Garden Talk: Botrytis in the soil can take a toll on garlic harvests

Ed Buyarksi points out a garlic plant infected with botrytis. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Starting now through mid-August, garlic plants will be ready to harvest. But master gardener Ed Buyarski says gardeners should look out for botrytis, a fungus disease that can spread throughout crops.

“It’s mostly in the soil already, assuming that we’ve been gardening for a while — or even in the wild soil.” he said.

Buyarski pulled a garlic plant that was showing signs rot due to botrytis and pointed out pinkish-red streaks running down the base of the stalk to the bulb.

“Not a good thing this time of year,” he said.

A garlic bulb with the telltale red streaks of a botrytis infection on the skin. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Buyarski said each leaf of the garlic plant’s stalk corresponds to a layer of protective skin over the bulb.

“If they’re rotting, they don’t protect it,” he said.

He peeled away layers of red-streaked skins from the stalk to reveal the bulb and its cloves. Those are healthy and can be eaten fresh, but they are too small to be saved for curing.

A garlic bulb with botrytis-infected skins peeled away. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO)

Botrytis is very common and attacks plants when conditions are right, such as too much moisture or not enough air circulation. Buyarski said that having good drainage and air flow in beds and greenhouses will help reduce the fungus, and that gardeners should set aside affected plants to prevent more contamination.

“When I am harvesting the garlic a month from now, six weeks from now, I will sort out any of these that I am suspicious of, if I see that red streak going down into the bulb,” he said.

Email Sheli Delaney if you have questions for Garden Talk.

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