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Home & Garden

Taking on invasive garlic mustard weed

Second-year garlic mustard plants grow in a yard in NE Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 10, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Second-year garlic mustard plants grow in a yard in NE Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 10, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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If you see a plant with clumps of small white flowers growing on tall stalks, beware — it could be the highly invasive weed garlic mustard.

The plants are blooming this time of year, making them easier to identify and remove.

“Garlic mustard crowds out other native plants. It’s highly invasive. It will completely dominate the woodland floor within five to seven years,” said Jackie Wedeking, communications and marketing manager for Marion-based nonprofit Trees Forever. “You have this little white flower that is taking over the forest, and all the woodland plants that are good for pollinators are being crowded out.”

Trees Forever will hold a workshop for landowners on identifying and eradicating garlic mustard, as well as other invasive species, from 4 to 8 p.m. May 23, at Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor. People can register online at treesforever.org.

The plant grows in two-year cycles — the first year plants are low to the ground, with the second year plants growing the tall, flowering stalks.

“The secret really is a matter of pulling it and then planting something else there. It’s more than just pulling it,” Wedeking said. “It comes down to routine monitoring, early detection, and following up. Persistence and patience is really what it comes down to when it comes to invasive species.”

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources prints a brochure on identifying and dealing with the plant, available for download at iowadnr.gov/invasive.

The plants should be pulled now until midsummer when they start shedding seeds, after which they should not be pulled, as the seeds will easily spread. Pulled plants with seed pods must be burned, buried or landfilled to prevent the seeds from spreading.

Different municipalities in Eastern Iowa have different procedures for how residents should dispose of the plants. It takes very high heat to kill the seeds, so mixing it with backyard compost or many city’s yard waste could help spread the infestation further.

When in doubt, or if your town hasn’t identified a procedure? Don’t add it to yard waste bins.

“It’s a hearty soul that kills everything else,” said North Liberty assistant city administrator Tracey Mulcahey. “We certainly don’t want it spreading.”

Cedar Rapids

The Cedar Rapids Solid Waste & Recycling Division asks residents to keep the plants out of the YARDY cart. The composting process may not reach temperatures high enough to destroy the seeds, leading to further infestations.

When residents remove the plants they should be placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in the GARBY cart. If the bag will not fit in the GARBY cart, follow the normal procedure for extra garbage by affixing an extra 1.50 garbage sticker and placing the bag next to the GARBY cart. If a yard waste bag is used, affix a 1.50 sticker and clearly mark the bag as containing Wild Garlic Mustard, so crews can dispose of it properly.

Coralville

Drop off pulled garlic mustard plants in the dumpster marked “Garlic Mustard” just south of the corner of 10th Street and Hillcrest Drive, near the Coralville Community Gardens, until May 31.

Iowa City

Garlic mustard is accepted at the Iowa City Landfill’s Compost Facility. Curbside customer should place it in their yard waste bag or container to be picked up at the curb for composting. Johnson County residents also can drop garlic mustard and other yard waste at the Compost Facility at no cost.

Iowa City is able to accept garlic mustard in its facility because the compost reaches a high enough temperature. The city does not recommend adding garlic mustard and other invasive species to a backyard compost pile as this does not get to a high enough temperature.

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North Liberty

Place garlic mustard in a plastic bag and dispose in garbage. Do not put in yard waste.

• Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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