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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Getting Rid of Mustard Garlic

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Follow these tips to eradicate invasive mustard garlic weeds and enable native wildflowers to flourish.

garlic mustard
garlic mustard leaves

Abundant spring rains have everything growing like crazy--including weeds such as garlic mustard. This biennial appears innocent: shiny heart-shape leaves with toothy edges.

First-year plants produce leafy tufts. Plants bloom in their second year.

An introduced invasive plant, garlic mustard has spread through the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. It out-competes native plants, aggressively colonizing habitats used by spring wildflowers like bloodroot, Dutchman's breeches, wild ginger, spring beauty and trillium. In turn, wildlife that depends on the wildflowers suffers.

While garlic mustard contributes in the kitchen with edible leaves, when I spotted seedlings sprouting in the gravel surrounding my shed, I took action. I prefer to pull or dig weeds by hand, but yanking seedlings in gravel creates bloody knuckles. So I grabbed the glyphosate.

This nonselective herbicide kills weeds by moving from leaves to roots. Nonselective means it kills all plants--good and bad. The good news is it doesn't linger in soil. Many otherwise organic home gardeners use glyphosate.

Weed-Killing Basics
Here's how I apply glyphosate to kill weeds I can't pull or dig. Follow label instructions when applying any chemical.

handheld pressure sprayer

1. Pour glyphosate into a handheld pressure sprayer. The pressure sprayer prevents hand fatigue that occurs when working a pump-action sprayer.

spray weed seedlings

2. Spray weeds until leaf surfaces are covered. Follow label instructions regarding timing related to rainfall. I sprayed late morning; we had thunderstorms that night.

barrier to protect plants

3. When spraying near desired plantings, use a barrier to prevent spray drift. This cardboard barrier illustrates the spray that would have drifted onto nearby sweet rocket.

target spray

4. To spray a weed growing in a spot you can't dig, use an empty can with both ends removed to create a targeted spray area.

day after spraying

The day after spraying, the garlic mustard seedlings were already showing signs of impending death. The next day there was no trace of them.

As for garlic mustard that's starting to flower, I'm pulling those. I don't want plants to set seed.

What weeds are you battling? Do you spray weed killer?

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