Sunday, April 30, 2017

Great Garlic Pull


On of the chores of April and early May is the great garlic mustard removal. Last spring I pulled thousands of plants, only to be dismayed to see so many more in fall, quite possibly more than I had cleared. Pulling only created opportunity for new first year seedlings to make a strong showing. The muddy soil clung to my shoes, transferring seeds to new areas; tossing pulled plants also transferred seeds to new areas. And surely animals, other than me, moved seeds along on their feet or hooves.

This year, we have a new tack, built on observations and learning. First, we have divided the woods into zones. It is an idea I formed a few years back when volunteering in Prospect Park -namely that parks employees should not be responsible for tasks, but carrying out maintenance responsibilities in zones. The idea was built around the notion of ownership and responsibility, but I digress.

We will not tackle the highest population density zones first, but last. I have observed that the dense populations compete with themselves. If not pulled, seeds will not travel too far, especially if I weed whack the flowering stalks before seed development because the newly sprouted, post cut flowering stalks will not be as tall or vigorous. Keeping the low density populations clear will give a feeling of success and be a front line against spread. Native plants can be planted in those zones to help create ground cover.

Last spring I gave spot treatment with a glyphosate spray. I was completely dissatisfied with the results. Not only did many of the plants still go to flower despite having been sprayed weeks before, I ended up pulling them anyway. If I sprayed too early (early April), the plants were not actively growing enough for the spray to have an effect. From now on I will rely on other methods.


Garlic mustard seedlings growing in a pile of buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, saplings pulled last spring. The seeds are everywhere, and the mere act of pulling the plant (or any plant) will help sprout new garlic mustard. Underneath every 2nd year stand of garlic mustard are hundreds or thousands of seeds and seedlings waiting for their chance.


One of the prime benefits of pulling garlic mustard, which is nearly everywhere, is the opportunity to see what is growing off trail. Here, along the shady edge of slope of the little wetland I found evidence of an enlarged colony of fern. We have only so much fern in our woods, most along the shady and wet northeastern slope, and I'd like to see much more. Did my work last year enable these fern to gain some ground?


A reason to dedicate so much time to limiting the spread of garlic mustard in our woods is Uvularia grandiflora, Large-flowered Bellwort. It is a rare treat that never seems to be in the same spot twice. Undoubtedly, I will be here next spring to pull the garlic mustard you can see behind it, but will the bellwort?


Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman's Breeches, native to the region, but not found anywhere within the bounds of our property. This singular plant was brought over from the woods on the southwest side of our great wetland last spring and, with great fortune, had survived the hasty transplant. I gather that this used to grow around our woods but had been out competed or trampled by cows or people. Behind the dicentra are ramps, Allium tricoccum var. burdickii, a type of bedstraw (weed or not?) and a few seedlings of garlic mustard (I did just pull the 2nd year plants).


On the shady north facing slope where little else grows but sugar maple and garlic mustard, a rue, likely Early Meadow, but time will tell. Update: probably Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides.


Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia, surrounded by garlic mustard and some buckthorn saplings  in a tree-fall clearing. This zone has to wait as it is rapidly becoming a dense stand, there is tree work to be done, and is difficult to navigate.


Colonies of Cardamine concatenata, Cutleaf Toothwort, are more charming than the swath of garlic mustard I cleared a few days ago.


Not far from the patch of fern, this low growing plant is coming up in what appears to be a fairly broad colony. It is not Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, however, a plant I could expect in this wet area but rises in denser mounds and with just a bit less shade tolerance. Another to watch as the garlic mustard season progresses.


Clearing is the first line of defense (or offense?), but of course, we also eat our share.


This area was completely cleared last spring.
But two people cannot possibly eat our way out of this much garlic mustard. 





4 comments:

  1. Wow. That is a lot of garlic mustard. As for the not-stinging nettle...I'm curious as to what it is.

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    1. I still don't know what it is. As for the garlic mustard, that's only one small corner

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  2. Cottage industry of garlic mustard products? I enjoyed the garlic mustard kraut I started a few weeks back...

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    1. If only it could be composted. We have acres of it!

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