Many times, we tend to overlook invasive plant species if they happen to have a pretty flower to them. Sometimes we even encourage them to spread and fill in areas.
However invasive species are threatening native species and overcrowding them. One invasive that is easier to find right now is Garlic Mustard.
Garlic Mustard has a stalk topped with clusters of bright white flowers with triangular leaves and is often found in areas that are overgrown — or on the way to being overgrown. The leaves give off an odor of garlic when crushed. After flowering they reseed rapidly and multiply heavily each year. Each plant can produce up to 5,000 seeds that can remain viable for five years or more. It is also able to grow in any sunlight condition from full sun to full shade.
There are ways to eradicate garlic mustard from your property. You can begin by hand pulling the plants if you want to avoid using chemicals — providing you don’t have an entire field of it growing. If that’s the case, it will take you much longer pulling by hand.
At our house we let the goats do the work. We move our billy goats into each pasture and let them strip out the garlic mustard before it goes to seed. They seem to, for some reason, like it and they pull it out roots and all. However, white tail deer populations do not like it, which is some of the reason it has been able to spread so easily.
A more aggressive approach would be burning the section out. Just be aware that this will also remove plants that you may want to keep. I would use this as an absolute last resort. If you do choose to go this direction, be sure to choose a calm day with no wind and have plenty of water on hand in case your fire gets out of control. No one wants to be involved or responsible for a wildfire, so take the proper precautions.
If you are of the spraying type you can use an herbicide to spray, just be careful as well that the wind doesn’t cause your spray to drift to any plants that you don’t want to kill.
Since it is a biennial you can engage in a cutting regimen where you mow it off every time it tries to sprout a flowering stem. Be sure to get it cut before the flowers and seed head begin forming. This should at least cut down on your future generations and hopefully lead you to a time when you won’t have to spend so much time dreading it.
Some people choose to eat the young leaves from garlic mustard and incorporate them into their salads. The leaves are said to be high in vitamins A and C, so there is nutritional value to it. Just be sure that anytime you eat the leaves from a plant that you choose them from an area that you know were not exposed to chemicals. Once leaves mature, they will become bitter and no longer desirable for anyone to eat, other than my goats.
Keep a lookout when walking around your yard, and do your best to lead the good fight against eradicating garlic mustard from our area.
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.