-side strips described in one study, ground cover by weeds was 80% in plots worked by day against only 2% in plots worked by night. The Garlic Press, 1996

* Garlic tea can be used to spray seed trays to prevent damping-off. Simply fill a one litre container about three-quarters full with chopped garlic or garlic bulbils and top up with warm water. Leave in a warm place for three days and then drain off the liquor into a 20 litre bucket. Refill and repeat the process until the bucket is full. The liquor should be sprayed at seed planting time and used every time you water. Once seedlings are ready to transplant, spray once more and then discontinue once full growth has begun. Organic Growers Newsletter, 1987
* Field trials in New Zealand have confirmed that the size of garlic cloves planted can significantly affect yields. In the New Zealand trials yields increased linearly with clove weight so each year you should try to eat the small cloves and save the large ones for planting. Horticultural Abstracts 59(12), 1133
Garlic for Natural Pest Control: Immerse
1 kg of Garlic in 100 ml kerosene and soak overnight. Next day, remove the outer skin and make the garlic into a paste. In another vessel mix 500g chilli with 50 ml water and make into a paste. Similarly ½ kg of ginger should also be made into a paste and the three components mixed together with 100 litres of water and 50 grams soap solution (to act as an emulsifier). This mixture should be stirred well and filtered before spraying. The above quantity is sufficient for one acre. The allicin present in garlic serves as a repellent and capcicin in chilli serves as a pesticide.
Courtesy Neem Products

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