By Barbara Kozlowski, Master Gardener, CCE

Spring is in full swing, everything is growing — even the weeds. Most of us have learned weed control for our own gardens and lawns. If you happen to live in an area similar to the village, you may not experience some of the “noxious weeds” more prevalent along roadways and open fields.

One of these is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). It is in bloom now — you may notice a collection of them – and has heart-shaped leaves and delicate white flowers. It grows profusely and is becoming an invasive weed.

The garlic mustard plant was brought to the U.S. from Europe and its presence has been documented as early as 1868. It was planted in gardens as a food source and has a distinctive garlic scent when the leaves are crushed. It can be used in cooking and its consumption is limited to humans. Animals like deer won’t eat this plant.

It has a growing cycle of two years, and the stalks in the second year can grow to 2 or more feet tall. When the plants mature, tiny seed pods form on the stalks. When the pods break open, the seeds spread. This weed when pulled should go into the garbage not into your compost bin. It is a shallow rooted plant that is easily pulled.

Local area sites have a Garlic Mustard Challenge where teams compete pulling this noxious weed. They include Reinstein Woods in Cheektowaga, Buffalo Audubon Society’s Beaver Meadow Nature Preserve in North Java, Kenneglenn Scenic and Nature Preserve in Wales and the Lewiston Plateau Habitat Area. Last year’s competition removed more than 2 tons of garlic mustard from those four areas.

Garlic mustard, an invasive, non-native biennial herb that has become a threat to our native plants and should be destroyed, is a major concern for many states and areas around the country. Kings County in Washington State considers garlic mustard a Class A noxious weed and eradication is required statewide. Growing in our forests, garlic mustard infestation can limit native plant growth.

If you find this plant growing in or around your property, destroy as much of it as you can. Use the leaves in cooking if you like a garlic flavoring.

This plant, like the purple loosestrife, wild turnip and giant hogweed, can be harmful to our gardens and need to be eradicated. The giant hogweed needs to be done by a professional as it is very toxic.

Like Japanese beetles and other invasive insects, we need to be mindful of non-native plants growing wild in our yards, in the woods and forests we visit. It can take five years to eliminate a species by constant pulling of these plants.

Free garden lectures will again be available on Wednesdays in the Nannen Arboretum starting July 9, rain or shine, starting at 7 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. There will be two lectures each Wednesday sponsored by The Master Gardeners Volunteers of Cornell University Cooperative Extension – Cattaraugus County.

Other topics include weed ID, dividing perennials, spinning wool, understanding your soil, turf care, roses, fairy gardens, raising chickens, hydrangeas and a workout while gardening. Hope to see you there!

On Aug. 6, there will be a special “Nature Activities for Kids” program from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Happy Gardening!