DIY Garlic mustard Pulling Instructions

Have you tried pulling garlic mustard yet? Once you start, it’s hard to stop!

Garlic mustard is going crazy at many SWMLC preserves! Can you help get it under control?
Are you looking for ways to give back to nature after all the ways it’s been there for us this past year? Pulling garlic mustard is easy to do and can truly make a difference, while also giving families the perfect excuse to spend time together in nature. 
It’s easy to pull: just find the base of the plant, wiggle it around in the dirt a little to loosen it up, then pull the whole thing out, roots and all.
Because the seeds will continue to mature and disperse – even from pulled plants – we ask that you bring your own bag to fill, then take it with you to throw in the trash. (As a local non-profit with a very small staff and a very large, 9-county service area, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is unable to provide bags and waste containers at our preserves.)
If no bags are available, twist the plant in your hands, wringing the root from the stems and leaves. If you’ve only pulled a few plants, just leave the parts on the trail where they will be stepped on. If you have quite a few, please create compact piles of plant parts beside the trail.
Some people love to eat garlic mustard!

European settlers brought garlic mustard with them because of its usefulness as a wound antiseptic and as a nutritious green food in early spring. We don’t recommend eating the garlic mustard that you pull from roadsides (too many potential hazardous chemicals) or from public places (such as SWMLC’s public preserves) because you just don’t know what other people or their dogs may have done. But it’s fine to eat the garlic mustard that’s pulled from private property – as long as you know for certain that it hasn’t been treated with herbicide or other chemicals.

Want to see the process in action? Watch volunteer Talus Rutgers’ how-to video!

Printable poster

The following preserves usually need some help.

Pulling garlic mustard is an easy way to improve habitat – whether in your own backyard or in a natural area like a Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserve. Eliminating this invasive plant allows a wider diversity of spring plants to prosper, providing the food and nutrients that pollinating insects and other creatures need and are adapted to use.

Thank you for helping to restore habitat at our preserves – you’re making a difference!

So what’s all the fuss about?

Garlic mustard can completely invade a woodland, so much so that it becomes the only soft green plant on the forest floor, sucking up all the moisture and soil nutrients while shading out native spring plants and flowers. Studies have found that it can even change the chemistry of the leaf litter, which can impact salamanders and the slugs they live on. Over time, the native plants may disappear, leaving the woods full of just garlic mustard. This lack of biodiversity can spell trouble for early spring insects by providing fewer plant options as food. Fewer insects means that nestling songbirds may not get the protein-rich nutrition they need to make it to adulthood. And fewer songbirds is a very sad business all the way around.
In its European/Asian homelands, garlic mustard evolved to hurry and get growing as soon as the snow melts, way before most of the native North American plants have made a cautious sprout. Within just a few weeks, its ground-hugging circle of over-wintering leaves can shoot up a stalk, unfurl leaves, and create pretty little four-petaled white flowers that mature into seeds by early summer – on average, about 600 seeds per plant! And without the plant competitors, diseases, and insect predators of its homeland to help keep it in check, garlic mustard is flourishing here in North America.
Learn more by simply doing a search for “garlic mustard” or its scientific name “Alliaria petiolata.” There’s a lot of info out there!