It happened just about overnight, a few weeks ago. One day I had perfectly healthy, sturdy garlic shoots: the next day the foliage was a bilious shade of orange. On closer inspection, it was covered in little raised bumps and pustules the exact same shade as rusty metal. There are few diseases more easily identifiable.
I’m reliably informed by Wikipedia that there are 7000 species of rust. I can entirely believe it. It’s one of the most common fungal diseases you can get in the veg garden, or indeed anywhere in the garden: I’ve had rust on my hollyhocks too, and it also affects pelargoniums, mint, lawns, fuchsias and pear trees (this last with the rather eccentric habit of spending part of its lifecycle on juniper bushes – so you need both plants for it to flourish).
On the plus side, each type of rust is very, very specialised. So I can’t blame the hollyhocks for infecting my garlic: hollyhock rust (Puccinia malvacearum) only likes hollyhocks. This is garlic rust, Puccinia allii, and it mainly likes leeks and garlic (it can also infect onions, but for some unexplained reason chooses not to in the UK: perhaps it just finds garlic tastier. All I know is that my onion crops are growing blithely alongside the blighted garlic, their normal healthy shade of dark green). [read more…]