Problems with Garlic


Thrips, including the Onion Thrip and the Western Red Flower Thrip can cause reduced yields. They pierce plant tissue and remove sap while their wingless cream coloured larvae feed on the younger leaves of the plant. Leaves are marked, often with silvery streaks.

Rain or overhead watering can reduce numbers, but crop should be monitored using yellow sticky traps. If there is more than 5 adults per plant, numbers are reaching epidemic and you could spray with an insecticide. Onion thrips are yelow and brown at 1.3 mm long and Western Red Flower are a bit longer at 1.5mm long. You will need a microscope to clearly determine between them. Thrips can also carry a virus (see below)

Wheat Curl Mite – These mites can also be on corn or wheat crops also. They cause leaf stunting and curling and cloves infested wit them become twisted and have brown spotted areas on them. Bulbs can completely dry out in storage. Avoid growing these crops successively in the same area.(also see virus below)


Downy mildew is a fungal disease often present during cool wet weather. You get pale oval spots on leaves that can eventually turn grey as the laef yellows and dies. Dead leaf tips can also be seen, especially on young plants. Some solutions to minimise downy mildews include watering before midday and spacing subsequent crps further apart to allow for improved air flow. Fungicides can be used.

White Rot is a fungal disease assisted by cold and wet conditions. It’s white fluffy growth can be seen at the base of the plant around the roots and bulb. Other symtoms include leaves yellowing, wilting, decaying and toppling over. Tops can be pulled away from the base of the plant. This disease may survive for 20 years in the soil and one outbreak can infect 20 – 30 plants around it. It’s potential for dmaging a particular garlic growing region can be devastating. Even lightly infected bulbs can carry this disease through storage. Because of this it is very important to select planting material from crops free of this disease.

Virus – There are at least 3 well know viruses but they can combine and show varying symptoms and be hard to identify specifically. Leek yellow stripe virus, shallot virus and onion yellow dwarfing virus can all affect garlic and reduce its yield. Plants can appear stunted, yellowed or mottled on the yonger leaves. Bulbs can deteriorate quicker in storage. As well as being spread by an infected bulb, insects like aphids and thrips can also transmit the disease. There is no real solution to this problem other than only selecting planting material that is free of a virus – another reason to buy garlic for planting from a reputable source.


  1. Lisa says:

    Ive been growing garlic 4 many years but something strange has happened this year. We grow on a hill with good drainage. we use well rotted manure and organic chook pellets to fertilise firstly in march, june and end of july. we have had alot of rain this year and havent had to water at all. we rotate our crops every 2 years. Mid July our garlic started sprouting again. Yes, its in the ground 1 foot tall and each clove has shot a sprout out the middle. Ive never seen anything like it. it looks like a ponytail palm with all the tassles out the centre. Its now nearly picking time and instead of picking 1 bulb, we r picking 10 little bulbs all joined together. 2011, the year of the ugly garlic. we grow the purple and i wondered if you knew what caused this to happen.

    1. James says:

      Maybe all the rain and nitrogen release from the manure has caused a premature development. The plant is trying to reproduce rather than grow. Next year try a more balanced fertiliser, as the chicken pellats will be very high in nitrogen, and cause the tops to grow, but not the bulb underneath.

    2. Rod says:

      Hi Lisa, I have the same problem with my Garlic. The clove fronds are all coming up through the top of the stem like grass!!!

      It appears to be making the stem swell and start to split.
      Wish I knew why, not happening on all of my plants but about 50%.. I am growing purple garlic mainly as well as some white.
      Any advice would be greatly appreciated from anyone.
      …….Please help…..

  2. Randolph says:

    I’m having the same problem as Lisa, its in the ground 1 foot tall and each clove has shot a sprout out the middle. I did use garlic that was from Argentina for seed but I wouldn’t think that it would make a difference.

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