Minnesota Garlic Crop Wiped Out

soilent_greenAugust 14, 2012

I am not an expert on plant diseases and pathogens, but this is what I have learned so far. I gratefully welcome any corrections, additions, or expert input regarding this subject.

The Minnesota boutique garlic industry was devastated this year by a disease that has been identified as "Aster yellows". It is a phytoplasma that is carried by leafhoppers, and is introduced into a plant when the leafhopper feeds. Garlic plants are normally not affected because the leafhoppers generally prefer other types of plants. Because of the mild winter the garlic sprouted earlier than usual, and the leafhoppers migrated earlier than usual. There was little else to feed on at the time of their arrival so the leafhoppers fed on the garlic and infected it with the Aster yellows disease.

The disease crippled or destroyed most of the garlic crops here. This is apparently a native disease, not an introduced one, that exploded this year due in large part to the extraordinarily mild winter of 2011-2012. Most of the commercial boutique garlic growers in Minnesota lost everything, including what would have been used for seed stock, so they will now be starting over from scratch. Most likely some growers will quit the business entirely.

I had been expanding my crop over the last five years with the intention of going into the garlic business myself. I too lost everything - 10,000 plants - which included my seed stock for next year.

Even though I personally do not subscribe to the theory of anthropogenic global warming, I must admit this problem may turn out to be a result of a long term climate change and thus may recur or be here to stay. Hopefully I am wrong about this - time will tell.

To the wonderful members on GW whom I have traded garlic with in the past, I thank you for all the nice trades but I obviously will not be trading any garlic or bulbils this year or in the near future, possibly never again if the disease shows its ugly face again next year. If it does reappear, then I am done growing garlic for good.

If and when I do trade again, all my garlic will be tested and proven disease-free through the University of Minnesota agricultural extension, or I will not do trades. I also will only be trading my proven disease-free garlic for other garlic that has been tested and proven to be disease-free. I know this will eliminate trading garlic with most people on GW, but that is the way it will have to be in order for me to protect my crops, my soil, and my business.


-Tom K.

P.S. Anyone who grows garlic in any amounts should also make themselves fully aware and informed of Garlic Bloat Nematode (GBN). It is a new scourge that is crossing the United States and Canada via infected seed bulbs - it can unwittingly be passed on to new locations through online garlic trades such as those that occur on GardenWeb and other online trading sites. In my opinion this disease is far worse than Aster yellows, with the ability to contaminate the soil for years thus decimating entire garlic growing regions and destroying many livelihoods. Everyone who grows garlic in any amount should be educating themselves on this issue.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aster yellows

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This is a horrendous loss. I am very sorry it is happening and has ruined your plans. I didn't want to believe in global warming but there seems to be more and more evidence that it is happening.

Hopefully, your warning will spare someone grief by no longer trading with anyone and inadvertently bringing the disease into their garden/farm.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 1:21PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Sorry to hear that, I'm sure the loss was devestating. I know how bad I felt losing half of my garlic to our funky spring weather, I'm sure this is much harder for you.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 2:21PM
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Very sorry for your loss. Garlic used to be the most foolproof crop in the Midwest, and now we have lost that. Many of us are already making decisions based on global warming happening, even at my hobby level. I will plant okra and asian persimmon next year. Work takes me to Italy occasionally, and there olives and peanuts are grown where they were never grown before in recorded history.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 10:15PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Sorry to hear about your loss, Tom. That's a lot of garlic.

Looks like the same thing took out much of my garlic this year as well. Only 13 varieties / 300 plants for me, but that has represented part of my food independence. When I last checked my harvest several days ago, some varieties were all soft & obviously total losses. Others appear to still be OK, I will find out when I open the bulbs in September.

Much of my garlic was obtained through SSE, and since they have posted this notice on their site, I probably will be unable to replace the commercial varieties ordered through them. For some of the heirloom varieties ordered from the Yearbook, I am crossing my fingers. Two of those are my favorites, and would be difficult to replace. So far, both of them still look OK.

Ordinarily, I try to order plants (including bulbs) from companies close to me geographically. But for garlic, I will be avoiding Midwest sources (at least for the near future) and ordering replacement stock from the West Coast.

I too will be forced to halt trading, until I know my stock is safe (when/if?), and to refuse garlic trades from the Midwest. That is unfortunate, since it means I will be forced to return (unfilled) several requests already received.

Garlic stock isn't cheap, and it takes awhile to build a new variety up to a decent quantity. For commercial growers & those with large collections, the cost of replacing their stock may be more than they choose to bear.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:59AM
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10k plants, that is a whopping loss. Sorry about that. That's very discouraging. Is aster yellows strictly limited to the true garlics or can it affect other alliums as well?

When growing at that kind of scale no doubt a highly-mixed permaculture approach is not very efficient, but wouldn't it tend to greatly reduce such problems?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:32AM
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What do you mix garlic with? In the old days I would mulch it with lettuce plants, but this year the garlic was so early and so strong that nothing grew under it.

More worryingly, leafhoppers have now tasted it, and this generation has already had a little natural selection - those hoppers which tolerate garlic better will thrive compared to those that do not. Next year, though, it could be a winter close to normal, and they may eat something else. So it may not sustain itself unless they develop a taste for garlic. Growing under cover or planting late would be obvious remedies.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 8:46AM
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IAmSupernova(SE Texas 9A)

Just out of curiosity, roughly what would it cost to replace those 10,000 plants?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:50AM
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Sorry to hear about your Garlic crop loss. What are the symptoms and what does it look like when the Garlic is infected with that stuff? I should have enough for about 150-300 plants this year, depending on how many cloves I feel are big enough for planting. So that is an obvious drop in the bucket to what you had.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:56AM
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So sorry to hear about your garlic Tom. I thought of you when mine was doing bad. I did not know it was so widespread as I had only talked to the locals. Many who were wiped out like you. of course no one down here has the amount of plantings you lost. We may yet recover from this. I do love my home grown garlic


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 12:09PM
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That's true, it's strongly allelopathic. Nevertheless, I have often had volunteer garlic growing amongst other crops.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 1:03PM
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Thanks for all the responses and concern. I will try to answer some of the comments and questions that have been raised.

zeedman - Thank you for the SSE link and your post. I was not aware until your post that Iowa and Wisconsin were affected as well. I also have heard recently that the Dakotas may have been affected too. Much bigger issue than I realized. Sorry to hear that your garlic was hit by this scourge. I know you have some less common varieties than I was growing.

pnbrown - "Is aster yellows strictly limited to the true garlics or can it affect other alliums as well?"

-What happened here was that, with the exception of grasses, any flat-leaved plant that was growing at the time was infected and either crippled or destroyed. Besides garlic, my row of garlic chives was destroyed, common chives unaffected, irises were crippled and possibly will not make it back, day lilies were crippled but recovered, ornamental alliums were damaged but recovered, perennial walking onions were unaffected, wild ramps were possibly affected because this year they produced mutated flower stalks with no viable seed, bunching onions were not affected but may not have been sprouting yet, regular onions, multipliers, and shallots were unaffected but may not have been sprouting yet.

Apparently southern Minnesota was affected far worse than central Minnesota, but I do not know of any large scale grower that was not affected at all. I do not know of anyone that is cropping garlic in northern Minnesota so I have no info regarding up there. I know of home gardeners that were affected to varying degrees and I know of some home gardeners that had no problems whatsoever. Thankfully, some of them are giving me some of their garlic which I had originally given to them. Hopefully I will be able to reacquire some of the varieties that I lost this way.

"When growing at that kind of scale no doubt a highly-mixed permaculture approach is not very efficient, but wouldn't it tend to greatly reduce such problems?"

-Good question, good suggestion. We are looking for these kinds of suggestions because we will try anything. I was actually thinking along the same lines. Being that the leafhoppers fed on the common daylilies, and those plants are such hardy, self-spreading, trouble free plants, and that they recovered from the attack, I am considering interspersing garlic beds with daylily beds to give them something else to feed on. I may start the experiment this fall already by doing some transplanting.

glib - "What do you mix garlic with? In the old days I would mulch it with lettuce plants, but this year the garlic was so early and so strong that nothing grew under it."

-I am a bit confused by your comment here. If I get it wrong then please clarify. I do not interplant any other crops or cover crops with the garlic - it would affect the quality and size of the garlic bulbs. I mulch my garlic with wheat straw for winter cover. The garlic shoots in spring can poke through the straw with little assistance from me. I leave the straw on through the summer for weed suppression, soil temp moderation, and soil moisture retention. Last fall I ran out of straw so for an experiment I left one planting of 1000 plants unmulched. All the garlic sprouted at the same time, exactly one month early (March 01). There was no difference between the mulched and unmulched plantings - that is to say the garlic sprouted at the same time whether mulched or unmulched. All my plantings were destroyed.

"More worryingly, leafhoppers have now tasted it, and this generation has already had a little natural selection - those hoppers which tolerate garlic better will thrive compared to those that do not. Next year, though, it could be a winter close to normal, and they may eat something else. So it may not sustain itself unless they develop a taste for garlic."

-This is a concern. We growers are all educating ourselves on Aster yellows and leafhoppers to weed out the possibilities and likelihoods from the impossibilities or unlikely scenarios. Ultimately, time will produce answers to many of our questions.

"Growing under cover or planting late would be obvious remedies."

-Any and all options are being considered, even the use of chemicals as a last resort. If it comes down to the use of chemicals as the only viable solution to produce a crop, I will most likely quit growing garlic - it goes against the grain in my opinion. I simply have no interest in growing chemically-laced food. Planting late probably does not apply because garlic is fall-planted, but I am going to consider saving some seed bulbs or bulbils through winter, cold treating / vernalizing them, and planting them in spring just to see what happens. I have my doubts it will work, though, and will probably produce mediocre bulbs.

IAmSupernova - "Just out of curiosity, roughly what would it cost to replace those 10,000 plants?"

- Twenty to thirty thousand dollars retail, minimum. I know of no single supplier who would or could sell 10,000 seed bulbs either retail or wholesale to one customer.

stuffradio - "What are the symptoms and what does it look like when the Garlic is infected with that stuff?"

-My garlic crop was looking beautiful. I took pictures of all the garlic plantings in early May (I still have not been able to look at them yet). By mid-May I saw some yellowing of the lower leaves and leaf tips. I was concerned but we had been getting a lot of rain so I attributed it to too-wet soil. By the end of May all plants were dead and the bulbs were starting to rot in the ground. It all happened in a two week period. Some plants died while in the initial stage of scape production but most had not started scape development yet.

curt_grow - Nice to hear from you! Hope everything is going well. Yeah it was pretty rough to have to deal with this. Among my losses were around fifteen hundred Krandasger Red bulbs that came from the stock that you gave me several years ago.


My loss was bad, but at least I was not in business yet. My seed garlic website is all developed and was ready to go online this summer but I pulled that plug. I lost no income that I was depending on at this point. I had been cashing out all investment and expenses so I owe no money. I was still developing my inventory and was following a business plan of increasing the crop by 10,000 plants each year for the next five years to achieve a total annual crop of 50,000 per year from then on. I lost 10k plants from cloves and around 5k plants from bulbils and second-year rounds but I know of growers that lost 20k, 30k, 50k, and even 75k. Their garlic businesses and income have vanished overnight. Those are the folks that I feel really bad about.

We do not have a garlic growers association in Minnesota yet. Growers are not in communication with each other for the most part. My garlic crop died in May. I did not find out conclusively what destroyed it until last Saturday, August 11. That day was the annual Minnesota Garlic Festival held in Hutchinson, Minnesota. I, and other growers, went to the event with the intention of acquiring new seed stock. It turned out that nearly every vendor that showed up had been affected. What little stock they had was mostly in poor condition. Many vendors did not even show up because they had nothing to sell. I found some good garlic from a vendor from Iowa, but found no varieties that I was really seeking to acquire. Because I waited to buy seed stock from the festival, I did not reserve any garlic from online seed sources. Now my preferred online vendors have little to no garlic available. Even if they did, many are still not testing for Garlic Bloat Nematode so I do not feel I can trust garlic from other regions of the U.S. at this time.

With these two diseases I mentioned previously, we are dealing with a double whammy here that is going to be tough to get through. It is a very confusing time regarding strategies on how to deal with these problems. My plan is to forge ahead, keep informed and learn everything I can, experiment, cross my fingers, and hope for a normal winter this time. This is the best I can do at this time.

I now have fifty bulbs of four different hardneck varieties with which to start over. Not much, but I originally started out with three bulbs and had 10k five years later.

For six weeks I was riddled with self doubt - was this my fault? Did I miss a step in the growing process? Was it something I did or did not do properly? My partner, who is focusing on the business and sales aspects, was asking me these questions as well and I had no answers for him. I was in a state of shock and denial throughout the months of June and July. I could not get myself to go out and look at the garlic beds. I know this sounds bad but I admit I was relieved to find out that others had lost their garlic as well - it removed the crushing self-doubt I have been feeling all summer. Now that I know what happened, I have moved on. I will start cleaning up the beds and wipe the slate clean. A new challenge awaits.

But first, time for me to go pick the beans. :)


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 1:54PM
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lonmower(zone8 Western Oregon)

proving...that we all are pioneers, gardening/farming on the edge of the wilderness in a constant and silent and (sometimes) unnoticed battle with forces of Nature.

You, Tom, are a credit to those early settlers to the beautiful but harsh prairies of Minnesota.

Good on ya Bro...and Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 2:52PM
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SG, at my small scale I used to plant lettuce in between garlic. That worked when I was late planting garlic and the lettuce was coming up early. Yes, it affected the size but I am an amateur. Last year I planted garlic in September, and it was already too large in February for interplanting.

I think large hoop houses will do the trick. These bugs are migratory, and once they settle on something else, the cover can be removed - similar to what we do for squash but garlic, alas, needs no pollination. Garlic is the one thing that does not need cover, nor it pays more to produce it early, but the hoop house is organic.

10^4 plants is 6X10^4 clove seeds. It would be a planting area close to 100X100 square ft. It is not impossible to cover. And you do not even need plastic, row cover with hoops will do.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 4:11PM
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Indeed, walking onion is precisely what I had in mind regarding this disease. I'm glad to hear they were unaffected, if the disease gets out this way I'd rather go without garlic than scallions and onions. I am speaking from a personal culinary perspective, which may seem very trivial from your perspective right about now, I can understand.

I wonder if spring-planting the bulbs would be a useful strategy? Maybe that would allow the leaf-hopper to do the worst infecting on other plants, and by the time garlic comes up the worst is over. A decreased harvest due to spring-planting would certainly be better than none.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 5:20PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I don't know if it helpful or not, but I had been reading about using bulbils to increase your growing stock a couple of months ago. From that it has become my understanding that bulbils get planted in the fall like regular cloves, make small plants that when harvested will have a solid single "round" instead of the typical head with multiple cloves. The round then gets planted in the next fall, and in the following summer will produce a normal head with cloves. I was planning on seeing if it worked out that way myself this coming year and have saved a number of bulbils.

I know what you mean about that debilitating sense of self doubt! The spring weather that had ruined so much of my garden unexpectedly did that to me. But then I got talking with many other people locally and found that we had all had the same experience, and we were better off than those who had it happen large scale to fields of greens and broccoli. So I felt better. I guess that's the nature of working so closely with ... Nature. Well, you know what they say, get knocked down 7 times, pick yourself up 8 times!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 5:22PM
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I have grown out garlic topsets to make that solid round. One year I had huge amounts of the them and I scattered them all over in the fall time to try to get a self-perpetuating population going. The clove-grown plants are so small though that they will be quickly overwhelmed unless other plants are controlled.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 6:43PM
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My condolences for your loss. It was a lot of work.

You should post this on the Allium form as well.

You asked for corrections, additions and expert input. I am not an expert - but it seems as if there are so few.

When I google "Aster Yellow Garlic Minnesota" (without quotes) this thread is the top entry. A newsletter type blog from the UMN is fourth with an entry on July 16,2012 (just one month ago) about aster yellows that does not mention vegetable gardening or any type of agriculture at all. When I leave out Minnesota in the search it becomes a weird list of academic papers on the subject (this thread is still fourth on the list).

In your P.S. on the original post you mentioned Garlic Bloat Nematode (GBN). Doing a google search for "Garlic Bloat Nematode Minnesota" (without the quotes) might be revealing...!!!!! The testing procedure for the Minnesota Garlic Festival 2012 comes up FIRST, WHAT! I was writing this as I was... read a few more articles on the list... what!! - I don't think that you have to wonder all that much!

Throw out what you have unless you are hoping to breed for nematode resistance, that would be my advice.

Hope this helps. Best of luck to you!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:34AM
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lonmower - Thanks for your kind words. I have always considered that we gardeners are a breed apart. Non-gardeners simply do not understand why we do what we do.

glib - I like the row cover concepts but have never used or needed them up till possibly now. I will spend more time looking into commercial systems and how I can use them with garlic beds. My two biggest concerns with these things is that sunlight that reaches the plants is reduced and that the strong winds and storms that we often get here on the northern prairie can make short work of destroying them.

pnbrown - I was actually already experimenting with spring planted bulbs. They all died but I intend to continue the experiments with bulbs and bulbils, if for no other reason than to maintain a healthy source of plants for seed bulbils for emergency seed stock.

sunnibel7 - I had been planting and experimenting with bulbils and rounds for several years. They are the key to developing inventory without large cash outlays. I will follow the same strategy again. I was also just starting to tinker with getting garlic to produce true seed. I will continue my pursuit of this goal next year as well - it may be critical now rather than just a curiosity for me.

cheapheap - I debated posting this in the allium forum but to get more eyes to see it I posted in the veggie forum. This was simply in the hopes of gathering more information and suggestions. GW does not like multiple posting of same topic threads in different forums, and I see why, but I may post a link to this one.

Yes, most search results are related to the disease's effects on flowers. The leafhoppers' attack on garlic was unusual and unexpected. I would wager there will be more discussions about this on the web in the near future. BTW I had been seeing strange issues regarding my native prairie plants for around the last five years or so and never had any reason to make a connection. Now I know that it is the Aster yellows disease. I do not know if it has been becoming more prevalent or if it was that I simply had just started noticing.

I have been in communication with several notable people in the Minnesota garlic business, including people at the U of MN, who are investigating the Aster yellows issue. They are trying to get a handle on the problem and come up with solutions, and I have offered to help in any way that I can. They are the experts so I do not know how much help I could be to them, admittedly.

This year was the first time that the garlic festival was requiring vendors to have their garlic tested and to be proven clear of garlic bloat nematode (GBN) in order to be able to sell their product at the event. GBN has been found in several fields in Minnesota already, so the event holders are trying to stay on top of this issue and I commend them for it. I have not seen any signs of GBN in my garlic, but starting next year I will be testing for GBN annually.

I support, but am not associated in any way with, the Minnesota Garlic Festival. I need to be clear about something. I have been informed that only one vendor that wanted to sell garlic at the Minnesota Garlic Festival failed the testing for GBN. All of the rest of the vendors that did not show up at the event did not show up because their crops were decimated by Aster yellows. Most of the vendors that did show up had poor quality stock (in my opinion) because their crop was damaged, not destroyed, by Aster yellows. A very few vendors had nice clean garlic.

Now that the U of MN has a GBN testing program I do not see why any reputable garlic supply company in Minnesota would not do said testing and provide the document to any customer who requests proof prior to their garlic purchase. Do not get confused - Minnesota was seriously affected by Aster yellows, not by GBN. At least not yet.

Do not write us off completely - this is not over. We will do everything we can to come back from this with a quality Minnesota product.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 12:53PM
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I was really hoping that the simple explanation would apply. Thank you for answering my post even though my tone was off. I am sorry.

I hope that this burns itself out fairly quickly.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 5:53AM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Thank you for taking the time to alert gardeners with this information. But one thing you've said puzzles me.

Aster yellows is a systemic infection, thus plants don't recover. Perhaps heat later in the season masked symptoms?

I don't know enough about yellows to be certain about that, so I'm just throwing it out for consideration. Could be a different strain of yellows than affects other plants? (I'll research that further.)

Unfortunately, as you've learned, treatment for affected plants is to discard them.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 2:03PM
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jean001a - Thanks for taking the time to post. There are gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the aster leafhopper insect and the Aster yellows disease. For example, I still do not know when the leafhoppers arrived here and infected the plants. I suspect it was early April but I have no proof to back up that suspicion other than the fact that I spring planted some garlic in April in an isolated vegetable garden and those plants got infected and died as well. It is my understanding that the disease thrives in cold wet weather and April was the only month in which those two factors applied.

Regarding the disease, I do not quite understand if there is an incubation period that occurs, or just what length of time that incubation period takes, in infected plants before the disease causes the plants to start showing noticeable outward signs of ill health. I assume there must be an incubation period because I did not notice signs of plant stress until mid-May, unless the leafhoppers did not infect the plants until early May. But if that were the case, all other native plants, weeds, and vegetables were already actively growing by then so that would call into question the theory that the garlic and a few other plants were the only things available for the insects to feed on.

Other plants affected beyond what I listed previously include black-eyed susan and purple coneflower. On some of these plants I have noticed greening of flowers and development of leaf-like flower petals. I have been seeing these with more frequency in recent years. I have had many people in my area ask me if I knew why their coneflowers in their flower gardens died this year. I did not have an answer for them until now.

Regarding the weather we had last spring, if it helps: We had an extremely mild winter with very little to no snowcover, and very shallow frost depth averaging around six inches. March was abnormally warm and dry. April was typicaly cold, cloudy, and wet. In May the weather broke and we had average to above average warmth with way above average rainfall. June started out average regarding warmth and rainfall but then went into drought and extreme heat.

If anybody needs any clarification or additional information from me let me know and I will help as best I can.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 9:29PM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

So sorry to hear of this horrible problem!

Of course, I will share my varieties but my quantity is small.

I will email what I have available.

I have all that you sent last year:

Chesnok Red aka Shvelisi
German Brown
Montana Giant
Romanian Red aka Red Elephant Garlic


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 9:58PM
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gemini_jim(7 MD)

soilent_green, very sorry you lost all your garlic.

If some garlic survived would it then carry the disease?

I don't have any specific suggestions about the aster yellows, but my own situation has led me to think long and hard about how I grow, trade, and dispose of garlic and other alliums. Somewhere along the line I got the dreaded white rot disease in my garden, and I've been trying to control its spread ever since. I've been rotating beds and carefully inspecting seed stock, but it still showed up this year. I suspect it was in my compost pile.

Now I only feel comfortable sharing garlic with friends who I know won't plant it or compost it. I have started saving more bulbils, and will plant some in pots this fall to raise some disease-free stock, but I worry that this garden will never be rid of the fungus.

I hope to one day "go pro" with garlic, but it won't be on this land or from this seed stock. I guess I'm lucky this is happening now when I'm very much in the pre-production phase and not when I have thousands of plants in the ground.

Interestingly my walking onions were also unaffected. Are they the "Superman" of Alliums, or the "Typhoid Mary?"

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 2:55PM
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heirloomLindsay(3 - 5)

Thank you for your post Tom! I grow heirloom garlic in the Twin Cities and we had about 50% crop loss. This has been very distressing. I have talked to Carl Rosen at the UMN, Jerry Ford at SFA Garlic Festival, Chris at Plum Creek and some other local garlic growers. It's different across the board who is replanting their seed stock and who is starting over from scratch.

For others looking for more info on Asters Yellow - http://www.plumcreekgarlic.com/phytoplasma

Seed Saver's disclaimer - 'you will take the same risk as us if you plant our garlic' http://www.seedsavers.org/Items.aspx?hierId=89

As farmers we are seeing the abnormalities of climate change early on, I think this is part of it. There are no online sources that I know of right now where farmers can talk to each other about it. I'm not sure if it is related but of my 10 varieties some were affected worse than others. This means I will plant out those that were more 'resistant', this also means a loss of genetic diversity - which distresses me. We are in uncharted waters and will have to wait until next year to see what happens.

Another suggestion has been to plant early trap crops like sorrel or mache - I hesitate to do this only because I don't want to attract leafhoppers unnecessarily but this might also help???

Anyone with more information or just to share their stories are greatly appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plum Creek's disclaimer on Phytoplasma

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 3:54PM
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gemini_jim - "If some garlic survived would it then carry the disease?"

Unknown at this time but I assume it would. It is my understanding that infected plants of any kind become the contact source for the host aster leafhopper. The insects ingest the phytoplasma as they feed on plant juices and then the insect infects the next plant it lands on to feed. Informational resources recommend removal and destruction of infected plants. Hard to do when you have a whole meadow with many infected prairie flowers.

Speaking of which, following are some photos of black eyed susans on my farm that I believe to be infected with Aster yellows. The symptoms sure fit everything I have been reading, but if anyone more knowledgeable than I am on this subject disagrees then by all means please reply to this post.

In case anyone is not aware, black eyed susan flowers usually have nice long yellow flower petals with brown center cones.

A bunch more photos accessible in my photobucket album here:
More Aster yellows infected flowers.

heirloomLindsay - I have also been in personal contact with most of the people you mentioned, but it is good to get their names out for others. Thanks also for posting the links here. I will be expanding my research and personal discussion with experts when more time is available to me.

I have invested many hours and have learned a lot in the last two weeks, and have several strategies that I am formulating at this time regarding growing crops and seed stock successfully. I will discuss these when I am more comfortable that my ideas are feasible. Actually, I am now quite confident that I can beat this. What scares the heck out of me is garlic bloat nematode. I do not know how anyone comes back from that, outside of acquiring more disease-free land to grow a crop.

Nice to meet another Minnesota garlic grower, albeit under troubling circumstances. Sorry to hear about your crop losses. Please urge other growers you may know who have been affected by this issue to access this thread so we can do some information sharing. We all need to work together to do some experimenting regarding next year's crop, and then get information regarding the successes and failures out into the general knowledge pool.

We need a Minnesota Garlic Growers Association dedicated to these issues...


Here is a link that might be useful: Aster Yellows Wiki

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 11:46PM
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heirloomLindsay - "I'm not sure if it is related but of my 10 varieties some were affected worse than others."

Could you please post a list of your ten varieties and which were affected worse than others? Might be helpful.

I can certainly post a list of what varieties that I had planted, but I had twenty six varieties and I lost everything, so I do not see the value at this time. I will post a list if anyone requests that I do so.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 12:03AM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)


I stumbled across this thread and have thought alot about what we saw in our garlic plot this past summer. We are in Northern WI and this past fall was the first season we had our garlic in a new plot. We have grown lots of garlic for the past 6-7 years, but never in this new plot and never when we have been so busy. Soooo...when I read this thread I really began thinking about this summer's crop and really wondering if something more might have been going on besides 'neglect' on our part.

This is what we noticed. Garlic looked good early on, May seemed fine, at least early May. Then late May, into June we started to see tips yellowing. Now, we just assummed our watering regime was doing this. Since we are growing on a outlying property, we have to bring in water by hand, and we just figured we were just not getting the crop enough water. Then we move into a rainy period and we don't have to water by hand...but the garlic doesn't seem to green up. It is doing ok, but not as it should. And then it is going down, sooner than we imagined, but still thinking it is because of an early spring and our lack of on-site watering.

Now, in all honesty I don't know what really happened. We did harvest bulbs and they are somewhat ok in size. But, after growing garlic for 7 plus years, we never had garlic go down this early, and not look that great for weeks and weeks. We contributed most of the issues to our lack of time and water....but thinking back on things, I know some others that never watered their garlic all summer and their plants looked loads better.

I am not sure what growers saw when they had garlic live through the disease, I would like to hear from some of those growers. Did they just see their garlic go down earlier, languish but not die, ???? Maybe we had nothing going on in our plot, maybe it was just lack of management on our part. We did not see our garlic die like others. But I did want to put out our experiences this summer.

Also, I have heard some comments about 'We Grow Garlic' not selling or being around next year. Can anybody share some knowledge on them. We just received 5 new varieties from them and were going to put them in. But, now with this scare and rumours of their demise???...do we dare??? There is no update on their web page about issues or warnings, but if our crop was just affected by our management practices this year....I sure don't want to affect our stock with possibly diseased stock. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 11:25PM
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A question I must ask you is whether your garlic had produced scapes before it yellowed and turned brown?

My infected garlic followed pretty much the same circumstances as you described of yours, following a similar timeline. My infected garlic initially mimicked the occasional chlorosis that always occurs, then as it got worse I attributed the yellowing to possibly too much soil moisture, and then the diseased plants finally mimicked the typical dry down process. I knew something was wrong because this dry down process was occurring before or during scape development. So to me, dry down before scape development is the critical identifier of a diseased crop.

That is obviously not normal and I doubt that the cloves matured properly, so I question the viability of any seed bulbs harvested under those circumstances. I also question whether any of those bulbs will hold up in storage until planting time, and if they do then I must question whether the planted cloves will survive the winter. We will get answers to all these questions soon enough.

If your harvested seed garlic has cured long enough I would seriously consider testing the viability of some of the cloves - if they are dead or come up sickly then you would avoid wasting a bunch of time planting them this fall.

Have you tried contacting the vendor you mentioned and inquiring if their garlic beds were hit by disease this year? Do they guarantee their garlic stock to be disease-free? If they are reputable (no reason to dispute this at this point) then they should be forthright in their response to you. Their online catalog mentions that their bulb sizes were diminished this year, but they attribute that to the heat and dry spell this summer. I can not draw any conclusions based on that scant information.

I must state that I am not going to question the reputations of any garlic vendors in this thread. If anyone wishes to purchase garlic this year from a vendor located anywhere in North America then it is their responsibility to exercise due diligence. It is my recommendation that if a person has any doubts about the quality and condition of their purchased seed garlic, then do not plant them. Better safe than sorry.

Thanks for posting, and please keep in touch.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 1:11AM
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I do feel bad for you all who have lost their garlic.

I wonder if Aster yellow was isolated mainly to Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Iowa?

I am asking because I live a couple hours south from SSE and I did not see any issues this year, other than some of my 300 garlic being a little bit smaller than last year because it was a quite dry growing season. Or did I just luck out?


    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 7:11PM
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Hi Dean,

Did your garlic produce healthy scapes and bulbils? Did the plants look healthy up to harvest? Did the crop mature and start to dry down earlier than usual or at the usual time (taking the early spring into account of course)? Any small discolored or stinky bulbs? A lot of them?

Ultimately the only way you will know if your crop has possibly been infected is if there was a lot of yellow leaf tips and fully yellowing of leaves until the plants browned down earlier than usual (meaning they probably died not matured), if bulbs do not keep well in storage, or many or all of your planted cloves do not sprout next spring. Scientific testing is the only way right now to know for certain, but is obviously not feasible for most growers.

I am trying to get a handle of the range of the problem by hearing from fellow midwest garlic growers such as yourself. I hope more garlic growers will post in this thread what general area of what state they reside in and how their garlic did this year.

At the time of this posting it is my understanding that areas affected were the eastern part of South Dakota, southern and central Minnesota, northern Iowa, western and central Wisconsin. Areas of North Dakota possible, northern Minnesota unknown, central Iowa possible, southern Iowa unknown, northwest Illinois possible. Apparently worst areas affected were southeastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota.

Some good reference materials are coming out now regarding this outbreak and I will post the links soon. Anyone can access these documents by using search terms such as "aster yellows" and "aster leafhopper".


    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 8:53PM
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"Did your garlic produce healthy scapes and bulbils? Did the plants look healthy up to harvest?"

This is only my third season, but scapes and bulbils seemed normal looking like the last two years.

"Did the crop mature and start to dry down earlier than usual or at the usual time (taking the early spring into account of course)?"

My garlic dried down maybe two weeks later than normal.

"Any small discolored or stinky bulbs?"

Nothing yet, I did kill one out with the potato-fork though.

I currently have garlic drying out in garage and I just checked them and nothing soft or sticky and they seem to be quite hard. Maybe I missed the aster yellow this season. Basically if I wouldn't had read this thread or thread on SSE, I would not have known there were any issues.

One note, we had record dryness for the months of May, June and July in my area, every storm went north or south of me. Maybe that helped?


    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 9:27PM
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Sounds like you were not in the affected area. I can't tell you if your area being dry helped or not.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 5:16PM
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Here's a nice synopsis that Chris Kudrna of Plum Creek Garlic put out today:

At this point, here's what I've concluded based on the research:
Aster Yellows will almost certainly winter over in affected bulbs. Whether those bulbs have developed resistance and how they will grow (if at all) is of course unknown. I'm replacing my seed stock and risking Nematodes. Some of you are using your best seed stock. I don't know if anyone has the 'right' answer on this. Of course those of you with 100% loss have no choice but to replace; I would have had to purchase some seed stock anyway since I did not have enough 'good' stock.
This was an extremely unusual event brought about by a huge infestation of Aster Leafhoppers. We are on the Aster Leafhopper 'flyway' and normally get some Aster Yellows disease in our garlic. I've seen it in the past on a few bulbs as has Dr. Rosen. The big clue is a yellowing of the leaves but a firm, healthy-looking bulb when you pull the plant. No rotting or bad smell like with Fusarium or the other fungal soil diseases.
The Aster Leafhopper arrived from the south. It did not winter over. They showed up with the disease already in their bodies.
The bug scientist I've been talking with says he looks first for Aster Leafhoppers in grass/alfalfa mixes in the spring and then starts looking at sensitive crops (barley, wheat). He also watches for weather systems from LA, OK, TX, AR that bring rain to our area.
Who knows if this will happen again or not in our lifetimes. I plan to either use floating row covers and/or yellow sticky traps to monitor Aster Leafhoppers and move quickly with organic insecticides if necessary. My guess right now is that floating row covers might be smarter given the Leafhoppers seem to appear over night and everything I've read suggests disease transmission can happen very, very quickly.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 10:58AM
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MontyFarmer - Thanks for posting this synopsis from Chris. He has been spending a lot of time in discussion with others to get to the root of what occurred, and he will be owed a thank-you from midwest garlic growers.

I feel comfortable that I now know what happened, when it happened, where it happened, why it happened, what to look for in the future, and how to minimize damage to any future crops. I am working on a synopsis that starts from the beginning of what happened last spring through to what is known at this point, including links to educational materials and research documents. Still a few unanswered questions, but I am certain those questions will be resolved in time. Needless to say it will take a little while to get this synopsis done with my busy schedule and the holiday weekend coming up, but it will be finished as soon as possible and posted on GW and other gardening websites.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 6:15PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

In La Crosse, WI area, right by the Mississippi River..nothing i noticed...had about 100 plants and I believe (i'd have to look), i was pulling plants already in late June...just checked them in the garage..everything seems good. Been using some in cooking and everything is fine...Bulbs were small this year it seemed, due to no rain and very sandy soil.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 10:37PM
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silent green .... I am a garlic grower in MN as well..actually very close to Hutchinson where the garlicfest was. I had aprox 5000 bulbs planted and I suppose 1/4 was very small compared to prior years and many yellowed and some looking dark purple and they have a smell to them. I maybe have 500 bulbs that are seemingly fine "normal" to plant. Wondering when can I test for the GBN... I am just beginning to research this Aster Yellows more seriously...I really think we should somehow start up a Minnesota Garlic Growers Assn. I would definatley help with that!! Thanks for all your posts they are very helpful! Thanks to everyone its nice to be able to discuss these things with fellow Garlic Growers! Jill

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 4:23PM
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heirloomLindsay(3 - 5)

It took me a bit to get back to this thread. I wrote a newsletter post about Aster Yellows, it is on the Ecological Gardens website: http://ecologicalgardens.com/newsletter

@franktank232 - I harvested some garlic in Holmen this year, near LaCrosse and we had no sign of Aster Yellows as well.

@solientgreen Tom, thank you for speaking with me when this all happened. It really helps to hear from other growers. I think a garlic growers association is a good idea. In reply to the varieties, I can tell you it was hit or miss but I tracked the data - whether it means the varieties are more resistant or not, I think it's important to document.

Faired the best, some bulbs with zero signs of Aster Yellows
Siberian, Music, German Hardy, German White, Georgia Crystal

1/2 affected, 1/2 okay
Georgia Fire, Italian Red

Greatly affected, all very small:
Belarus, Polish White, Metechi

Here is a link that might be useful: Aster Yellows newsletter post from Ecological Gardens

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 5:06PM
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heirloomLindsay(3 - 5)

@at_the_garden_7 Jill you can test at the U of MN Plant Disease Clinic
495 Borlaug Hall
1991 Upper Buford Circle St. Paul, MN 55108

My understanding is you can still test now before winter. $50

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 5:24PM
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I grew garlic for the first time this year in the Twin Cities. I planted around 100 cloves with a mix of hard and softneck. Mostly hardneck and from a variety of sources but all from various farmers markets and none sold as seed garlic. I harvested in July and have it hanging in the basement. My leaves turned yellow at what seemed like the normal time and the garlic has been great and firm so it looks like I escaped any infection.

Just thought I'd add my results to the thread. As I mentioned, first time with garlic and only my second season with a garden so I can't compare to any past results.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 8:46PM
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Thanks to all for the recent posts. Sorry I have not responded but I have hit a very busy period and I have not been able to spend much time on GW. I will get back to this when time becomes available.

As an experiment I have garlic sprouting in pots from rooted cloves from a diseased yet viable bulb I found in one of the old garlic beds. Five out of nine cloves have sprouted above the soil line at the time of this post. The new shoots appear healthy and are around one inch tall at this point. I was curious how they would grow and when they would first show signs of the disease and what those signs would look like. It is quite possible that they will not show any signs of the disease until after they winter over. It is also very possible that no signs of the disease will appear until the plants bloom, as the disease observably affects the flowering parts of many types of plants (there are exceptions such as carrot foliage showing witches brooming effects). I will be taking a series of photos of the experiment and will be posting them online at some future date.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 12:21AM
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Wow! So sorry to hear about this news! It is sad whenever anyone's crop fails regardless as to what it is. We had a lot of problems w/ cucumbers this way in sc&sePA. Probably those leaf hoppers, coupled w/ the drought and heat of your area did your garlic in. Next yr, Lord willing, try covering the garlic crops w/ some sort of insect netting that would keep those critters out, yet let you water easily enough and let it airate enough. Best wishes for next yr. Do you grow these commercially or for your own enjoyment and consumption? If for commercial use, I'm extra sorry for the loss! I don't like much garlic myself, so I wouldn't grow it but I am concerned that maybe those critters would get to the onion sets the same way!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 4:24PM
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SmokyMist(7 East TN)

I am so very sorry to hear of this. I hope you can get back to growing your beautiful garlic next year !

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:06AM
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We are located about 25 miles west of LaCrosse, WI and had over 90% of our hardnecked garlics infested with aster yellows. No sign of any problem on elephant garlic or walking onion, chives, garlic chives, shallots, or onions. Celery and celeriac also appear to have been hard hit, but late planted carrots seem OK. Wondering now about our garlic seed stock that appears to be unaffected, and am thinking of dipping in hydrogen peroxide before planting. If the disease is systemic, maybe this is a wasted effort? Our blog has a posting about our garlic crop this year, some of which produced scapes, although most did not.

Here is a link that might be useful: GeoPathfinder Blog

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:44AM
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Walk of LaCrosse - It is my understanding that the disease is not soil-borne during any of its life cycle. It is transferred from infected plants to other plants via the aster leafhopper only. Any perennial plant that is not killed will remain infected, thus being a source next season for the disease to be transferred into as yet uninfected plants.

By this description your seed garlic is therefore infected and will remain infected. What it will do next season is anyone's guess at this point. I believe that it will grow sickly or stunted and will show some of the standard signs of infection at some point, probably when it blooms (if you let it bloom). It will probably die back early. It might be edible at best but doubtful it will ever be quality. Keeping quality will be questionable.

We will know everything we need to know after next season when growers report how their infected, replanted seed stock grew. My opinion is that infected seed stock is worthless and a waste of time to replant, but many are trying it so it will be a good experiment. I wish success, but have serious doubts.

Getting new clean seed stock locally is questionable as well. If a person acquires seed stock that was grown in states that were hit by the Aster yellows outbreak, you are risking purchasing infected stock even if the grower says it is clean. Many growers still are not aware of what happened this year and attribute small bulb size and growing problems to the goofy growing season we had. Getting any seed stock from commercial sources is probably impossible at this point.

Just this last weekend I inspected the crop of an Eagan, MN grower who said that her garlic was decent this year, just very small from the dry summer. It was infected. Much of it was stinky and discoloring. She says she is going to use it for seed stock anyway. Not much choice at this point.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:38PM
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I grow about 500 bulbs a year for many years but I have only been in south east Iowa for 4 seasons. mine grew normal all season and seemed fine at harvest but I just opened the bulbs to sort and plant them in the last few weeks and found that there is a distinct smell of cooked garlic to them and the largest of my 10 varieties are affected by something that is causing a light brown discoloration under the skin.I only know this because the skins were loose and cracked off many of the toes when I opened them. those bulbs seem soft and when cooked are fibrous and pithy. I only heard of the northern areas problems when I began to study these symptoms. I have never had any trouble with garlic in 30 years of growing garlic in new york state. My problems may have to do with storage and growing in a new climate...I hope.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2012 at 1:34AM
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ricjo22, sorry to hear of your problems. Some seed garlic that I had acquired was no good by planting time, and I have been hearing from other people in Minnesota that their seed garlic has dry-rotted as well.

Lots of problems for the Minnesota garlic industry this year that will be continuing into at least the next year. At this point I have no source of supply in the United States that I trust 100 percent. I am rebuilding my stock from some personal connections that I have judged to be safe, and I will have my garlic tested next summer. If any tests turn up positive I will plow under my crop and quit growing garlic.

The thing is that there are quite a few garlic diseases out there, so testing is ultimately the only way to know for sure what has happened to your garlic. I have my suspicions but no proof to back up those suspicions.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 12:50AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

As I had mentioned above, some of my garlic appeared to be healthy, so I was hopeful that there might still be some good stock. I allowed it to cure as long as possible, so that any problems would have time to become visible.

Well, I cracked open many of the best bulbs this week, and all show signs of damage. There was rot, discoloration, and even cloves that appeared good had an abnormal aroma. Because I can't risk infecting new stock, it will all be destroyed. Not even sure if it is even worth dehydrating. That is really unfortunate, because my two favorite garlics - "Rons Single Center" (a.k.a. Trueheart) and "Special Idaho" - are heirlooms, and not easily replaced.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 1:05AM
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I planted 12 cloves of healthy but untested garlic tonight (Halloween moon)for future seed stock . Planted in my small high tunnel so it will have extra protection in the spring.
we shall see. The rest of the best was chopped and dehydrated. Not what I like but better than nothing. The dehydrated came out all right at least for soup. If nothing else I have vampire deterrent as not one came to my door for trick or treat.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 2:26AM
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Sorry that last post looks like I was making light of a serious situation. Many friends have been affected. and while I don't mind the post, I think it rather inappropriate for this forum at this time. Again I apologize to all.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 10:32AM
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Curt...I thought the vampire comment was funny. And I lost all my crop, my first year in business. I didn't even dehydrate any as the only head I used was not tasty enough to make any amount of processing worthwhile. At least the stuff was good for something! Thanks for the levity. =)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 2:26PM
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Hey Curt, the day we can not find humor in our circumstances is the day we are in serious trouble. I have gone through all the stages regarding this disaster: dismay, shock, denial, anger, self-pity, willful ignorance, acceptance, and finally the hope of what the future can bring. I am at the point where I can joke about it now, although my humor is still a bit dark. The promise of another growing season always offers new hope, renewed interest, and the fading memories of past failure.

It has been hard, though, dealing with the last couple of weeks. I had intended to be absolutely buried in the process of planting tens of thousands of garlic cloves at this time. Instead I got what little seed garlic I have acquired planted in five hours over two days. Sounds crazy but I miss the pressure of the fall garlic planting period. It would have been another good fall this year to get in twenty or thirty thousand. I know I could have done it, too...

I feel bad for folks like zeedman who were cultivating rare varieties. They are sustaining losses that affect all gardeners whether they know it or not. The loss of diversity affects us all in the greater context. All I lost was a business opportunity - small change compared to the potential loss of biodiversity.

I have been informally inspecting seed garlic of growers I have been in contact with and I would estimate that 75 percent of what I have seen is bad. I can see it, I can feel it, I can smell it. I suspect that a lot of infected garlic is being traded online as well. Modern technology is assisting in the spread of infected garlic because many folks simply do not have the experience to know that they have bad seed stock or have received bad seed stock in trade.

I did not harvest any of my garlic - I let it sit in the beds. At this time much of this infected garlic is sprouting. I do not want any of this infected garlic to grow next season so I have been tilling the old beds. If they sprout en masse next spring I will spray them with herbicide if I have to. I have no intention of letting any of this infected garlic grow because it will simply be a source in which to infect my new clean garlic. I did leave one bed of infected garlic that is isolated so I can observe and experiment. I have some theories that I would like to prove or disprove. Those plants will be sprayed and netted next spring so that the leaf hoppers can not successfully feed on them and spread the disease.

BTW there are now a decent number of papers, reports, and articles available online regarding what happened in 2012. This is a good thing, and now I feel that anyone who wants to know what happened and learn how to minimize any future impact can find the information and answers they seek. It is my opinion that if we can make it through next year we will be safe for possibly another half a century. This is assuming that the other scourge, GBN, does not become the "Dutch Elm Disease" of the gourmet garlic industry. I still feel that GBN is a much greater threat than aster Yellows.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 10:27PM
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I too am sorry to hear about your garlic loss. I grow garlic for fun here in the Dayton, Oh area and did indead see the same symtoms on my 1600 bulbs. I have been thinking that my issues were caused by garlic bloat nematode, but after reading this thread I am beginning to believe that I also was impacted by yellow aster disease. My garlic did start to die down just as it was producing scapes and was completely defoliated by the time I was able to harvest smaller than normal bulbs (1 1/4" vs 1 1/2" - 1 3/4"). We had a very dry and hot summer this year and we did see leaf tips begin to yellow in latter April/early May as reported by others.

As far as garlic bloat nematode is concerned. I have treated my garlic cloves by heating them to 100 degrees for 40 minutes and then 120 degrees for another 20 minutes. Then putting them overnight in fish emulsion/sea weed/baking soda diluted in water. I planted them in the beds the next morning and put 2 tbls of shrimp shell meal in each hole before closing. The shrimp shell meal has chitin in it and cause microbial action to eat the chitin. It turns out that nematodes skins are mostly chitin so the microbes produced by the shrimp shell meal will also eat the nematodes. We shall see next spring if this process has actually improved the garlic bloat nematode problem.

I am very interested in treatment possibilities for yellow aster disease.

Thanks for the info and this thread. Good luck to all.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 12:17PM
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Folks, I forgot to mention my crop success stats. I planted 1600 cloves of 23 varieties in October 2011. I lost 25% to what looked like garlic bloat nematode. The rocaboles were hardest hit. I was able sell 700 bulbs locally and had 985 cloves of 14 varieties to plant on Nov 1st. I lost probably 600 bulbs to garlic bloat nematode and aster yellows.

So, I am still afloat with some of my varieties in the ground. I checked a couple of the planted cloves last week-end and noted that all had 3/8" root growth but no evidence of sprouting. So the heat treatment at least did not kill the garlic :)

I beleave that heat treatment of the clove seed stock and shrimp/crab shell meal is the only way to salvage a garden infected with garlic bloat nematode. Search on shrimp shell meal for more information on this.

Good luck to all.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 12:50PM
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I'm not in prime garlic growing territory so this will just be some suggestions of things that can be done to reduce future infections.

1. Steam sterilization of soil infected with garlic bloat nematodes might be a way to eradicate this pest in the soil. It is worth investigating.

2. Heat treating might be a way to eliminate nematodes in infected bulbs. This method is pretty basic to eliminating a lot of diseases in seed, sweet potatoes, etc. Temperatures of 120F sustained for about 30 minutes will kill most microorganisms while leaving most plant tissue unharmed. This would be worth some experiments.

3. Covering with floating row covers should be a viable way to protect plants from leafhoppers. It will be expensive. Use plenty of hoops and stakes to hold it in place. I've been through this with woven plastic mulch a few times and 9/10ths of the battle is installing it right in the first place.

4. The leafhoppers will be nearly impossible to control with insecticides. When they come through an area, they usually overwhelm any insecticides.

5. There are possibilities for introgressing traits from other allium species for resistance to the virus. This will take years of research to achieve results.

6. There is a good chance that GMO methods could be used to convert existing varities into tolerant crops. Think carefully about this, it is bound to come up for discussion. I am not advocating it, just encouraging folks to think it through before it becomes an issue.


    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 1:19PM
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Thanks for the new comments and input. I have not had time to dwell on this subject lately but will get back into it after the holidays. I just want folks to know that I read all new posts to the thread and I welcome any private correspondence as well if that method is preferred.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 12:02AM
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News from the Dayton area. I checked my garlic yesterday, and much of it is beginning to sprout. Roots are now 5-6 inches long. Heat treatment definately did not kill the garlic :)
On the submject of preparing the garlic beds to remove GBN, I was reading that, in addition to shrimp shell meal, worm castings are high in chitin and therefore will cause mictobial action to create the enzyme chitinas (sp?) which is deadly to nematodes and some forms of fungus. I have already gotten the beds planted this year, so I plan to incorporate worm castings and shrimp shell meal in the bed prep next fall.

Folks let me know if you try any of these treatments for GBN and how they work out. Remember, even if the garden site if freed of GBN, you still need to heat treat the garlic cloves to make sure there is no GBN lurking there too.

- Harry

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 3:08PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Wow. I had tried to discuss this issue on the MN gardening forum here but there was little talk, unlike here.

I am 45 min north of Minneapolis. I had mixed results on my garlic. I lost most of the hardnecks but not many of the softnecks. I didn't notice a problem until around scape time- mid June. Tips were yellow and late growth wa minimal. I had been so worried all winter because of the lack of snow, plus lack of water when I planted!
The next thing I saw was in pulling some bulbs they were small and more purple than normal. I didn't notice the smell for a little while.
At this point in the year we were still selling all this garlic at market. I only sold the medium to large bulbs but in the first couple weeks probably sold infected bulbs for eating.
I dried my garlic in the basement and it stunk like crazy. I started to know something was wrong besides just a poor size for the season. At the garlic festival I heard about the disease. At that point I no longer sold any garlic and talked about it at market. Other vendors wondered what to do with so much yucky garlic. They wanted to still sell some for eating but I felt it stunk.

So at planting time I looked over the good stuff I saved again very critically. I culled anything not right and sniffed all of them.
I had over 1000 decent cloves. I soaked all of them in Vodka and alcohol and then baking soda before planting. I kept the softnecks separate from the hardnecks. So I am just hoping the crop is ok in spring!

Simonetti did best of all.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 10:50AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

Thank you for this informative thread and the photos. I am going to maintain a closed crop of garlic to avoid introduction of disease.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 11:26AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Thought I'd resurrect this thread for updates. To those who grew garlic this year in the infected areas, did the aster yellows return?

I am also curious if some gardeners have seen or had trouble with Garlic Bloat Nematode. It seems to be spreading rapidly, mostly by the selling/trading of infected stock. It can even be spread by walking in infected soil, then carrying the nematodes elsewhere on you shoes - Yikes!!! Cornell University is spearheading an information & testing program, for those who might want more info.

No garlic harvest for me this year. I've spent the summer repeatedly turning the soil over in my main plot, in an effort to kill any perennial weeds which might be harboring the aster yellows organism. It will remain bare ground until I plant this Fall. Fortunately, I was able to find replacement stock for most of the varieties I lost, and even talked myself into trying a few new ones.

If this Fall's garlic planting does well, though, that will (probably) be the last new garlic stock I intend to acquire. Until there is a garlic certification & testing program, it is risky introducing new varieties into a healthy collection, even from commercial sources.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 4:59PM
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Doing well here all things considered. No GBN, which is a far greater concern for me than aster yellows. GBN-infected land is showing up in several areas of Minnesota, and I want nothing to do with it.

I am afraid that I too do not trust bulb/seed clove suppliers anywhere because there is no standardized testing being done, so I am growing out new acquisitions using only disease-free bulbils. Will take longer but I feel it is the only safe way for me to proceed. These are my last new acquisitions that will be grown here, from now on new stock will be quarantined and planted off-site, and will be tested and proven to be disease free before it goes into my inventory.

I made an inventory list and as of right now I have approximately 8000 high quality disease-free cloves, rounds, and bulbils of 40 varieties for fall planting season. This inventory is due to my recovery efforts but also due to the assistance of a few key people, of whom I am very grateful. It will take a few years to fully recover to where I was expecting to be in 2012 but so be it - thankfully this is not a primary source of income for me anyway.

Even though I will not need the land for several years, I am still proceeding with my original schedule of getting more area prepped for garlic planting. My goal now is to continue to ramp up until I get to 20,000 marketable bulbs plus seed stock. Got my mojo back, am going for broke this time...


    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 9:46PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Good to hear that the recovery is going well, Tom. I too am cautiously optimistic... with a few reservations.

Many of the garlics that I will be growing are artichoke types, so bulbils are out of the question. I toyed with the idea of quarantining stock too, but since I have access to other good land, I'm gambling on success. If GBN shows up in any of my stock, that plot will be returned to lawn grass.

Something disturbing is the size of the garlic bulbs I've already received, or been promised. This ranges from New York, to Kansas, to New Mexico - all had small bulbs this year. All the bulbs received thus far appear to be healthy, though.

I visited SSE's Heritage Farm over the Labor Day weekend, and was surprised to find them selling quite a few varieties of garlic - some even by the pound. After the statement they made on their website re: phytoplasma, I didn't think they would be selling any this year. The bulbs all looked healthy, although they too were smaller than they should be.

Incidentally, SSE had a backup to their garlic preservation collection in New Mexico, under the care of Jeff Nekola. They are trying to restore their working collection from that. That's really good news; it would have been a terrible loss of garlic diversity had their collection been irretrievably lost. Hopefully some of the rare varieties I obtained from them in the past will reappear in future Yearbooks.

I'm starving for home-grown garlic, and was able to get a few of my favorite varieties in bulk, so I will be putting in more than usual this Fall - about 500 plants. This will also be my first large-scale planting of walking onions, with the intent of making dehydrated minced onions from the bulbs. I'll be planting both divided shoots from the mother bulbs, and bulbils, to compare the size & yield between the two methods.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 8:25AM
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Forgot to mention previously that the annual Minnesota Garlic Festival in Hutchinson on August 09 appeared to be a wonderful success this year, which was surprising to many people. More garlic was available than I ever expected to see. I did see two vendors that were offering some rather sickly-looking garlic but otherwise the product being offered looked wonderful. There was some really good garlic available so I bought some for canning and fresh eating. Many of the long-time vendors did not attend, I know of several that were wiped out last year. Some are done - quit the business because of the outbreak last year, some quit because their land is infected with GBN, and some are rebuilding their stock.

The festival has a policy stating that all vendors must test their product and it must be proven free of GBN in order to be able to sell there. That is great but it is not tight - tests can be manipulated if someone wished to act in an unscrupulous manner. There is no testing required for phytoplasma or other diseases - at some point it simply becomes impractical and not cost effective. GBN is the biggest threat anyway, aster yellows was a once in a lifetime occurrence IMO.

I have some Artichoke types but I generally shy away from softnecks because under my growing conditions most of those plants are weakly bolting and create bulbils in various locations - at the top of the the bulbs in the wrappers, just above the bulbs, halfway up the pseudostem, etc. Makes for some unsightly product. I focus instead on hardnecks, Rocamboles in particular. To me they are the best and are the focus of my attention (although I think most growers around here focus on growing Porcelains). Rokes are very winter-hardy plants. Their clove size, ease of peeling, flavor, and roasting attributes put them in high demand, even if they do not have the best storage attributes. They keep reasonably well but peak quality diminishes rather quickly (typical of all hardnecks, really). Like so many other fruits and vegetables they must be enjoyed and appreciated while "in season".

I too have noticed a general decline in size of what is being grown and offered out there. It was a goofy growing season in many parts of the U.S., wondering if that is the reason. I also suspect that a lot of bulb/clove stock is infected with viruses which can affect bulb quality and size, especially when combined with the stresses of a poor growing season. IMO people would be wise to break the chain and replace their entire stock by planting bulbils every five years or so, at least with types that produce bulbils. Not a complete solution but it is helpful. Planting from true seed would be best. I hope to see that option someday soon, but commercial true seed is probably at least a decade away.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 12:34PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"The festival has a policy stating that all vendors must test their product and it must be proven free of GBN in order to be able to sell there."

Who performs the testing? Private labs? Does Minnesota have state-sponsored testing? I hope to see the USDA & state extension offices become more active in fighting GBN. It would be in everyone's best interest if that testing is made available & affordable to gardeners and collectors as well, since some of those are unwittingly spreading the organism through trades. I am no fan of Federal intervention in commerce, but since infected stock is being sold across state lines, this is a case where a USDA "GBN free" certification program should be initiated for all garlic sold as seed stock.

"I have some Artichoke types but I generally shy away from softnecks because under my growing conditions most of those plants are weakly bolting and create bulbils in various locations - at the top of the the bulbs in the wrappers, just above the bulbs, halfway up the pseudostem, etc."

While I have read of this behavior, mine have only rarely produced stem bulbils. I wish that was a more frequent occurrence, it would offer some hope of salvaging a variety, should GBN infect the bulb. It is the artichoke & other softneck garlics which are most at risk from the spread of GBN; my fear is that we could lose some heirloom softnecks completely before this infestation has been dealt with.

"I too have noticed a general decline in size of what is being grown and offered out there. It was a goofy growing season in many parts of the U.S., wondering if that is the reason. I also suspect that a lot of bulb/clove stock is infected with viruses which can affect bulb quality and size, especially when combined with the stresses of a poor growing season. IMO people would be wise to break the chain and replace their entire stock by planting bulbils every five years or so, at least with types that produce bulbils. Not a complete solution but it is helpful."

On that topic... correct me if I am wrong, Tom, but the use of bulbils as planting stock would only offer protection against GBN and other soil-borne organisms. Diseases tend to be systemic, and any part of the plant - bulbils included - would be infected. I have read comments from several garlic growers who believe that if they grow bulbils from stock infected with aster yellows, that the resultant crop would be free of the disease. It would be wonderful if that were true, but I doubt that would be an effective remedy.

I do believe that hardneck garlic offered as seed stock (both commercially & through trades) should be more available in the form of bulbils. When I again offer garlic through SSE, I will make a statement explaining the threat of GBN, and encouraging more growers to offer bulbils. I will be doing so for all of my hardnecks.

Spreading knowledge to other gardeners is key to getting a handle on GBN... my sincere thanks, Tom, for bringing this to our attention. It sure opened my eyes, especially as I begin to rebuild & expand my collection.

I hope the "goofy season" is the reason for the predominance of small bulbs this year. Several of the growers that I obtained stock from ascribe to this theory, and I hope they are right. Looking back, I had several years with small bulbs, followed by years where bulbs grown from that smaller stock returned to their full size. Obviously, I hope that will happen with the stock I am planting now. It seems odd, though, to see this phenomenon occur on a national level. I don't necessarily suspect a virus, but that is a possibility... and if true, it might be yet another threat that is not being tested for. If there was one good thing about the aster yellows outbreak, it was that it generated awareness of just how fragile our garlic industry really is. Any vegetable which owes its continued existence to vegetative propagation is vulnerable to disease buildup... think Irish potatoes.

" I focus instead on hardnecks, Rocamboles in particular. To me they are the best and are the focus of my attention (although I think most growers around here focus on growing Porcelains). Rokes are very winter-hardy plants. Their clove size, ease of peeling, flavor, and roasting attributes put them in high demand, even if they do not have the best storage attributes."

Rocamboles are my favorite hardnecks as well. They tend to have larger bulbs than my porcelain garlics; one of them, "Special Idaho", had bulbs almost as large as my artichoke types. Additionally - and importantly - rocamboles also have especially large bulbils. Those of "Special Idaho" were often marble size. This means that it is realistic to propagate rocamboles from bulbils in a short time frame. I had been meaning to test that large-scale in 2012, but aster yellows put a halt to that. Sadfly, I have been unable to find sources for some of the rocamboles I lost... including "Special Idaho" and "Chrysalis Purple".

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 6:19PM
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Festival testing for GBN is through the University of Minnesota. The information is accessible on the festival's Vendor Application Page as well as through the University's Plant Disease Clinic website. Testing is not specific to the event - anyone can submit samples for testing but the cost is a bit high for a small grower (samples must be hand delivered or shipped overnight, adding to expense). I do believe they will test for aster yellows now too, but that test is even more expensive. I intend on doing both yearly as a cost of doing business - I think it will ultimately be beneficial as a sales tool. I both want and need to know this information anyway, for personal reasons if nothing else.

I have been emailing seed garlic vendors, both in Minnesota and out of state, asking whether they are testing their stock or if they guarantee their stock to be disease free. None of them were testing their stock, yet all of them claim that their stock is disease free. None would offer any guarantee or warranty backing up their product, other than the vague "satisfaction guaranteed upon receipt". Some of them did not even know what the heck I was talking about. This is a very, very bad thing. Lots of amateurish vendors out there...

Regarding the occurrence here of weakly bolting softneck varieties, I also have a softneck variety this season where approximately half the plants became hardneck by producing small scapes and clusters of (assumed to be) viable bulbils. I have heard of this occurring but have never seen it before. Could certainly have been a planting mistake on my part but I am very careful to avoid such errors occurring. Am saving all for replanting, will see what happens next year but seasonal variables could produce different results. This stuff is what I find very interesting about growing garlic in Minnesota.

Also, the majority of the bulbils of two large-bulbil Rocambole varieties that I planted last fall grew into rounds this year (some up to almost golf ball-size) and produced no scape, while the rest developed the more typical small three- and four- clove bulbs along with small scapes and bulbil clusters. This is strange for the simple reason that those two varieties, when I have planted from bulbils, have never produced so much as a single round for me in 15 years of planting those two varieties.

Based on your concerns with losing softneck varieties to GBN, you are in effect saying that the softneck bulbil production that occurs here could be a beneficial thing. Have not looked at it that way before, could be a good thing to grow out softnecks just for selling the bulbils as clean "seed" stock. I have my own focus, does not interest me too much but might be a good business opportunity for somebody with similar growing conditions as mine.

Regarding disease transfer into bulbils: Yes, I was mainly talking about GBN and other soil-borne issues. I too would expect aster yellows and viruses to transfer into the bulbils but other knowledgeable people I have talked to about this do not necessarily agree. Only way to know for certain is to grow known infected stock and harvest the bulbils for testing. This would work for testing for viruses, etc. but I do not know of anyone who had aster yellows-infected stock in which the sick plants produced viable bulbils. My infected plants all died before scape production even occurred. Not much information about this subject out there...

I also lost varieties I have not been able to recover yet. I will keep an eye out for them, but I have enough new varieties to focus on for a while. Takes a few years to acclimate varieties to my climate and soil conditions in order for bulbs to size up. Just a thought - maybe that is why we have been noticing smaller sizes - the recent upsurge in popularity is causing garlic to go all over the place via purchase and trading, the stock is not getting the opportunity to properly acclimate and size up before it gets sent off to someplace else.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 1:31AM
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Clearly, from now on no garlic is ever going to enter my garden. I warned my collaborators to save some heads for planting next month. Should I also stop buying onion sets?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 9:49AM
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glib, I understand where you are coming from but I do think your position to be a bit on the extreme side. I lost my entire crop of 10,000 garlic bulbs last year. That was a tough thing to deal with, but I am now fully informed as to how and why it happened. As a result of learning about that disease I am now very knowledgeable of all garlic diseases, as well as allium diseases in general. As such I have a high comfort level but that comfort level has to be supported by my very high demands and expectations of vendors and traders. Even so, at this point in time I have no hesitation in acquiring garlic seed stock in the form of bulbils from anyone, anywhere (subject to change). I do admit that at present there are very few vendors anywhere in the United States or Canada from whom I would even consider purchasing bulb/seed clove stock, but that is just me and how I feel right now. My opinions may change in the future...

Regarding plant diseases in general, aside from knowledge I also rely on my own sensory inspection of any planting stock of any kind as the ultimate last defense against planting diseased stock, whatever vegetable or fruit it may be. (For example, if something does not look healthy or smells bad, then for heaven's sake do not plant it!) Educate and inform yourself, do research, then make decisions based on your knowledge, not based on fear. :)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:39PM
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Truth be told, I never bought garlic anyway, except when I worked out of the country for 8 months several years ago. I have always used my own garlic for seed. In my opinion garlic adapts to a site and gets bigger over time. But now I will pay attention.

I also grow everything from seed, similarly to avoid importing disease. But garlic is surprising. I never had a problem, in any soil and with any Michigan season.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 9:04PM
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I'm a new wannabe garlic grower. I just came across this forum thread. I realize it's a little old, but I really appreciate all the good information presented.

Would you have any interest in getting together and sharing some knowledge? Maybe, I could come help you harvest for a day and pick your brain as we work. I'm located in Minneapolis. 541-515-4429


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:43PM
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