This is an email question from John Newman, Cornwall. John sent me a lovely email of support, and I just had to answer his question with an article.
A common concern among garlic growers is a drooping plant and sometimes completely falling over. If your garlic plant is drooping, it can indicate a few potential problems. Here’s a breakdown of the common causes and how to address them:
- Watering Issues:
- Overwatering: Garlic doesn’t like “wet feet”. Waterlogged soil can cause the roots to rot, leading the plant to droop. Ensure your soil has good drainage, and water only when the top inch of soil feels dry.
- Underwatering: Inconsistent watering or prolonged dry spells can stress the plant, causing it to wilt. Maintaining a consistent watering schedule is essential, especially during particularly hot and dry periods.
- Pests and Diseases:
- White Rot: This fungal disease affects the roots, causing them to rot, and can make the garlic plant droop. Removing and destroying affected plants is crucial if your plants have white rot. Avoid planting garlic or onions in that spot for several years.
- Root Maggots: These pests eat away at the roots, weakening the plant and causing it to droop. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of infestation, and consider using insect-repelling plants or organic insecticides.
- Environmental Stress:
- Heat Stress: Intense, direct sunlight during a heatwave can stress garlic plants, causing them to droop. If a heatwave is forecasted, consider providing some shade during the hottest parts of the day.
- Cold Stress: While mature garlic plants can tolerate UK winters, sudden frosts can harm young plants, leading to drooping.
- Nutrient Deficiency:
- Garlic plants require a balance of nutrients, especially nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A deficiency in any of these can lead to weakened, droopy plants. It’s essential to have your soil tested and amend it accordingly.
- Planting Depth:
- If garlic cloves are planted too shallowly, they might not have the anchorage they need, leading to drooping. Ensure you plant cloves about 2-4 inches deep for best results.
- Improper Spacing:
- Garlic bulbs need space to grow. If plants are crowded, they can compete for nutrients and water, which may result in some plants drooping. Ensure plants are spaced about 6 inches apart.
- Bulb Maturation:
- As garlic bulbs mature, it’s natural for the leaves to begin to yellow and droop. This is an indication that the garlic is nearly ready to harvest. If most of the lower leaves have turned brown, it might be harvesting time!
A drooping garlic plant is a sign that something is amiss. However, with careful observation and a bit of detective work, you can pinpoint the issue and take steps to rectify it. Whether it’s adjusting your watering routine, addressing a pest issue, or amending your soil, your garlic plants can recover and thrive with the right care.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!