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May 4, 2010 > Pat Kite's Garden: Wild Garlic, go away

Pat Kite's Garden: Wild Garlic, go away

By Pat Kite

There are some weeds I hate more than others. This entire month's gardening "ouch-back" sessions include abominable hours trying to eliminate Allium vineale, best known as Wild Garlic. I remember paying good money for a few of the little white bulblets many years ago to fill in a difficult section of my yard. The pictures in the plant catalogue of dainty white springtime bells were ever so pretty. The catalogue did state the plant was "vigorous."

In my ignorance, I thought vigorous meant it would survive nicely in Tri-City clay. Survive, yes. Multiply, yes. Multiply endlessly, yes. And, to add insult to aggravation, not only does wild garlic make its living quarters smell like a garlic-garden overdose, but pulling it up makes your hands stink. This uncharming aroma is not easily removed with soap, lotions, etc. It seems to sink into one's pores, occasionally lasting until the next day or so. It does so even if I wear latex gloves. It is like one's skin has eaten a fresh garlic clove.

Wild garlic multiplies by seed, underground bulbs, and little aboveground "aerial" bulblets formed as the flowers droop. Just one plant, with maybe six flowers per small clump, can produce 20 to 300 aerial bulblets. That is just for starters. Dig or pull up an entire plant, and you will see the assorted underground offspring. These include the parent bulbs, the baby bulbs surrounding it and cousin bulbs around for the ride. Of course I want them to go away. Unfortunately this is not so easy, as you might already have guessed.

Initially I turned to my ancient Ortho handbook. Apparently wild garlic thrives in heavy soil, i.e. clay. It thrives in cold weather and dry weather Some of the new bulbs germinate in the fall. Others can nap in the soil for up to six years before springing up vigorously. Ortho's comment, "They spread rapidly and are difficult to control." Onward to the Internet, seeking a magic destroyer. "Nothing sprayed above ground can kill dormant bulbs beneath the soil surface."

A skeptic, I tried Roundup. Not even a saddened leaf. There are apparently commercial herbicides whose "use is restricted to professional applicators. Sigh. Anyhow, that is why I am digging Allium vineale out with a shovel and a trowel. It seems an endless job. Any new bulbs, or parts of bulbs, left behind will eventually become new plants.

There is an interesting article on Yahoo! Answers: entitled "What is the best way to kill onion grass?" which offers some positive suggestions. It mentions "... you have to be relentless." I was grumpling to a friend today about my efforts. He said, the flowers are so pretty. They are.

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