Monday, April 8, 2013

Get rid of garlic mustard, now

Early spring is a great time to go after your local garlic mustard infestation. Garlic mustard is an invasive herb spreading rapidly through Midwestern landscapes and beyond. Its a leafy green monster crowding out native wildflowers by shading them out and by poisoning them, a chemical attack on nearby plants called allelopathy.

Garlic mustard in April. Now is the time to stop the spread, before flower stalks rise.

Garlic mustard uprooted using a spade. The soil was batted off the roots.

Most people don't have limitless time and energy to go after invasive plants so we recommend going after quantity, not quality.

How to go about it:
  • We suggest your goal during early spring is, first, to stop the plants from flowering, second, to eliminate plants.
  • Use a spade or weed fork, push it into the soil near the base of the plant to dig out or cut off the tap roots a few inches below the surface, lever the plant upward and flop it over upside down beside its hole. Bat the root ball with the tool to knock off soil, then leave it upside down to dry out.
  • Don't make perfect the enemy of good enough, do damage to as many plants as you can, don't invest a lot of time in getting every last bit of one plant if you can use that effort in getting most of five other plants. It will take more than one outing and more than one season to get rid of garlic mustard. Get recovering plants next time out. 
  • Go after outlier plants first--stop the spread. Go after the core of the infestation after you stop the spread.
  • Get the plants before they flower (during late March through April in Ohio). Don't let them flower, go to seed, grow the problem!
What if I have little time and the flowers are already opening before I can get to it?
  • You can cut off dozens of plants in minutes. Use a weed-cutter; a manual scythe, a weed-whacker, whatever, to knock the top off of the plants, make it fun. Yes, the plants will recover and try again to flower, and you can go knock off the top of the plants again later in the season.
I have lots of time and energy to devote to invasive garlic mustard control, what should I do?
  • OK, you have time, energy, and a strong back: Pull out each plant by the roots. If your soil is loose and moist, most plants and clusters of plants will pull out, tap roots and all. Try to disturb the soil as little as possible. Compost the the pulled plants if you get them before they flower. Once they begin to flower, bag 'em.
I have read that I can just spray garlic mustard with an herbicide, isn't that a whole lot easier?
  • We recommend manual methods during spring. During spring, plants grow so fast, they can out grow the impacts of some herbicide applications.
  • Use of broadcast herbicide applications will get the nearby native wildflowers by overspray unless you use extreme caution. 
  • During late fall, after most native plants are dormant, the green leafy clusters of garlic mustard leaves, the over-wintering form of the plants, are vulnerable to some very low percentage, targeted herbicide applications during warm spells (glyphosate formulations labeled for such use).
When using herbicides: always select an herbicide labeled for the purpose you have in mind, read the entire label and follow the label instructions, exactly. Today's high tech herbicides are not your grandfather's herbicides, enough said!
 More about garlic mustard from GeoEcology blog, here

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