Growing Garlic
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: John Brennen
Posted: Before April 1998

We would like to know what varities of garlic there are and what would be the best to grow on mid east Vancouver Island. Are the plants prone to certain types of fungal disease and if so what are the best ways to control disease?

There are hundreds of varieties, many of which are adapted to specific ecological zones. The book "Growing Great Garlic" by Ron Engeland, a commercial garlic farmer in Oregon, is a great guide to the varieties. It is also the best source of practical "how to" information for both commercial and home growers.

Bruce McEwen, a professional garlic grower, gave a detailed account of his experiences growing garlic, specifically the Music variety which has become the standard commercial variety in Southern Ontario. McEwen’s account is recorded in the transcripts of the 1996 Richters Commercial Herb Growing Conference, available for $35.

Richters sells several varieties including the Music variety. Music is proven for its hardiness, good size, high yields, earliness and flavour.

There are a number of diseases that attack garlic. Here are curriculum vitae of the most important extracted from Engeland’s book:

White rot is caused by a fungus that attacks leaf bases and roots in cool weather. There is no control other than preventative methods such as crop rotation and cleanup of harvest litter. The spores can persist in soil for more than ten years.

Basal rot is caused by a strain of the Fusarium oxysporum fungus, another soil borne disease. The symptoms are similar to those of white rot except that they occur in warmer weather. Like white rot, prevention by crop rotation and sanitation is the best defense.

Pink rot attacks the roots during warm weather. The plants do not die but yields are reduced. The spores persist in the soil for up to three years.

Neck rot is caused by several species of Botrytis, occurring a few weeks before harvest, sometimes undetectable while in the field but later causing rotting in storage. It occurs more commonly in humid areas and the softneck varieties are more susceptible. Rapid drying and removal of diseased plants and bulbs will keep the disease in check.

Clove rot is caused by Penicillium corymbiferum which attacks plants in the field during warm, dry weather. It can also spread during after- harvest handling. Again prevention is the best measure; do not plant infected stock and take care not spread infections when handling.

Yellow dwarf virus manifests itself as short yellow streaks at the base of new leaves. Aphids, thrips and mechanical cultivation can all cause the disease to spread. As the disease develops leaves turn completely yellow and sometimes crinkle. It is a serious problem causing severe epidemics. The best control is by burning (not composting) all harvest litter and by controlling insects. Careful isolation of infected plants is essential to prevent spread. Infected bulbs can be consumed but should not be replanted.

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