Darrell Blackwelder column on wild garlic

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wild garlic, often confused as wild onion, is a foul-smelling weed almost instantly appearing in lawns and shrub beds throughout Rowan County.
The weed is easily identified as blue-green tufts emerging in fescue 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 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.
I always receive 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, but effective, method of reducing wild garlic in lawns. Wild garlic is considered a broadleaf weed. Therefore, mixtures of 2,4-D, dicamba and MCPP or various combinations or mixtures of each kill the weed. These are the same herbicides that control other broadleaf weeds in lawns such as henbit, dandelion and chickweed. Image is another herbicide labeled for control of wild garlic. These mixtures control broadleaf weeds without harming cool season fescues or fescue blends. Post-emergence herbicides or broad leaf herbicides may be applied now to control the weed. Two applications, 10 days apart may be necessary for complete control.
Wild garlic is touted as a difficult weed because of the waxy leaf coating. Years ago, a small bit of detergent was recommended in the herbicide solution to break the surface tension of the cuticle, allowing greater absorbency by the herbicide; however, today’s herbicides include a surfactant in the mixture to break waxy cuticles for better adsorption.Remember to always read and follow the label before applying any pesticide. Contact the Cooperative Extension Service should you have any questions.