Garlic mustard attack

dbockwoldt(Illinois)April 13, 2006

I have quite a bit of garlic mustard that has sprouted, with buds on top but has not flowered yet. Is it safe to weed wack if it hasn't flowered yet? It is my understanding that once garlic mustard has flowered, it has gone to seed.


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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Why do you want to weed whack it? We had TONS of it... probably removed over 100lbs of it. I've had good luck with pulling it. I spent one full spring pulling it all from my woods before it dropped seed and to my surprise I've only had a handful (five maybe) of new sprouts in the past year. This spring I've only pulled 2 baby plants. The trick is to get something better planted after you pull it so that there is even less chance of it re-invading. Don't compost or leave the plants laying around as the seeds will continue to mature even on the dead plants and any that are already mature will definitely grow new plants. Most of us who've had vast quantities of GM put it in garbage bags and let it fry in the sun before getting rid of it. Here where I live we have a "yard waste" depot where it can be taken for disposal.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 10:50AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I think that just weed-wacking it might allow it to resprout. I guess we should do an experiment and see. Lord knows we have enough to experiment with!!!
We've been slowly getting rid of our invasive honeysuckle, and now we're overrun with garlic mustard. There's always something waiting in the wings.....
It looks good enough to eat. I wonder if it's poisonous? If not, think of all the salads it could make!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 9:53AM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Catherine T, did you mean "eat garlic mustard"? If so, yes you can... it was brought to this country by settlers as part of a "herb garden" as well as "medicinal garden". Today you can use it to flavor butter or glazes, make garlic-mustard pesto with the leaves and roots, you can eat the leaves either as part of a salad with milder greens added or you can steam, saute or simmer them as you would with spinach. Even the flowers can be eaten. The root of older plants can be cooked and eaten like you would parsnips or you can grate the root into vinegar and use it as a condement like horse-radish sauce.

Medicinally it was used to treat all manner of lung ailments when taken internally. It is also grated and made into a paste for relieving lung congestion and it's juices have antiseptic properties for treating specific gram negative bacteria.

So it's not that it's not a USEFUL plant, it's just that we don't USE IT any more and it's been allowed to spread like wildfire. Even so, how much garlic mustard pesto could one person eat? ;o)

southern Ontario, CANADA

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 2:35PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Thanks Barb,
That sounds very interesting. I might try it. I hope you're right and I don't drop dead! ;)
I keep hoping we'll find some use for honeysuckle. I know one person uses the younger canes to make baskets.
I'm hoping the answer to the garlic mustard problem might be "If you can't beat em!" :)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 2:41PM
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If your GM is in bud or just beginning to flower, it is a good time to weed whack it. If you cut it to within an inch of the ground, 90% or more of the plants should die. You can also pull it at this stage, whereas if you pull it before it is starting to flower, it will typically regrow if any roots are left in the soil.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 8:32PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Not that I recommend it (because I don't) but I know that Roundup(c) will take care of GM if you have so much of it that pulling it by hand is not feasable. The Roundup(c) won't harm the bulb flowers such as Dogtooth Violets but if you hope to preserve anything on the surface then I'd stay away from mass killing herbicides. My neighbor used this method and still gets spring plants like Dogtooth Violets, Jack in the Pulpits and Blue cohosh. The only thing is that he didn't plant anything to replace the GM and now he's getting other weeds taking their place.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 12:54PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Most plants will not regrow if you get the root crown. Its the wide part at the top of the tap root. I just used my new weed hound on dandilions last night. I wish I had used the weed hound on the garlic mustard when it was in basil form, a few weeks ago. The weed hound really works great at pulling the plant and a substantial amount of tap root. I highly reccomend it.

With the weed hound you can pull a plant, and about 2" of root as fast as you can step on it. It barely disturbs the soil, and you don't have to bend over. I highly recommend it.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 9:39AM
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leslies(z7 No VA)

If it has buds and you weed whack it, it will finish blooming and set seed before the cut stems rot or dry out. If you're going to wee whack this plant, you must do it before there are buds or else you have to rake up the stems, bag them in black plastic and lay them on your driveway in the sun for a couple of weeks.

Pulling (and bagging) the plant is the best method, but it's pretty hard if you have a lot of it. This isn't a plant that resprouts from little bits of root left behind.

You can spray maturing plants with RoundUp, but you have to patrol for a couple of weeks, because the plants don't always die from RoundUp.

Then you must RoundUp seedlings and the cut stumps in the summer. Seedlings are strikingly resistant to RoundUp, but do eventually die. Spring ephemerals will be dormant by the time you have to start dealing with the GM seedlings.

Queen of the Garlic Mustard Murderers

P.S. Once the GM is under control, all the shrub lonicera and multiflora roses will suddenly become visible!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 5:51PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Leslie is right...when you get rid of GM, things move into gear rapidly whether it be more garbage plants or lovely ephemerals. When I got the GM out of my woods my trilliums started spreading the very next spring, the blue cohosh really kicked into gear and the trout lilies went wild. I think the trout lilies were already there but they were so stunted/smothered by the GM that they didn't bloom or if they did bloom it was smothered anyway. There are still some spotty areas where the GM was removed but nature is taking over pretty well now that I gave it a kickstart by seeding the area with native plant seeds the same season I pulled out all GM and (gag) oriental bittersweet. We even had a new native species show up in the space after removal of the GM... "Herb Robert". I've been told to keep an eye on it as well since it too can get invasive despite being a native plant but so far we are really pleased with the results of the GM (and oriental bittersweet) removal.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 11:45AM
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Gralic mustard can be erraticated from an area with a diligent weeding program that takes into account its growth cycle.GM is biennial.Seeds from the prior year sprout in early spring,grow plants thru out the summer, winter over and flower early the next spring.the small white flowers are replaced by pods that ripen thru out the summer.The plants die and the pods decay releasing the seedsThe seeds are large and drop close to the parent plant to restart the cycle.Since the seeds are not wind born GM's advance is linear,colonies should be attacted at the perimeter and worked inward.Pulling up the entire plant at the high of the flowering stage is the most effective use of your effort,at this stage the roots are at thier woodyist and are less likly to leave behind a peice to resprout,which it will.Also the white flowers make them more conspicuous.Mature plants can be removed all summer at any time before the seeds drop in autumn.But we usually got better things to do.An area need successive weedings each year to be effective cleared.You cannot accomplish it in one year.Good luck the effort will be worth it

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 3:10PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

I believe that weed whacking it is better than pulling it. When you pull it you're disturbing the earth beneath and bringing up more weed seeds. As has been said, this chore needs to happen before the plants start to flower.

I just finished manually removing a large trash bag full of just the flowers of GM. It's growing along the bank in front of my neighbor's house. I warned her 2 years ago that if she didn't stop it in it's tracks it would take over her shady yard. (and eventually the world) She looked at me like I had 3 eyes.

Fast forward, 2 years later. NOW she understands! This spring her yard is filled with GM and she didn't have anyone to weed whack it. I collected every single flower and bagged em before weed wacking.

Still it's hopeless, the woods around my house is filled with it. The Appalachian Trail crosses my road 1/2 down and if not for the regular hiker's passing couldn't even find the trail anymore.

I find it in my gardens sometimes and dread the day I'll be too old to police it.

I'll be forced to find a younger man;)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 10:00AM
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weed wacking is not a good idea because any small piece of the root left behind will resprout,at a later time in a smaller form when it will be easily missed.Its true that minimizing soil disturbences is a good idea when trying to out wit weeds,but any part of a biennuals rootstock left behind will resprout,and produce seeds that how they grow.A lot fewer but it only thake one.And how about giving your poor neighbors a break,Gardening should be a quiet contemplative past time. Leave the leaf blower home.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 11:17PM
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Our local conservation authority (southern Ontario) recommends weed wacking, as opposed to pulling, for controlling garlic mustard. Google confirms that this is recommended by many government sites in North America. Some claim that if this is done when the plant is in bud or bloom (and, yes, the blooms all need to be collected as others have pointed out) and if the plant is cut to within an inch or so of the ground, that 90% or more of the plants will die. I suspect this is because at that stage a lot of plant energy is going into producing blooms and removing the stems/leaves does not leave enough energy to support the root system left behind. While, initially, I was dubious (it just seemed that removing most of the roots would be better than cutting off the plant at ground level) it does seem to work -- although I have only been at this for two years. However, it is clear that other methods (roundup, pulling) have worked for others too.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 7:40AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Hi nywoodsman, who said anything about a "leaf blower?"

I love my neighbor. She's a great person and she happen's to be very knowledgable about medical issue's. However she doesn't know anything about the aggressive nature of GM or any other weed for the matter. (with obvious exceptions of course)

...not wanting to argue however;)

Weed whacking IS the best solution so long as you do it before the plant produces flowers and........ultimately...the evil SEEDS.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 1:53AM
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Weeds wacking does definatelly not work.Think about it for a second.he goal is to remove the targeted plant WITHOUT affecting the natives it is growing amoung.Weedwacking is not selective you just cut down everything.I was able to single handedly clear five acres of GM from the woods by my method,without disrupting the natural understory.Can't do that with a weed wacker.If you need some mindless activity to keep you buisy.Try watering with a hose its less distructive

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 11:14AM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

nywoodsman, there's no reason for you to insult me or anyone else. I have better sense than to use a weed whacker indiscriminately in a woodland. The garlic mustard I'm referring to is growing along a bank by the road. It's fighting a losing battle with Japanese honeysuckle and English ivy.

It isn't always practical to pull it...and by the same token, the solution isn't always to whack it. In this case, I'll whack it until I exhaust it. I'm glad for you that you have the time to maually remove 5 acres of GM singlehandedly. Not everyone has that luxury.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2006 at 11:53AM
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Whacking does work. Jayk provided the link below which I found very informative. It refers to controlled studies and states:
"Cutting flowering Alliaria petiolata plants at ground level results in 99% mortality, and eliminates seed production. Cutting at 10 cm above ground level results in 71% mortality and reduces seed production by 98% (Nuzzo 1991). Cutting is most effective when plants are in full bloom and/or have developed siliques; plants cut earlier in the flowering period may have sufficient resources to produce additional flowerstems from buds on the root crown."

Although it is more work to cut the plants when they are flowering (because the flowering stems all need to be collected) this is the method recommended by most conservation authorities. My own observation is that the plant does die when cut to the ground at the flowering stage.

Here is a link that might be useful: UCDavis link on garlic mustard

    Bookmark   May 10, 2006 at 3:42PM
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