Culling all garlic mustard plants: Get ’em while you can

Garlic Mustard Is Invasive And Can Force Out Native Species Photo By Tim Eisele
Garlic mustard can grow more than a foot tall and produce hundreds of seeds. Pull it before it goes to seed. (Photo by Tim Eisele)

The “them” are garlic mustard plants that are growing in just about every woodland in the state.

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant, introduced to North America by European settlers, that appears to have no enemies.  Eventually they’ll take over a woodland, out-competing native species, resulting in a monoculture of invasive WEEDS.

Late April and early May are ideal times to find the plants in the woods before other vegetation is growing and turning green.  In many southern woodlands the first things to turn green are garlic mustard, honeysuckle and gooseberry.

Garlic mustard is a biennial, or two-year plant that appears the first year as a rosette, or roundish heart-shaped leaf with scalloped edges, and the second year sends up flowers that mature and disperse hundreds of seeds.

Garlic mustard begins growing earlier in the season than native plants, thus outcompeting them and forming dense stands.

Though herbicides can be used on large patches, a great way to “control” small and medium patches is to hand pull them.  Reach down to the purple roots, then feel the white tap root that often grows sideways and into the soil.

Give a gentle pull and get that satisfying feeling from pulling the tap root out successfully!  That deserves a big smile.

Try and get the entire root, which is easiest when the soil is moist.

Discard pulled plants in your trash. Do NOT put them in compost bins or leave in the woods as the plant could still produce seeds.

Keep checking these same areas year-after-year to pull surviving plants and deplete the seed bank in the soil.

Larger patches can be set-back with controlled burning or herbicides, but follow local regulations and know that herbicides can also kill nearby desired species.

Put the bite on the big garlic mustard while you can!

For information check the UW-Extension brochure:

Categories: Wisconsin – Tim Eisele

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