Garlic is a staple ingredient in many dishes, and you can find it in kitchens all around the globe. So, it’s no wonder that lots of people grow it in their gardens each year. One problem you might encounter as a garlic grower, however, is drooping plants. Drooping is a common problem with garlic. So, maybe you’re wondering why your garlic plants keep falling over?
Garlic plants normally fall over close to harvest time. If they start to droop at any other part of their growth cycle, there may be a deficiency of nutrients, water, or sunlight; a pest problem; or recent severe weather may have affected the garlic.
If your garlic is falling over and harvest time is still far away, you must address the problem. Drooping garlic is trying to tell you something, and if you don’t investigate, you might lose your whole crop. So below, we’ll look at 7 things that might cause garlic to fall over.
Reasons Why Your Garlic Falls Over – with Fixes
If your garlic is falling over, this could be because it’s close to harvest time. But, if it’s falling over and harvest time is a long way off, you need to investigate the cause. Sometimes, garlic will fall over if it’s over or under-watered or if it has a nutrient deficiency.
If you want to find out exactly why your garlic is falling over, take a look at these 7 reasons below.
Reason #1: Harvest Time
If your garlic is falling over and harvest time is close by, don’t worry it’s completely normal for garlic to droop when it’s ready to harvest. This is one of the main signs that your garlic is ready to come out of the ground.
Harvest Time Tips
If you don’t know what date you planted your garlic, remove one bulb from the soil. If the bulb is well-developed with a thick, papery outer skin, your garlic is probably falling over because it’s time to harvest. But, if the bulb isn’t ready, your garlic is drooping because of something else.
Reason #2: Severe Weather
If you have a bout of unexpected, severe weather, this can wreak havoc in your vegetable garden. Excessive amounts of wind and rain can make your garlic fall over. Your garlic will usually recover from this unaided once the bad weather has passed.
Severe Weather Tips
Sometimes severe weather will take you by surprise. But, if you know there’s a storm on the way, take steps to protect your garlic. Put up some outdoor umbrellas or give them an emergency, temporary covering such as tarpaulin or plastic sheeting.
Reason #3: Poor Nutrition
Garlic plants need lots of food, so they might fall over if they lack nutrients. When they’re malnourished, they’ll also have yellowing leaves, and they’ll look generally unhealthy.
If you’ve ruled out over and under watering as the cause of drooping, give your garlic some extra nutrition. You can do this with liquid fertilizer or by adding a layer of compost mulch to the soil.
Poor Nutrition Tip
A few weeks before you plant your garlic add manure or fertilizer to the earth. Lots of growers also like to give their garlic a nitrogen-rich food in March or April. But, you must reduce the nitrogen after April because too much may stunt bulb growth.
To increase your garlic’s nutrition, make sure weeds don’t grow in the area. Garlic doesn’t cope well with competitors, and weeds will steal all the nutrients away. A layer of mulch around your plants will not only fertilize your garlic, but it will also help to keep weeds at bay.
Reason #4: Pests or Illness
Garlic plants are robust, and they don’t suffer from many pests and illnesses. In fact, garlic is generally a pest-repellent plant. But they are vulnerable to some diseases and infestations. So, if your garlic is falling over, this could be a sign of illness.
Common garlic pests and illnesses include rust, white rot, and a selection of insects including mites, maggots, and thrips.
White Rot is particularly bad because it lives in the soil, and it’s hard to get rid of it once your soil is contaminated.
Pests and Illnesses Tips
If your garlic is showing signs of illness, dig up one of the bulbs to investigate, because if you want to treat the illness or infestation, you need to identify it first.
Some infestations such as aphids are easy to identify and treat with topical applications.
But some fungal conditions, such as root rot, are more severe, and you may have to remove plants with this condition.
Rust isn’t the traditional iron oxide (at least not in this case). Instead, it’s when your garlic leaves get red spots on them due to how the garlic was watered. It’s more common with overhead watering. So, if you’re dealing with rust, the best way to prevent it in the month before harvest is to switch to drip irrigation going forward.
The best way to prevent fungal infections is by avoiding overwatering and sticking to a crop rotation plan.
Reason #5: Poor Location
Garlic plants need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. They prefer fertile, well-draining, neutral to slightly acidic soil (between pH 6 – 7). Garlic plants are pretty hardy overall, but if something in their environment isn’t quite right, this can make them fall over.
Poor Location Tips
Before you plant your garlic, choose the area wisely. Make sure the location gets enough sunlight and test the soil to make sure it’s not too alkaline. This is all good in hindsight, but if you realize that there’s a problem with your garlic’s location after planting, you may have to transplant them if they keep falling over.
Reason #6: Underwatering
Garlic plants can fall over when they aren’t getting enough water. Without water, they can’t absorb nutrients from the earth, and eventually, they’ll die.
Often with under watering, the leaves will turn yellow and feel dry and crispy. However, wilting is also a sign of overwatering. So, before you give your drooping garlic more water, make sure you haven’t overwatered it.
Under Watering Tips
To find out if your garlic is over or underwatered, feel its leaves and soil. If the soil is dry and the leaves are crispy, this would usually indicate dehydration. However, if the earth is wet and the leaves are soft, this would suggest overwatering.
If your plants are dehydrated, the first thing to do is give them a good soak to hydrate them again and water them more regularly in the future. Your garlic should start to stand upright again once they’ve had a good drink.
Reason #7: Overwatering
Sometimes garlic will fall over when it’s had too much water. When there’s too much moisture in the earth, your garlic can’t absorb oxygen, and it can suffocate and die. Overwatering can potentially cause lots of other problems, such as fungal and bacterial infestations. These can severely damage your garlic’s roots and bulbs.
As well as wilting, signs of overwatering include yellowing foliage with brown edges and edema spots. These are little white blisters created by excess water breaking out from the leaves.
Over Watering Tips
If your garlic is overwatered, the first thing you must do is let the earth dry out before you give your garlic a drink again. And give your garlic less water in the future. If you have lots of rainfall, don’t give your garlic a drink until the earth has dried out. In some cases, this could be up to a week or more.
Garlic is usually ready to harvest from June through August. It’s ready when the tops will yellow, start to droop, and then the garlic will fall over.
To find out if your garlic is ready, dig up one bulb first. If it’s well-developed with thick, papery skin, it’s time to harvest. But, if the skin is thin and breaks easily, the garlic isn’t ready, so you need to leave them a while longer.
Generally speaking, don’t leave your garlic too long, because once they’re mature, the bulbs will split underground and become contaminated with soil. If the leaves of your garlic plant are dry and crispy, this is a sign that you’ve left your garlic too long.
However, in some areas, garlic can stay in the ground for a long time, if it’s cool or cold enough. We’ve left garlic in the ground as long as through the next winter, and it’s been fine. Sometimes, it’s easier to let it “store” there than bring it inside!
When you remove the garlic from the earth, don’t just pull them up by hand. It’s better to ease them out gently with a small gardening fork to prevent any damage. Once you’ve harvested your garlic, you need to dry it out before you store it.
Best Products to Make Growing and Storing Garlic Easier
When you’re growing garlic, sometimes the right tool makes a huge difference. Here are a few tools that make life easier. All of these links take you to Amazon.
Soil pH testing kits:
- Test strips kit (click here to see the best pricing) help you know if your soil is too acidic or basic to grow garlic (or other plants). Test strips are usually more reliable than a meter, though the meters are getting better and more reliable.
- pH meters are a great option if you have damp or moist soil and you don’t want to be throwing away test strip papers all the time.
Stop wondering if your garlic is being over or underwatered by hand – upgrade your garden to use drip irrigation. This drip irrigation starter kit on Amazon will get you started at not only keeping your garlic perfectly watered but also helping you be more water-wise (an important gardening consideration here in Utah!).
- If you don’t have chickens and your garlic is in need of nitrogen, then this 14-0-0 nitrogen-rich garden fertilizer will be the way to go. Just be sure to do a soil test beforehand with your local agricultural extension to make sure all you need is the nitrogen in your soil. Or, you know – you could get chickens and let them loose.
- If your soil needs a more general fertilizer, this 20-20-20 water-soluble all-purpose fertilizer could be the way to go.
Stop ripping garlic out of the soil and losing bulbs. This gardening fork is perfect for weeding, digging, planting, and harvesting garlic. Click here to see the best price options on Amazon – and then see what size works best for you. If you’ve got a bad back, you may want the long-handled option so you can garden without getting on your hands and knees!
- While hanging herbs and garlic up to dry is awesome, sometimes it’s nicer to keep them all contained in a mesh drying bag so that you don’t have to worry about who’s getting into your drying herbs. This drying mesh on Amazon has options: you can get anywhere from 2 to 8 layers so that you can dry as many herbs as you need to.
Overall, garlic is a hardy plant, so if it’s falling over, this can mean there’s something wrong with its environment or its nutrition uptake. Make sure your garlic isn’t getting too much or too little water and that its nutrition levels are good.
And remember, it’s normal for garlic to fall over when it’s close to harvest time. And the best way to check if garlic is harvest-ready is to look at one of the bulbs.
Ready for more garlic tips or need more garlic questions answered? Be sure to read my complete guide to garlic right here: Growing and Storing Garlic: A Complete Guide.
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Beware Signs of White Rot in Garlic and Other Allium Crops.” University of Idaho Extension Publications and Multimedia, 2019, www.extension.uidaho.edu/publishing/html/BUL955-Beware-Signs-of-White-Rot-in-Garlic-and-Other-Allium-Crops.aspx.
- “Common Onion and Garlic Pests.” Utah State University, extension.usu.edu/pests/ipm/notes_ag/veg-list-onion-garlic. Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.
- “Garlic in the Garden.” Utah State University, 18 Oct. 2021, extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/research/garlic-in-the-garden.
- “How to Grow Garlic.” BBC Gardeners World Magazine, 6 July 2021, www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-grow-garlic.
- Mahr, Susan. “Garlic, Allium Sativum.” Wisconsin Horticulture, 2019, hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/garlic-allium-sativum.
- Moyer, Michelle. “Diseases of Garlic: Various Pests.” Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Nov. 2006, plantclinic.cornell.edu/factsheets/garlicdiseases.pdf.