SALISBURY — Wild garlic, often confused as wild onion, is a foul-smelling weed almost instantly appearing in lawns throughout Rowan County. I have a decent crop already, even though we've had a fairly harsh winter. The weed is easily identified as blue-green tufts within dotting yellow-brown winter lawns.
Wild garlic Allium vineale is actually a member of the lily family, a close cousin to edible garlic and onions. It is a cool season, perennial weed that literally jumps out of the ground as the soil temperature warms in the spring. The cylindrical leaves of the weed are waxy, bluish-green and hollow. Underground bulbs bear bulblets which tend to be flat on one side. Wild garlic reproduces by seed, aerial bulblets and underground bulblets. This may explain why the plant is so prolific and difficult to eliminate. To make the situation more confusing, wild onion is often found on the same sites as wild garlic. You can distinguish the two by looking at the roots. Wild onion does not produce offset bulblets.
Some people spend hours trying to pull and dig up wild garlic and wild onions, bulb and all. In the case of wild garlic, you are almost certain to leave a piece of the bulb or bulblet in the ground which will likely produce another plant. Also, the fact that wild garlic and wild onion bulbs can live in the soil for years exacerbates the problem, therefore, total elimination requires a long-term commitment.
Cooperative Extension often receives a number of calls about mowing under a certain sign of the zodiac for control. This method may reduce weed growth, but never eliminates the weed.
The use of post-emergence herbicides is a common and most effective method of reducing wild garlic in lawns. Wild garlic is considered a broadleaf weed and various combinations or mixtures of broadleaf herbicides control the weed. These are usually the same herbicides that control other broadleaf weeds in lawns such as henbit, dandelion and chickweed. These mixtures control broadleaf weeds without harming cool season fescues or fescue blends.
These herbicides may be applied now to control the weed. Two applications, 10 days apart may be necessary for complete control.
Remember to always read and follow the label before applying any pesticide. Contact the Cooperative Extension Service should you have any questions.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.