The Q&A Archives: Garlic mustard

Question: How can I get rid of garlic mustard that has taken over my sloping yard, covering myrtle and pachysandra that belong there?

Answer: Minor infestations can be eradicated by hand-pulling at or before the onset of flowering, or by cutting the flower stalk as close to the soil surface as possible just as flowering begins (cutting a couple inches above ground level is not quite as effective). Cutting prior to this time may promote resprouting. Cutting flowering plants at the ground level should result in 99% mortality and eliminate seed production.

A scythe, monofilament weed whip, or power brush cutter may be helpful if the infestation covers a large area. When hand-pulling garlic mustard, the upper half of the root must be removed to prevent buds at the root crown from sending up new flower stalks. Pulling can result in soil disturbance, damaging desirable species, and bringing up garlic mustard seeds which may then germinate. This can be partially prevented by thoroughly tamping the soil after pulling.

In general, cutting is less destructive than pulling as a control method, but can be done only during flower stalk elongation. Pulling can be done at any time when the soil is not frozen. If flowering has progressed to the point that viable seed exists, remove the cut or pulled plants from the area. Because seeds remain viable for five years, it is essential that an area be monitored and plants removed for at least five years after the initial control efforts.

For larger infestations, fall or early spring burning may be effective. First-year plants are killed by fire, if the fire is hot enough to remove all leaf litter. Garlic mustard plants hit by fire are generally killed. Severe infestations can be controlled by applying a 1 to 2% solution of Roundup or Touchdown (glyphosate) to the foliage of individual plants and dense patches during late fall or early spring. At these times most native plants are dormant, but garlic mustard is green and vulnerable. Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide that will kill or injure all green plants if it comes into contact with them. Use caution during application, and do not spray so that herbicide neither drips from the garlic mustard leaves nor drifts onto adjacent desired vegetation.

Other herbicides that control mustards are expected to also control garlic mustard. This includes 2,4-D, triclorpyr (Garlon) and the combination of these products (sold as Crossbow).

Good luck with your eradication project!

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by plantmanager and is called "Captivating Caladiums"