Tag Archives: Gardening

Garlic Mustard — The Monster in the Woods

There’s a monster in the woods, a monster of threatening force, prodigiously reproducing, covering all in its path. Some monsters like Bigfoot are hidden, undercover, and hard enough to find that some don’t believe they exist. This monster is easy to find, so easy in fact, it may be right in front of you.

The monster is garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive species, brought to this continent in the 1860s (wiki). Native to Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa, it was used as an herb or green in Europe, where dozens of insect species and several fungi use the plant as food. Those species do not share habitat with it here. With no natural enemies, it outreproduces competitors, and within a few years can take over the underbrush.

According to EarthCaretaker, the plant has infested 29 states and southern Ontario. Experts are not sure how it spreads across broad ranges, as seeds fall close to the parent plant. However, without intervention, it easily spreads within limited areas, crowding out other low plants. Deer do not eat it, and when garlic mustard has taken hold, the remaining plants deer do eat are cleared even more.

Some butterfly species may become threatened because it resembles a plant on which they would lay eggs, but the garlic mustard has chemical compounds that don’t make a friendly environment for butterfly reproduction.

It grows for two years. The first year, it has green leaves close to the ground, and in the second year it grows up to 3 feet high. You can see what happens when the plants take the margins of the woods. This photo actually shows a pretty minor infestation. We’ve seen areas substantially more invaded than this.

One challenge is that when the plants are flowering, they may appear to be an attractive wildflower, leading property owners to hesitate to clear it. But cleared it must be. Over approximately a five year period, the plants should be cleared, optimally before flowering. To do so, clear early in the season before seeds develop. Pull out the whole plant including the root. If you do this early enough, you can leave the plants in the woods. If you are late, after seed formation, the plants must be bagged and tied, to go to the landfill, not composting. (My city has a separate disposal site for the plants, to ensure they don’t get mixed with yard waste.) Download a pdf on garlic mustard control. This is published by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, so your mileage may vary based on your own climate conditions.


One way to solve the problem of garlic mustard is to eat it. Garlic mustard IS edible, and apparently tastes like garlic. In addition, it’s high in vitamins A and C.

There are a variety of sources for recipes, none of which I will attest to. However, it apparently can be used as a salad green, in wilted greens, pesto recipes, cream sauce, or in many other ways I would never have considered! See this cook book with things for you to try.

Do you have monstrous garlic mustard weed in your yard or nearby public spaces? Does your community have an organized effort to eradicate it? Do you participate?


Hippeastrum | A Scarlet Baby In Our House

In mid-December, our daughter gave us a present with a large plant bulb inside, growing pot and medium. It was soon planted and watered, ready to grow. Two weeks later this 5″ wide bloom greeted us.

The stamens were laden with pollen.

It grew so fast! In two weeks, the flower stalk had grown nearly two feet. The ruler shows 0.5″ of leaf growth in a day.

Three buds were emerging behind this first bloom. A favorite piece of wall art framed them perfectly.

It has been about a week since the first bloom. Today, I placed the camera on the counter facing upward, set the self-timer, and captured the four from an unusual direction. Thank you, dear daughter. This has been fun.

Hippeastrum (aka Amaryllis) Family

This very popular holiday plant is one of the most widely grown bulbous plants in the world. While it is often forced to bloom in the shortest, darkest days of winter in temperate zones, it is a popular landscape plant in subtropical zones. Northern gardeners sometimes even treat it as a summer flowering bulb that is planted after the last frost in spring. More from the US National Arboretum web site.

Out the Back Window – Butterflies and Basil

by Jim and Melanie

I have a small garden plot next to the house where I raise tomatoes, pole beans, rhubarb, zinnias, peppers, and most important, basil. I let the basil get a little out of control and noticed it was flowering a lot. One sunny day, some winged visitors were there enjoying the basil flowers and the warm sun. I took a few pictures. I couldn’t identify them and later forgot about them. In browsing through those pictures, I came across this one from that day.

At the time, my uneducated guess was that it was a Monarch or Viceroy. They can be confusing since they look a lot alike. I found two good pictures of the Monarch and Viceroy species. Can you see the difference in their markings. Notice the line across the rear part of the wings on the Viceroy. The creature in my photograph above is clearly not either. What is it? If you know, please comment below.

Now for the tasty stuff. The reason we raise basil is, of course, to make pesto. What wonderful stuff. We tried several different versions of the recipe. Some ingredients were different in each. Finally, we settled on our own version that is simple and uses walnuts. If you want to try it yourself, try our recipe.

I think you will be glad you did. We reach into the freezer any time and pull out frozen basil cups for all kinds of uses. One of our favorites is pesto pizza. What a treat!