Tag: white rot

Harvesting our Onion, Shallot and Garlic Crops

Jo and I have not long returned from an eight-day break down in beautiful Devon and Cornwall, touring gardens, sampling the regional cuisine (particularly the ice cream section of the menu) and quaffing a few of the local ales. I’ll be talking more about the rather wonderful gardens we visited – RHS Rosemoor, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Hartland Abbey, Docton Mill, Baddesley Clinton, Barrington Court, Trelissick, Glendurgan and Cotehele – in later blog posts.

We got back to Plot #59 to find that weeds had sprung up everywhere (of course), Jo’s flowers were blooming (you should have seen the A-frame of sweet peas before we picked them…) and, most of our edible Allium crops were ready for harvesting.

June and July are the best months, depending on the weather, for lifting and drying the edible members of the Allium family – onions, garlic and shallots – before putting them into store for autumn and winter. This year we grew all three, and through a combination of plenty of sunshine, tempered with occasional bouts of rain, they’ve all done rather well.


This year we grew ‘Sturon’ from sets. I did sow some other varieties from seed back in January or February but they didn’t do too well, so I’ll have to try those again next year.

Unfortunately, our plot has a pretty endemic problem with onion white rot. The best advice is to not re-grow alliums anywhere that’s suffered white rot, but as that could be anywhere, for the past couple of years we’ve just planted anyhow and taken our chances.

Luckily around half of this year’s crop managed to escape infection. I laid them out for drying in old plastic bakers’ trays that I rescued from the skip earlier in the year:

July 2017 onion harvest
Four trays of pristine onions drying in the greenhouse.

The bulbs that have any sign of white rot have been temporarily quarantined out on the surface of the onion bed. When I have a bit more time at the weekend, I’ll clean each one up, removing any infected material, and then assess them for usefulness. If they’re edible then we’ll use them as soon as possible, otherwise they’ll go in the bin, rather than the compost heap.

July 2017 onions in quarantine
These bulbs are all showing some signs of white rot and will need careful cleaning.


Last year, Dad-in-Law Guru Glyn gave us half a dozen seed sets of two varieties of shallots. Of course, I can’t remember which varieties they are (I’ve emailed him to check.) Anyway, they grew rather well and divided nicely:

July 2017 shallots ready for harvest
Plenty of shallots on this clump, they’ve divided and grown quite well.

Each set has split into between four and ten new bulbs – plenty enough for a fair few portions to eat, with seed stock left over for next year:

July 2017 shallot harvest
Two varieties of shallot laid out for drying.

Edit: Guru Glyn says: “On the left, ‘Hative de Niort’, on the right, ‘Jermor'”.


We’ve always had mixed results with garlic and this year was no exception. Back in October we planted three cultivars: Extra Early Wight, Red Duke Wight and Elephant Garlic, with two rows of the latter, one of seed cloves from The Garlic Farm and one of our own, plot-grown cloves.

Both the Extra Early and the Red Duke started developing allium rust back in May and by the end of June it had completely covered the plants, killing off the outer foliage, preventing photosynthesis and effectively halting the growth of the plants.

Luckily, the Extra Early has already developed decent-sized bulbs:

July 2017 garlic harvest
VAriety: Extra Early Wight. Yield: good enough.

But the Red Duke was next-to-useless; small, barely-divided bulbs good enough only for chucking whole into winter stews, or saving to use in next year’s garlic spray.

The elephant garlic, interestingly enough, managed to avoid the rust problem completely. The outer foliage died back and dried up, as you’d expect, but there were no signs of the orange pustules that affected the other two, despite them being grown next door and so within easy infection distance.

The plants grown from the Garlic Farm seed stock germinated, grew, developed and went over much faster than those grown from our own cloves, even though those were originally grown from the previous year’s Garlic Farm seed stock. The environmental conditions are obviously very different in the Isle of Wight to North Manchester, which probably accounts for the disparity. So the Garlic Farm plants have been lifted and put to dry, whilst our own stock plants are still in the ground:

July 2017 elephant garlic harvest
Elephant garlic grown from the Garlic Farm stock bought last September.

I’ll wait to lift the second row before I make a firm decision, but I think this year I’ll just re-plant from our own stock, rather than spend extra money on bought-in cloves, which do tend to be rather pricey.

How have you done with your edible Alliums? Do let us know, via the comments below, or on Twitter.

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Lifting This Year’s Garlic

Last week I decided to lift the bulk of this year’s garlic crop. It’s technically a little early – according to a recent email from The Garlic Farm, at least – but as you can see below, one variety was quite badly hit with allium rust and I’d spotted signs of onion white rot in another, so I didn’t see much point in leaving it in the ground to get worse.

Here’s the state of the crop before harvesting:

June 2016 Garlic crop
Plenty of foliage, some of is a bit rusty, time to see what the bulbs are doing…

All seed garlic was bought from The Garlic Farm and planted out last September so it could over-winter.

1. ‘Extra Early Wight’ – a softneck variety that’s suitable for harvesting a little earlier than most.
2. ‘Elephant Garlic’ – a definite favourite, performed wonderfully well last year, cloves lasted for months and months.
3. ‘Carcasonne Wight’ – a hardneck variety that was supposed to be able to support flowers, and would have done if we hadn’t eaten the scapes…

I started with the ‘Carcasonne Wight’ and as I’d feared, more than half of it was infected with allium white rot, a nasty fungal infection that damages the stems and bulbs, reducing vigour and rendering cloves inedible:

June 2016 allium rot
Not what you want to see when you lift your garlic.

I cleaned up what I could, saving a few half-bulbs for immediate use, and set the rest for drying:

June 2016 - Carcasonne Wight harvest
Not a great return on around 30 planted cloves.

Next to come out, the ‘Extra Early Wight’. Much better results from that one, only one bulb showed any signs of white rot, and that was cleanable and usable. The rest were quite badly affected with allium rust – a fungal infection that usually only affects the outer layers of the leaves and stems, so doesn’t damage the bulb – but once they were cleaned and trimmed I had three dozen bulbs to set out for drying in the greenhouse:

June 2016 Extra Early Wight harvest
Much better – 36 lovely cloves of good-sized garlic – enough to last all winter.

I’ve left the elephant garlic in the ground for now, but I might be tempted to lift that at the weekend, rather than risk any white rot creeping in. It’s such a great crop – flavourful without being too overpoweringly garlicky, and the cloves last for months if properly stored – that it would be a shame to lose any of it just for the sake of hoping for a few extra grams of weight.

I’ll be placing this year’s seed order with The Garlic Farm before too long. ‘Elephant’ and ‘Extra Early Wight’ are both definites, but I won’t be growing ‘Carcasonne Wight’ again.

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