Most people think of weeds as a problem in lawns and landscapes only in the summer months. The fact is, as summer ends and fades into fall the annual and perennial summer weeds die off and make way for winter weeds. Among these winter weeds is the bulbous perennial, wild garlic. In scientific terms, Allium vineale is often confused for wild onion in lawns and landscapes. However, both lawn weeds can cause lawn care problems when growing in undesired places,
Wild garlic is a cool-season perennial that grows from late fall to early spring. It creates grasslike clumps. Leaves are hollow and circular if cut into cross sections, similar in structure to chives. They are different in appearance from wild onions in that wild onion leaves are flat as opposed to hollow cylinders. There are two main types of wild garlic plants, which include both flowering and non-flowering scapes. Flowering scapes occur in only a small portion of these lawn weeds, however, which means their means of reproducing occurs in ways other than from seed.
Wild garlic can grow just about anywhere there is disturbed earth. This includes most regions of the United States and parts of Europe. They can be prevalent in lawns, landscapes, wastelands, roadways, thickets, and stream beds.
Part of what makes these weeds so difficult to control in turf is how prolific the bulbs are. Aerial bulblets and underground bulbs make the spread of wild garlic difficult to manage. Aerial bulblets can create anywhere from 20 to 300 seeds on a single plant which makes management even more difficult. Like traditional garlic that is used for cooking. wild garlic creates a hard-sided head with individual cloves, and a single plant can typically produce anywhere from 1 to 6 individual hardshell bulbs per season. Interestingly enough, only 20-40% of wild garlic will produce bulbs that will germinate the first year of growth. The rest may lie dormant for up to 6 years. Interestingly enough. this lawn weed is edible with all parts being safe to consume. However, they are highly undesired in wheat crops as it is difficult to separate individual bulblets from individual wheat crops and creates a garlicky flavor in grains used to produce flour, bread, and other wheat food products.
When it comes to turf care, wild garlic is difficult to eradicate once it has taken root. Although their root systems are generally shallow, and they don’t compete with other plants or flowers for sunlight or nutrients, this prolific weed can still become a nuisance in a well-cultivated landscape. Kill wild garlic all throughout the growing season before plants can generate more bulbs in early spring. Tilling in both fall and spring will help break up root bulbs and reduce early growth. It often takes several years of tillage in both fall and spring to completely eradicate this stubborn turf weed. If tilling in fall and spring is not an option, there are also chemical treatments that can be applied to help control and eliminate the stinky weed and should be applied before plants reach 8″ in height. Bear in mind that it can take several years of mechanical removal to eradicate this lawn weed and as many as 6 years for dormant bulbs to finally emerge.
While some may enjoy having a supply of wild garlic growing in their turf or landscape, for many it is an undesired plant that can be difficult to manage when it comes to turf care. Persistence pays off with this hearty winter perennial. Regular mechanical means of control are necessary and may be coupled with chemical herbicides to fully eliminate them. However, it can take several years of persistent tilling and weed control treatments to eliminate.