How Do You Get Rid of Invasive Garlic Mustard?

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant that takes over forest areas as well as lawns and gardens. This invasive plant spreads quickly and outcompetes other plants in the garden, so it’s important to get rid of it before it becomes too widespread.

Once you know what to look for, getting rid of garlic mustard is easier than you might think! Read on to learn how. 

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) with white flowers

Garlic Mustard – What is it?

Garlic Mustard, also known scientifically as Alliaria petiolata, is a biennial plant (meaning it completes its life cycle every two years) that is part of the mustard family. It is native to basically the entire Eurasian continent, and has been naturalized in almost every continent and climate.

Garlic Mustard is a weed that was introduced into North America from Europe as early as the late 1800s and quickly spread across both continents. It was brought over for culinary and medicinal purposes.

It is also called jack-by-the-hedge in the U.K., due to its propensity to grow alongside hedges by the roadside or along property lines.

Where and How Garlic Mustard Grows

Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive plant that has been found in almost all 50 states. It is a biennial plant, meaning it has a two year life cycle.

In the first year garlic mustard only produces some round, crinkled leaves that, when crushed smell like garlic. It is in the second year of its life that the plant flowers. In its second year the plant can grow up to 40 inches tall, so it makes for an imposing weed at this size.

It is one of the few invasive species that is able to dominate the understory of forests in the United States, so it is able to grow much easier than other weeds and greatly reduce the biodiversity in some forest areas.

How Do I Identify Garlic Mustard?

Before you even see garlic mustard you will likely be able to identify it based on smell alone. Every part of the plant, including its roots, smells strongly of garlic, particularly when crushed.

Garlic Mustard has wrinkly leaves that are slightly wavy along the edges; they’re somewhat triangular in shape with pointed tips and roughly diamond shaped at base of leaf stalk (source).

It has bright white flowers that form at the top of the plants and grow in small clusters. These tend to bloom in the spring, but can often be hidden by leaves so they can be difficult to identify. Each flower has four petals.

Is Garlic Mustard Edible?

Based on its name, you might be asking yourself Can I eat Garlic Mustard? Is it just an extra herb to add to my dinner that grows for free in my garden? This depends on where you live.

If you live in Europe, where Garlic Mustard is native to, it has been used as an herb and spice for thousands of years. It’s still used today to flavor salads and sauces like pesto.

However, one caveat is that the plant is toxic in its first year. Therefore, only eat it if it is two years old, which will be apparent by the presence of white flowers on it.

In North America, Garlic Mustard is not edible, however. It is listed as a noxious weed in many US states, and it can be dangerous to the local wildlife who feed on it. If you live in the US or Canada, it is best to leave garlic mustard alone and to not use it in your cooking.

How to Get Rid of Garlic Mustard From Your Lawn

Garlic mustard can take over a yard very quickly if left unchecked, so make sure you keep on top of removing every single one as soon as possible!

Seeds from this weed can last up to 12 years and one plant can produce thousands of seeds, so it is very hard to get rid of garlic mustard for good. However, it is doable.

If you are unable to get them all, they will continue growing back year after year until you finally do remove them completely from your lawn or garden bed.

With Chemical Methods

Garlic mustard is susceptible to herbicides, particularly those with the active ingredient glyphosate in it. These weed killers can be used anytime in the life-cycle of the weed, but preferably use it before it flowers.

If using an herbicide or weed killer, the best time to do so would be in early spring time. This would be the best way to protect the other native plants and grasses you have in your yard, because garlic mustard tends to become active earlier than most other plants in northern hemisphere climates.

Additionally, any chemical method used needs to be repeated for about 4-5 years in order to make sure the garlic mustard seeds have all been eradicated so that it won’t randomly grow back.

With Organic Methods

The best way to get rid of this pesky weed is by hand-pulling or digging it out carefully before the leaves unfurl in springtime. Pulling is most effective if you don’t trample the leaves while you are pulling them out, and only if you make sure to get the entire root system with the leaves and flowers.

Any removed parts of the plant should be bagged or burned, as they might survive composting and re-seed if they’re left in the ground.

How Do I Prevent Garlic Mustard From Growing?

Mowing and cutting your lawn is effective at reducing the amount of garlic mustard that can grow and bloom by making it hard for the cut stems to get the sufficient energy required to grow.

Conclusion

Garlic mustard is a noxious weed that can be found in most parts of the United States. It’s not edible, and it decreases the plant biodiversity in areas, so you should aim to get rid of it from your lawn or garden as soon as possible.

You may identify the presence of garlic mustard by its scent; it smells like you’ve cut open an onion or crushed garlic cloves!

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant that can be difficult to get rid of. We hope this article has helped you identify what garlic mustard looks like so that you know how to prevent it before it starts growing on your property too.

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