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Garlic mustard

Alliaria petiolata

What is it?

Garlic mustard has a two-year life cycle. It is hard to recognize in its first year. It grows small leaves close to the ground that often go unnoticed until late in the season. In its second year, it grows flower stalks that spread seed. It is most recognizable in the second year. You can easily remove garlic mustard by hand in the spring; just rip it out and put it in your household trash. You will need to be persistent. Garlic mustard seeds can be viable for up to five years. Just a few plants can quickly reseed a cleared area. Once you start pulling, continue to do so once a year until the plant stops coming back.

When to remove?

Remove this plant by hand in the spring from mid to late April until mid to late May.

How to remove?

Garlic mustard goes to seed in its second year. Prioritize these 1-2 ft tall plants in second year bloom for removal to prevent new seed. Soft, wet spring ground will make removing easier. Simply wiggle to loosen the roots then pull by hand. In harder dry ground, loosen the soil around the roots with a hand trowel. As long as the seed pods are green you can safely remove without spreading seed. However, in June plants start to dry and seed pods pop. Avoid pulling when the plant has gone to seed as you may wind up spreading it.

If removing late spring when pods might pop, grab a plastic bag from your kitchen. Put the bag over the plant so no seeds escape while you’re pulling. Grasp the plant at the base and gently pull the roots from the ground. If it breaks, continue pulling the root out.

Although best practice is to focus on second year plants, first year garlic mustard deposits chemicals in the soil to prevent natives from germinating. You might want to remove first year plants around high quality natives. If removing in its first year, the roots are tenacious and might stay underground. Make sure to get the entire root system up when you remove first year plants.

How to dispose?

Discard the entire plant, roots and all, in sealed plastic garbage bags. Do not put it in with your yard waste. If you have large quantities, contact our office to coordinate pick-up. Do not attempt to compost this plant. It will reseed and regenerate and does not break down like other yard waste.

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