Growing garlic is a rewarding endeavour for many gardeners in the UK. However, from time to time, problems can surface. One issue that might cause concern is when garlic plants start to lean or fall over. While we have touched upon this topic regarding potato plants, the reasons with garlic might vary somewhat.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that as garlic plants mature, it’s perfectly natural for them to begin falling over. This is often a sign that they are nearing harvest time. As the garlic bulbs mature, the lower leaves turn brown, and the plant starts to bend, indicating that it’s almost ready to be picked.
Watering is a significant factor that can influence the health and stance of a garlic plant. Overwatering can create consistently wet soil conditions, leading to root rot. A plant with rotting roots will inevitably become weak and might collapse.
It’s crucial to ensure that your soil drains well and that you only water your garlic when needed. On the other hand, if a garlic plant doesn’t receive enough water, it can become stressed and weak, leading to it falling over. It might be perplexing when you’re caught between the possibilities of overwatering and underwatering.
However, generally, underwatering is likely after prolonged spells of hot weather – which, amusingly, we haven’t seen much of this year!
Pests and diseases
Pests and diseases are another set of culprits. White rot, a soil-borne fungus, can afflict garlic’s roots and bulbs. This weakens the plant, which might result in it keeling over.
Onion thrips, tiny insects that harm garlic leaves, can also compromise the structural integrity of a plant. If the damage is severe, the plant may topple. Similarly, nematodes, microscopic worms that target roots, can cause the garlic plant to become frail and possibly collapse.
Weather conditions like powerful winds or heavy rainfall can challenge garlic plants. Those with expansive foliage might be prone to toppling during gusty periods, and the combination of drenched soil with the weight of rain on the leaves can lead to the plants collapsing. Moreover, if the soil is too compacted, it might not adequately support growing garlic plants. A loose, well-draining soil composition is most favourable for garlic cultivation.
Nutrient imbalance, particularly a deficiency in potassium and calcium, can affect the structural strength of plants. To prevent this, regular soil tests can be a good practice. Additionally, how you plant your garlic can influence its stability.
Planting cloves too shallowly can result in weak anchorage, and overcrowding can cause plants to compete for resources, leading weaker ones to fall over. Ensure you allow adequate spacing and correct depth when planting.
In conclusion, while it might be disappointing to see your garlic plants topple, sometimes it’s just a phase in their growth cycle. By grasping the diverse reasons behind this behaviour, you can take steps to nurture the well-being and vigour of your garlic crop. Whether it’s tweaking your watering schedule, shielding plants from severe weather, or guaranteeing the correct nutrient mix, your garlic is set to flourish with proper 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!