Manure and Garlic Rust

As many of you know, garlic rust has been a problem disease in many places in the world over the last couple years.

What’s interesting is some people get rust on their plants, and it’s not serious. This is what happened to me over the last two years. It came later than most other people and it didn’t really seem to cause serious problems.

For other people it’s a very serious problem.

I don’t use manure or any other high nitrogen fertilizer in my garden.

Apparently, most people I know who had serious problems with garlic rust, including someone with a garden 100km (60 miles) from mine, used manure when planting their garlic.

You would think this would be a yes or no question, did you use manure? It turns out it can be a lot more complicated, involve timing, different kinds of manure as well as combinations with other fertilizers.

Also, anyone reading this should realize the use of manure is a bit of a cultural thing. Growing up in the US, we never used manure on our gardens, or at most a small amount. I suspect there are a lot of other Americans who don’t either. I guess most Americans growing up on a farm, or raising rabbits, chickens or other livestock would probably use manure on their gardens, but perhaps not others? Most Europeans, especially northern Europeans seem to use manure each year, often covering their garden with as much as several centimeters.

There you have it. Do you grow garlic? Do you get rust each year, and if so how serious? Do you use manure or similar high nitrogen fertilizer, if so when and how much do you use? Please be specific in your answers. Thank you!

23 thoughts on “Manure and Garlic Rust”

  1. Hi,

    I grow garlic, and I’ve never had garlic rust. I don’t know if it occurs in New Zealand, if it doesn’t then I’m not a good test :)

    I put a couple of centimetres (an inch?) of compost on the garden between crops. I use weed free commercial compost on the vege garden (so with the garlic) and depending on the source it’ll either contain animal manure or human biosolids – either way well composted and mixed with plant matter.


  2. I get terrible garlic rust. Last year it all but killed my crop. And I DO use manure, every season.
    Although I know people who also use manure and who don’t get rust… so this can’t be the only cause. My theory is that it has something to do with soil type. Mine is very light and fast-draining. I believe garlic prefers heavier fare.

  3. I usually get some rust, but some years it’s just a few harmless spots and other times it’s hideous. In 2007 the attack was the worst ever, and the tops of the plants were encrusted to death, although the bulbs underground survived OK.

    When preparing the soil I just dig in whatever I happen to have available, but it’s more likely to be leaf mould or reused compost than actual manure. I only use small amounts of manure in the garden due to the difficulties of obtaining it, and when I do it’s usually well-rotted horse manure which has previously been used for growing mushrooms. I usually add a sprinkle of bone meal to the garlic bed to encourage root growth, but that’s about it.

    Like Soilman, I have light and fast-draining soil, very sandy.

    Just to confuse matters, I grew some Solent Wight (softneck) which was unaffected, although growing only yards away from the encrusted hardnecks.

  4. I manured the garlic patch in 2006 before planting and in 2007 got my first bad attack of rust.

    This year the garlic went into the vacated potato patch, no manure and a soil that will have had a heavy feeder in it recently. I’ve read that garlic doesn’t need a particulary rich soil. So we’ll see how the 07 planting does in summer 2008!

  5. I usually have a little rust, but nothing to worry about. In 2007, like a lot of other people, I had it so badly that the foliage on my maincrop garlic died completely. The soil was so wet that the coverings on the garlic had all rotted, and the bulbs looked terrible. It was a relief when our Association show was cancelled due to all the problems people were having!

    Since then I’ve seen no rust whatsoever. Last year was very wet again, and the garlic came out with the coverings discoloured; some bulbs were beginning to rot. Later on in the season it got so wet that all my greengages rotted on the tree, and the garlic may have had a narrow escape. This year, once again, no sign of rust.

    I use no manure whatsoever. We get tons of grass cuttings and dead leaves from local estates delivered to the site; they’re all from public spaces so they’re not going to spend money putting chemicals on them. I mulch like mad with these, but that’s all.

  6. hello sir/medam. i am from Ethiopia and coming to the problem i have grown garlic in 2009/10 main cropping season and i was able to observe garlic rust postules in sever cases. just simmilar to your senario i have applied fertilizer unprofessionally and i think the application might enhance the severity as fertilizers make the crop to suculent and make the crop vulnerable to the disease. moreover i have planned to make a research on this disease using different treatments:chemical, planting date and variety.anyways i need your comminication up on this interesting issue

  7. I Got garlic rust this year for the first time. This year we have had an unusually cold/wet Oct-Nov so i am putting the rust on my garlic down to this. My crop went downhill within a week

  8. Just on a side note,could anyone tell me if i could use the infected cloves for next seasons planting.


  9. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the comments. A week is pretty fast. My garlic usually lasts at least a month after the first signs of infection.

    There’s little doubt cloves and other plant material can be sources of infection, and if you want to be extra careful perhaps you shouldn’t replant cloves from infected plants.

    Since like me, you seem to be in an area that gets rust, you will probably get it every year on your plants anyway. Rust spores can travel long distances in the wind. In any event, I would try to remove as much infected plant material from your garden as possible, and certainly don’t add it to your compost. My personal conclusion is that since I will probably get it every year anyway, there is not a lot to be gained by searching out fresh planting stock every year, but you might decide something else.

    This year I experimented with spraying dilute milk on my garlic plants (30-50% nonfat milk mixed with water), applied once a week and after rain, starting a few weeks before I expected a rust infection. In general my conclusion was it helped a lot. It seemed to delay infection, and when the plant did become infected, it spread slower.

    Good luck with everything.

  10. I have a question that is related to this subject.
    I have been growing garlic for a couple years now and do not think I have seen this in anything I have grown. However ALL of my cloves are soaked per what is on the Gourmet Garlic Garden located in Texas, USA.
    His soak is 1 Tablespoon each of vinegar, baking soda and an organic liquid fertilizer (I use a kelp based and another fish based) to one gallon of water and soak it for 24 hrs b4 you plant. Then I wash that off and then the next thing he mentions doing is 3-5 minutes b4 you plant the cloves you soak it in either rubbing alcohol or Vodka.

    The 1st soak is to help boost the clove for planting (the fertilizer) and the other are all to help get rid of critters on the cloves.

    I can tell you that I have peeled cloves treated this way and untreated. And I can tell you that the untreated did not show the green for the shoot in the clove yet but almost every clove I looked at that was treated did show the green shoot and some had started to show sprout growth in certain varieties.

    Also I can tell you I had some Simonetti that had 1/4 inch of root growth in 3 days after this treatment. For the guy in Texas he has said that in side to side test plots treated and untreated the treated produced more vigorous plants and the bulbs larger than those of the same variety that were untreated.

  11. Sorry I forgot my question.

    I have read on the internet that some heat the cloves up to a certain temp. for a set amount of time b4 planting and wonder if anyone can help me with this info as I think it is also suppose to help get rid of undesirable stuff on the cloves.

  12. Hi Lee,

    I have heard about the pre treatment methods you suggest, but honestly garlic is a pretty vigorous plant and if you’re growing it in your home garden, slightly more vigorous plants may not be very important. I would say if your garlic comes from somewhere else, and you want to try to avoid introducing pests into your garden, pretreatment would be more important than if you are replanting your own garlic stock.

    Covering garlic with a heavy much for the winter has been shown to increase bulb size roughly 10%, because it helps to stabilize the ground temperature. If you were going to do something to increase productivity, I would guess this would be one of the most important and it helps a lot with the weeds too.

    As for the heat treatment, I have never heard of doing this with garlic, but it is a common technique for ordinary garden seeds. The idea is you soak the seeds (or garlic) in water at exactly 122° F (50° C) for 25 minutes. This may damage the garlic, but the idea is the damage will be less than whatever gets killed by the treatment. You’ll need a laboratory thermometer and a stable heat source to maintain the temperature. I think you just need to try it and see if it works…

  13. I grow garlic every year, I got rust quite early this year (April), after an usually cold winter in the UK ( planted in October). The soil wasn’t given manure beforehand. Although I had added leaf litter to try and give the soil some humus.
    I wonder if I might have had rust on previous years, about harvest time, when the leaves go yellow anyway, didn’t spot it and made the situation worse the next year. More vigilance needed !

  14. Good luck Tess. A lot of us, including a number of people I know in the UK, are very frustrated every year with garlic rust!

  15. This is my 2nd year to grow garlic and I discovered rust yesterday. I pulled up some of the plants to see if I had any cloves. I did! I am assuming I can use the garlic. Should I pull all the bulbs out that have rust on them? How long do you dry garlic before you can use it? OH YES I used cow manuer and we have had hot and cold weather here in So. Cal.

  16. Hi Linda,

    Garlic rust is annoying, but rarely serious. I suggest you let the garlic grow until normal harvest time, early July for you I think? If the garlic tops completely die before this time, you can harvest it early.

    Yes, it’s no problem to eat it, now or later. No problem, whatever you decide to do.

    So. Cal is pretty south for garlic rust. Normally the area around Gilroy is the furthest south in California it gets. It must be spreading…

    Garlic can be used right after it’s dug up fresh. If you want to dry it, you normally tie it up in bunches of 4-8 bulbs and let it hang in an airy place, protected from direct sun and rain, for about a month. Indoors or out are both fine, as long as there’s a lot of air.

  17. Thanks for the info. I spoke to a new friend who just happens to have written books on organic gardening and he told me to add a little soil sulpher to acidify the soil. I did it and it seems to have helped. There are new leaves coming out that are very green.

  18. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    I should say however my experience is different. Garlic prefers a slightly alkaline soil, at least a pH of 6. If the soil is too acidic, the bulbs will be small and underdeveloped.

    It all depends on what kind of soil you start with of course, and if you have very alkaline soil it’s not out of the question a little sulpher might help. Myself, I find I need to add lime sometimes, especially when using commercial potting soil in containers.

  19. I’m writing from Portland Or. This year all of my garlic is heavily infested with garlic rust, and it has spread to the leeks but not to the chives or onions. I use a variety of compost in different parts of the garden. Chicken manure is used only in the back section. The garlic in the front had no or little manure and garlic had never been grown in that bed before.
    Will the later heat of the summer take care of the rust on young leeks? Should I take a break from garlic and invest in new seed stock or can I plant again next year?

  20. Hi Jess,

    I’m sorry about your garlic and leeks.

    Garlic and leek rust are actually two different unrelated problems, but of course it’s possible to have them both at the same time. It’s not possible for leek rust to spread to garlic or vice-versa.

    Rust is spread long distances by the wind, so while making sure to rotate crops, using clean planting stock, taking a year off and so on are important and will help, they aren’t likely to be a complete solution. For this reason, I don’t normally ever write off infected plants to try to reduce the spread, rather I let the plants grow until they die or the situation is hopeless.

    I doubt your leeks will recover, but I suggest letting them grow until they die anyway. Try to get as much out of them as you can.

    As well as avoiding manure, I’ve had pretty good luck so far with spraying milk on my plants:

    but this is still in the experimental stage.

    Personally, if I were you, I would just try planting next year like usual, and see if you can find ways to just live with the rust. If using milk and avoiding manure slows it down by a few weeks, that may be all you need. Rust is not usually fatal to the plants, and if it appears close to harvest it may not have any important impact at all.

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