the old lilac used to dwell. It looks to have survived. The same garden is now home to the old Brooklyn 'New Dawn' climber rose (a rose that has seen four different yards over its years), a sedum I found growing here in the woods, Dicentra eximia from Brooklyn too, and whatever else was growing there that we've decided to allow (and hopefully not that horseradish I did my best to dig out).
In the front yard, all varieties of garlic are now soaking up the sun. Incidentally, these are not German Hardy, but an artichoke variety, possibly with 'giant' in the name, that were shipped gratis, likely because of poor size thanks to drought and fire in the garlic seed producing region. There are as many commas in that sentence as garlic in this row, but my point is that the sign is a stand in.
I was motivated to get back to the slopes of the slough to check on the garlic mustard that I chose to spray with a low percentage mix of glyphosate and water last Sunday. Spring is the time to deal with garlic mustard, particularly March and the earliest of April. Virginia Waterleaf, ramps, some rosa species, a few asters, and other early, less pernicious weeds are coming up and I have no desire to affect those in the act of ridding the woods of garlic mustard. In these zones hundreds, probably thousands, of garlic mustard seedlings are sprouting from the seed bank. It was not an easy decision to spray, especially within a yard of the slough's water line. And I am frustrated to report that after six days the results were not significant. Most leaves were mottled, but the plants were not in the state of distress I would have expected. I've considered that I may need to apply a second course, although I am not happy about that. It was necessary to do so, even with a much higher percentage of glyphosate, on the buckthorn "hedge" growing alongside the garage pad. What I have to consider is the compression of the wet soil in spring. It appears to me the less foot steps, the better, especially after the frost heave has done such a nice job of loosening, aerating, and draining the soil surface.
So what happens to this water's edge garlic mustard? Does it die? I don't think so. Many of the plants, some of which I simply scooped out of the water and some which were easily pulled from the muck, had the biggest roots. Garlic mustard is a biennial, so last year the seedlings emerged and grew strong, despite the waterlogged soil, and this year they are ready to grow and set seed. I'm not willing to wait for the sake of observation, yet I am sure many will escape my vision or reach, and I will be a witness to their success.
As I make my way around the slough, eyes to the ground, I think much about what good the garlic mustard could be doing. What species make use of it for cover or for food? Does it stabilize the soil on the wooded slopes? Is balance achievable? Is garlic mustard simply symptomatic of a woods so degraded by other culprits (err, humans, for instance)? In other words, how necessary is the work I've begun, and am I causing more harm than good? And, you know, I like questions.
If you would like to see more photographs of the woods, follow me on Instagram @frankmeuschke where I post regularly under the hashtag #thewoodstoday.