How to Rid Your Lawn of Wild Garlic or Wild Onions

Last Updated: April 30, 2015 | by Mike McGroarty

If you have wild garlic or wild onions growing in your lawn or flower beds, you know how unattractive these weeds can be. If either is growing in your lawn, you also know how offensive they can be to your sense of smell.

But if you’re unfamiliar with either of these common weeds, it’s difficult to imagine why they could be such a problem.

Wild garlic and wild onions are both very invasive and they reproduce themselves prolifically. Both plants reproduce from underground bulbs and also from seeds that are set from their blossoms.

One wild garlic or wild onion plant, if allowed to blossom, will produce dozens of seeds that can grow into many more plants to infest your lawn.

Wild garlic (Allium vineale) and wild onions (Allium canadense) are related to the domestic varieties of garlic and onions that we grow in our gardens and use in the kitchen.

The problem with these wild cousins however, is that they refuse to stay in their place. Instead, they grow and spread wherever they want to grow, especially in soil that is acidic.

Both of these wild alliums are considered to be winter perennials. Wild garlic and wild onions emerge early in the fall while many other plants are preparing to go dormant for the winter.

They continue to grow throughout the winter and into the spring. In the spring, these plants produce their blossoms which then form tiny bulblets – their seeds – on the tips of the long, narrow leaves.

After the blossoms and bulblets have formed, the plants die back in early summer. But lurking beneath the surface of the soil, the bulbs patiently wait for cooler weather when they will once again send up their leaves. The bulbs and bulblets can both remain in the soil for several years, waiting for the right conditions for sprouting.

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Unlike so many other weeds that can be controlled by chopping, pulling or spraying, wild garlic and wild onions present a different challenge. Mowing the foliage or pulling it from the garden will not affect the bulbs beneath the soil, and within just a few days the bulbs will simply send up new leaves.

Mulching over them does not discourage either plant. Both will easily push through several inches of mulch and they will even grow right through weed-barrier fabric. Wild garlic and wild onions also tend to grow much faster than lawn grass, so within a couple days of mowing, the wild allium will already be growing in unsightly clumps that are taller than the surrounding lawn.

Not only that, but while the lawn is being mowed, the wild garlic or onions will give off a strong, distinct odor of onions that will linger for several hours.

Another characteristic of wild onions and wild garlic that makes them difficult to control is the design of their leaves and the waxy coating that covers them.

Both plants have thin leaves that easily shed herbicides, and the waxy coating helps prevent absorption of the herbicide. Wild garlic has round, hollow leaves while the leaves of wild onion are flat and solid, but both are proficient at shedding an application of herbicide.


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But now that you understand the enemy, you will be better prepared for battle against this smelly pest. If you have only a few clumps of either wild onions or wild garlic in your flowerbeds or lawn, the best solution is to dig them out.

Do not try to just remove the bulbs by pulling them up by their leaves. The bulbs can grow as much as six inches beneath the soil surface and they can be very difficult or impossible to pull out.

Grab a shovel and dig them out. The bulbs will be in a clump, and not all of them will have sprouted. Remove the entire clump of bulbs along with the soil that surrounds them. Some bulblets can be very tiny and difficult to see, so it is best to discard the surrounding soil along with the bulbs.

Do not add the bulbs to your compost pile. If the compost is not hot enough to thoroughly cook the bulbs, they can remain dormant for a long time, then come back to haunt you once the compost is spread on the garden. This is one instance where it is preferable to discard the whole mess in the trash.

Digging out the bulbs would be a daunting task if wild onions or wild garlic has infested a large portion of the lawn. If either of these pests are taking over your lawn and it smells like onion soup when you mow, changing the pH of your lawn is a simple method of discouraging wild alliums.

Both wild onions and wild garlic prefer to grow in acidic soils that are low in organic matter. Appling lime and compost to the soil will increase the organic matter and change the pH to levels that are inhospitable to wild alliums. Be careful to not apply lime near acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons or azaleas.

If you are not opposed to using chemical herbicides, look for a post-emergent herbicide that can be applied to the wild garlic or wild onions. Do not use a preemergent herbicide as this will have no effect on the underground bulbs.

Before applying an herbicide to the wild alliums, it is helpful to mow the plants to rough up their foliage and increase their ability to absorb the herbicide. Once the herbicide has been applied, do not mow again for at least two weeks.

The best time to treat a wild onion or wild garlic infestation with herbicides is in November, with a second application in late winter or very early spring before the plant begins producing more bulbs in March.

Be careful to apply the herbicide only to the garlic or onion plants, as it can also kill nearby plants. A small paintbrush or sponge is helpful for applying herbicide only to the targeted plant.

Herbicides containing 2-4-D, dicamba, glyphosate or mecoprop are most effective on wild garlic and wild onions. If you are unsure about which brand to use, ask for help at your local garden center, and whenever using herbicides or other lawn chemicals, always carefully follow the instructions for the product you buy.

There is one more solution that will get rid of wild garlic or wild onions in your yard. Even though it is highly effective, this solution can damage the lawn so much that it would need to be replaced, and this solution would not be feasible in every neighborhood.

The first step of this solution would be to build a strong fence around the infested area. The second step would be to bring in a pig – yes, a pig – to root out the garlic or onion bulbs.

Pigs seem to love both wild garlic and wild chives and they will root out and eat all of the bulbs. But pigs aren’t adept at covering their tracks, so it would then be up to you to renovate the uprooted lawn. Personally, I’d rather try changing the lawn’s pH.

Questions? I do my best to answer all questions on my blog…

Gardening FAQ

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to eliminate these weeds from a lawn. This is because they grow from bulbs and bulblets that break apart easily when lifted, leaving some of the bulbs and roots behind to re-grow.

Try digging up as many of the bulbs as possible. Do not pull them up by the leaves–that will leave most of the bulbs behind. Re-seed any bare area with a seed mix appropriate to your conditions (sun or part-shade). Repeat as necessary. Mowing the lawn frequently in winter will help to control the weeds but won’t eliminate them.

Maintaining a healthy lawn is important in discouraging weeds. Keep the grass cover thick by re-seeding in the spring. Feed the lawn frequently with compost and occasionally with organic fertilizer. Water in dry periods, infrequently but deeply. Set your mower high (2–3 inches).

If the weed infestation is severe, it may be necessary to completely re-make the lawn. Unfortunately, without using herbicides this is a long term project. The best method is to “solarize” the lawn. Solarization is best done in the hottest part of the year.

To solarize, clear the lawn of any sticks and stones and then mow it as close to the ground as possible. Water the area and cover it with a clear, 2-4-mm-thick, polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride tarp. Bury the edges of the sheet and secure the sheet all the way around with bricks or stones. Leave the tarp in place for 4-6 weeks (the longer the better). The soil will heat up to about 120°F and most pests and weeds without deep roots will be killed. The lawn can be re-seeded in the early fall or, if you are not in a hurry, the tarp can be left in place until the next spring.

A smaller area of lawn can also be killed by covering the ground with sheets of cardboard or paper and then a layer of mulch or soil, but this process takes longer to be effective.

More on lawn care:

If you are interested in organic lawn care techniques, consult this organic lawn care plan.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Service provides extensive information on lawn care and seed choices. See also NYBG’s Libguide on downsizing lawns.

For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
– Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

Tulbaghia Violacea

Wild garlic – The Tulbaghia Violacea

Better known as wild garlic (or wilde knoffel in Afrikaans) or the pink agapanthus, Tulbaghia violacea is a fast-growing bulb from the Alliaceae family. Tulbaghia violacea’s purple colour makes for a stunning addition to the garden that offers a number of health and wellness benefits too.

Did you know? Tulbaghia has been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antithrombotic properties.

The Tulbaghia violacea is a rather small plant, reaching a height of about 50 to 60 centimetres. The tubular flowers have a gorgeous mauve colour and are clustered in groups of about 20 at the top of a tall stalk.

The leaves are long and narrow, and slightly fleshy. When these are bruised or torn, the smell of garlic is immediately evident. The triangular capsules found on the plant are its fruit. These are also grouped together, forming a distinctive head. When they are ripe, they split open and release their seeds for natural propagation.

Flowering time

The Tulbaghia violacea erupts into gorgeous purple blooms through the hottest time of the year, from January to April.

Use in the garden

The Tulbaghia violacea has been known for its medicinal benefits for generations, being used especially by African folk in the treatment of a number of maladies. The flowers and leaves can be eaten with meat and potatoes, in much the same way as spinach. They can also be used in salads, adding a peppery, garlic-like flavour.

The plant has been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antithrombotic properties. The leaves have also been used for oesophageal cancer and sinus headaches. When planted around the house, Tulbaghia violacea keeps snakes, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas away. In the garden, they attract bees, butterflies and moths.

Natural distribution

Tulbaghia violacea is a hardy plant that does well in dry areas as well as more fertile spots. As such, it can be found throughout southern Africa, extending from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. It is also naturally found in Zimbabwe.

Growing Tulbaghia violacea in your garden

This plant is a great choice for gardeners as it tolerates full sun, hot conditions and most soil types. Of course, it does even better with regular watering, but this is not essential. It makes for pretty groundcover, edging to a bed, or the flanking of a pathway.

Although it is fine in full sun, it can also flourish in semi-shade conditions, making it versatile and adaptable. Soil with a good drainage system and plenty of compost is ideal, and gardeners can prolong the lifespan and encourage a healthy, flourishing plant by undertaking these simple steps.

Propagation

The Tulbaghia violacea can be propagated by seed, which should be sown in the spring (September to November) for best results. They should first be planted in deep trays, then replanted into the garden in their second year. They can also be grown by dividing the clumps.

Once these clumps have been planted after splitting from the main plant, they should be left for as long as possible without moving or otherwise disturbing them. Gardeners can expect the first flowers to appear two or three years after planting.

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Wild garlic

Common name: wild garlic
Scientific name: Allium vineale L.
Other scientific name/s:
Other common name/s:

Plant status

Catchment management authority boundaries

Regionally prohibited in the Goulburn Broken Catchment

Regionally controlled in the Mallee, Wimmera, North Central and North East Catchments

Restricted in the Glenelg Hopkins, West Gippsland, East Gippsland, Corangamite, Port Phillip and Western Port Catchments

Read more about the classification of invasive plants in Victoria

Plant images

Plant biology

Appearance

Herbaceous plant – Forb (flowering herbaceous plant – not a grass)

Description

Wild garlic is an erect, strong garlic-smelling perennial herb growing to 1 m high.

Stems

Stems of wild garlic are cylindrical and unbranched. They may produce clusters of aerial bulbils and/or flowers.

Leaves

Wild garlic leaves are slender, hollow, almost cylindrical but channelled on one side. They are 2-3 mm in diameter and emerge from the lower half of the stem.

Flowers

Wild garlic flowers may be white, pink or greenish in colour.

Fruit

Wild garlic reproduces in three ways – bulbils, bulbs and seeds

Bulbils are brown, smooth and shiny and similar in size and shape to wheat grains. Up to 300 can be produced in a terminalhead.

Up to six bulbs are formed at the base of the plant around the old bulb. Some bulbs have soft white shells while others have hard brown shells and can remain dormant in the soil for up to six years.

Seeds

Seeds of wild garlic are 2-3 mm long, black and flattened on one side, though generally not common.

Growth and lifecycle

Method of reproduction and disperal

Bulbils and seeds of wild garlic are spread by the movement of contaminated hay, grain, machinery, animals and water.

The transporting and planting of contaminated wheat has been a significant contributor to the wide distribution of this weed.

Movement of soil and machinery is also responsible for the spread of wild garlic bulbs and bulbils along roadsides.

Animals may move bulbils in their coats and in mud on their feet.

Rate of growth and spread

Wild garlic bulbs and bulbils sprout after the first autumn rains. During winter and spring the leaves and stems develop, with underground bulbs forming at the base of the plant.

Heads are produced in late spring through to summer. Most heads produce bulbils only, but some heads produce both bulbils and flowers. Reproduction by seed is minor for this plant. When the aerial parts of the plant die in late summer the bulbils are shed onto the ground.

Seedbank propagule persistence

Wild garlic has three effective propagules consisting of soft and hard-shelled bulbs, bulbils and seeds. Some of the hard-shelled bulbs and all other propagules of the wild garlic will germinate within 12 months, whilst some hard-shelled bulbs have the ability to remain dormant for six years.

Preferred habitat

Wild garlic favours open, warm-temperate regions occurring on a range of soils but preferring heavy fertile loams. The weed is tolerant to frost and salinity, drought and water logging.

Distribution

Infestations of wild garlic are widely distributed over much of the state, with Victoria the worst affected among all the states, particularly in the north central region.

The most serious invasions are at Castlemaine, Daylesford, Dimboola, Dunolly, Geelong, Maryborough, Ouyen and Woomelang. Other infestations are near Bendigo, Cranbourne, Donald, Hamilton, Kyneton, Port Fairy and Werribee.

Growth calendar

The icons on the calendar below represent the times of year for flowering, seeding, germination, the dormancy period of Wild garlic and also the optimum time for treatment.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flowering
Seeding
Germination
Dormancy
Treatment

Impact

Agricultural and economic impacts

Wild garlic contains allyl sulphides which impart a strong garlic odour and flavour to produce, in particular, cereal grain, grain products, milk and meat.

The weed is classed as a contaminant, which may lead to the rejection of exported produce caused by the consumption of this plant by stock or when it is found in grain.Wild garlic has been suspected of causing cattle poisoning in Britain. However, problems are unlikely to arise if animals are offered a mixed diet.

Management

Prescribed measures for the control of noxious weeds

  • Application of a registered herbicide
  • Cultivation
  • Physical removal

Important information about prescribed measures for the control of noxious weeds

Other management techniques

Changes in land use practices and spread prevention may also support wild garlic management after implementing the prescribed measures above.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. 2001, Noxious weeds of Australia, 2nd edn, Inkata Press, Melbourne & Sydney.

Department of Primary Industries, Wild Garlic Regionally Prohibited Weed Fact Sheet, February 2010

After months of stored roots and fruits, spring comes to the larder in swathes of glorious green. But as welcome as shop-bought offerings of asparagus, young spinach and purple sprouting broccoli are, the real treats don’t come neatly packaged. Right now, anyone fond of a woodland walk has an extra reason to don their wellies: at this time of year wild garlic is prolific.

A member of the Allium family, the plant’s elegant broad, pointed leaves have the same pleasing combination of sweetness and astringency that make leeks, onions, spring onions, chives and bulb garlic so useful in the kitchen. Although edible, the bulbs of the wild garlic plant are usually too small to be of much use and if you ever buy a bunch you’re unlikely to see any bulb at all (digging the bulbs out means no foliage for next year). The characteristic white flowers however, are perfectly edible – and pretty too – although the plant is at its best before too many flowers appear, signalling tougher leaves and a more bitter flavour. In April, when wild garlic is at its peak, you are more likely to find delicious tight buds than open flowers.
Like most people, I’m loth to ingest anything that tastes foul just for its health benefits. So the fact that wild garlic, like its cultivated relatives, is extremely good for you as well as delicious is an added boon. Eaten raw the leaves are at their most pungent and fiery, but they come into their own when cooked. In fact they are almost endlessly versatile: quickly blanched or wilted in olive oil they make a delicately garlicky alternative to spinach (but bear in mind they perform the same trick that spinach does of turning a carrier bag stuffed full of leaves into a measly side portion for two).

The season for wild garlic leaves is short – they’re gone by June – but they are one of the most abundant wild foods and come into their own when paired with other spring ingredients. Served with jersey royals and asparagus alongside roast chicken or spring lamb they’re a seasonal dream.

Eggs are also a natural bedfellow – in an omelette or frittata or woven into a plate of buttery scrambled eggs. Soothing spring risottos tame the wild leaf and it makes an excellent pesto. Of course, there’s no reason not to use it in less orthodox ways as these spicy and moreish wild garlic and quinoa cakes demonstrate. And in a soup it is an excellent foil for a host of other fresh, green ingredients.

If you’re a garlic lover but not a habitual forager, you might worry about the chance of picking something poisonous, and the wild garlic leaf looks very similar to that of the fragrant yet toxic Lily of the Valley. While misidentification is a real hazard with wild mushroom hunting there is no mistaking wild garlic unless you have a really, really bad cold; for a failsafe test, take a leaf and crush it in your hand, then inhale. And if your foraging range is limited to a wander round the nearest farmers’ market you will almost certainly be able to buy bunches alongside other seasonal veg, although it does rather take the fun out of it.

The impressive health benefits of wild garlic

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a sweet-smelling surprise! Spring is the time to make the most of the carpets of wild garlic growing in abundance . Liz has lots growing wild in her farm hedgerows – another good place to look. Follow your nose (literally) and look for its pointed oval leaves that closely resemble Lily of the Valley, but when picked and crushed in your hand give off an unmistakably strong garlicky aroma.

Although we can eat wild garlic bulbs, they tend to be too small to be of much use and digging them out would remove the plant for foraging next year. It’s their leaves that are worth harvesting, preferably before too many of their pretty white flowers have appeared which can signal the arrival of tougher leaves and a slightly bitter taste. Eaten raw, the leaves are delicious, but can pack quite a powerful and pungent punch. When cooked, they mellow considerably while still retaining that gorgeous garlic flavour and scent. The flowers are edible, too, so why not add a handful to garnish your spring salad?

Garlic is widely known for its antibacterial, antibiotic and possibly antiviral properties, and contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and copper. Studies have also shown that it may help reduce blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Interestingly, although all types of garlic have these benefits, wild garlic is thought to be the most effective at lowering blood pressure.

You can enjoy wild garlic, also known as ransoms, in a wealth of different ways. Chop it into mayonnaise or sour cream for a divine dip, or whizz in a blender with pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil for an unbeatable fresh pesto. It’s a perfect partner for eggs, so add a little to an omelette, scrambled eggs or a frittata for a taste sensation. You can also blanch the leaves or wilt them over a gentle heat in a little oil, as you would spinach, for a deliciously different vegetable side. And for a perfect accompaniment to so many seasonal delights, chop wild garlic and spring onion and soften in a little butter to serve with spring lamb, baby Jersey Royals and asparagus.

Looking for a nutritious spring soup recipe? Look no further. Simply soften one chopped onion and two peeled, chopped potatoes in a little oil or butter for ten minutes, then add one litre of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and throw in four good handfuls of wild garlic leaves. Simmer for just two minutes, then remove from the heat and blend. Return to the pan, heat through gently and add approximately 100ml of organic cream for a bowl of green, garlicky goodness. Simply scrumptious!

Like this? Now read:

Liz’s top tips for foraging this spring

Roast cauliflower with halloumi and garlic pesto recipe

Wellbeing Wisdom

  • Studies show that garlic (especially the wild variety) may reduce our risk of stroke and heart disease by reducing blood pressure
  • Garlic is known for its antibacterial, antibiotic and possibly antiviral properties

Wild garlic guide: where to find, how to cook it and recipe ideas

Our guide on how to forage for wild garlic in Britain, with a few key details regarding where it can be found, characteristics and recipe ideas

Wild garlic facts

The plant, native to Britain, is also known as Bear leek, Bear’s garlic, Broad-leaved garlic, Buckrams, Ramsons, Wood garlic and can grow to heights of between 45 and 50 cm.

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The leaves and flowers are edible. Young leaves are delicious added to soups, sauces and pesto. Leaves appear in March and are best picked when young. The flowers emerge from April to June and can add a potent garlic punch to salads and sandwiches.

Add wild garlic leaves to soups, salads and pasta dishes/Credit: Getty

What are the health benefits of wild garlic?

Used traditionally throughout Europe as a spring tonic due to its blood-purifying properties, similarly to bulb garlic, wild garlic is also thought to lower cholesterol and blood-pressure, which in turn helps to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart attack or stroke.

Other uses for wild garlic

The leaves were once boiled and the resulting liquid used as a disinfectant. Its smell is said to repel cats, so may be a good inclusion for a keen ornithologist’s garden. Despite its strong scent, wild garlic has a much mellower taste than conventional garlic. Easily confused, prior to flowering, with the similarly leaved Lily of the Valley. Best not to eat this one though, it’s poisonous.

Wild garlic, also known as ramson or bear’s garlic grows in abundance in many German forests in springtime.

Where to find wild garlic

Dense clusters of green spears thrust from the woodland floor in spring: these are ramsons, better known as wild garlic and they are a sign that the woodland you are walking in is very old.

Allium ursinum (WILD GARLIC, Ramson) in bloom, close-up/Credit: Getty

Closely related to onions and garlic, ramsons similarly grow from bulbs and give off a strong and attractive garlic smell. In continental Europe, the bulbs are thought to be a favourite food of brown bears, hence the plant’s scientific name Allium ursinum (bear leek).

How to forage responsibly

Always be sure you can positively identify any plant before you pick it, and never eat any plant you are unsure of. When foraging, ensure you leave plenty for wildlife.

Here are a couple of key foraging guidelines:

– Seek permission before foraging. In certain areas, plant species will be protected so it is important to do some research and check with the landowner before you start gathering.

– Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply. Look for areas where you can find food in abundance and then only collect a small amount for personal use. Never completely strip an area as this could damage the species and deny another forager the chance to collect.

– Leave enough for wildlife and avoid damaging habitats. Many animals rely on plants for survival, so never take more than you plan to eat as this could also deny wildlife from a valuable food source. Be mindful about wildlife habitats and avoid disturbing or damaging.

– Never pick protected species or cause permanent damage. Britain’s wild plants are all protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), which makes it illegal to dig up or remove a plant. Check the law before you forage or if in doubt, why not take part in a foraging class with an expert and learn the basics.

If you’re new to foraging then wild garlic is a great best place to start, as it’s very easy to identify, very prolific and delicious. At this time of year there is no need to buy garlic bulbs in the supermarket – their foraging counterpart can be found in any British woodland or riverbank.

Wild garlic thrives in woodlands where it can often be found in abundance/Credit: Getty

Wild garlic likes damp ground where it will grow in abundance, with hundreds of green leaves growing on a single green stem. Here is a small selection of some of the best places to see, and to smell wild garlic in the UK:

  • Arnos Vale, Bristol
  • The Woods at Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
  • Gribbin Head, Cornwall
  • Rampsholme Island, Derwentwater, Cumbria

Woodland ramson (Allium ursinum), Cotswolds, Gloucestershire/Credit: Getty

What to do with wild garlic

Like the domesticated alliums, ramsons are edible and the leaves are an excellent addition to a cheese or pate sandwich. Dig up the bulbs and use like garlic, and save the flowers- they make a beautiful edible decoration to savoury dishes.

Whizzed up with walnuts, olive oil and a few tablespoons of parmesan added after, the leaves also make a delicious wild garlic pesto.

Wild garlic pesto – serve with freshly cooked pasta or spread thinly on toast/Credit: Getty

Better still, you can create a lovely spring soup from the leaves. Fry an onion in butter until soft and add a finely cubed potato and a bay leaf. After another five minutes frying, add 500ml of vegetable stock and simmer until the potato is soft –about 10 minutes. Add the bunch of ramsons leaves and cook briefly – no more than a couple of minutes. Remove the bay leaf, blend the soup, add seasoning and you will have a bowl of spring green goodness.

How to store and can you freeze wild garlic

If you plan on cooking with your newly foraged wild garlic within a day or two after collecting, then it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, pop the stem in a glass of water and put in the fridge to help stay fresh for longer.

Place wild garlic stems in a glass of water to retain freshness/Credit: Getty

Similarly to frozen fruit or vegetables, wild garlic can be frozen to preserve its freshness and nutrients. Simply, wash and dry and place in a freezer bag and freeze. Another benefit freezing wild garlic this is you can cook with wild garlic out of season.

Wild garlic recipe ideas

River Cottage chef Gill Meller has created three delicious wild garlic recipes to rustle up using your foraged finds.

Nothing signified the change in the season to my somewhat unreactive senses like the smell of wild garlic, as its emerald spears force up through the warming earth, sweeping over shaded patches of ground like a soft carpet of new green. The smell is still with me today as real and instant as it was then, triggering my sense memories in the same way each year.

Today I use wild garlic – or ramsons as they are also known – in my cooking throughout the plant’s short season, which runs from roughly March through to late June. The best of the crop is to be picked when it is still young. As a smaller, delicate plant, the flavour is light and clean. It can even be eaten in salads at this point. Big, heavier leaves can be less interesting, although they can still be cooked or dried.

Harvesting is easy and relatively fun, particularly with children in tow. It’s such a common plant, and in some areas it is more than abundant. Look for nice, tender, bright leaves. I use my sharp penknife to cut small bunches at the base of its stalk. It is possible to harvest the bulbs as well. This tubular structure is a modified leaf stem and very similar to our everyday bulb garlic, although if there is very little wild garlic in your patch it may be worth leaving the bulb in situ.

Late on in the season, the flowers can be picked and eaten, too. They’re great in salads but you can also cook them. I’ve got a few interesting recipe ideas for these pretty white flowers in my new book, Gather, out later this year.

I’ve used wild garlic in all manner of recipes, from pesto to soup through to pastries, breads and curries. If you like garlic bread, then try chopping the leaf finely and folding through salted butter, before spreading on a thick slice of granary and toasting. I’ve included a few simple and totally delicious ways to use wild garlic in the following recipes.

Cook up a wild garlic feast with River Cottage Gill Mellor’s easy recipes

Wild garlic, potato and chorizo tortilla

I really enjoy cooking through spring and early summer. It’s a pleasure, particularly if you’ve gone out and picked a little wild garlic beforehand, and this simple breakfast or lunch dish is no exception. Big flavours and easy to find ingredients make it a pretty, reliable, no-hassle fallback.

Wild garlic, potato and chorizo tortilla

Make this earthy and easy wild garlic, potato and chorizo tortilla recipe – perfect for a light lunch

These bhajis have become a River Cottage classic. They are cracking with a good curry or served with drinks as a little appetiser.

Wild garlic and onion bhaji with wild garlic raita

Make this easy yet delicious side-dish for curries

Pan fried pollock with ham and wild garlic Advertisement

This recipe should appeal to those of you with a passion for fish cookery and the occasional woodland forage. I love using air-dried ham, which we make regularly at River Cottage, or you could use free-range or organic bacon.

Wild Garlic Quick Facts
Name: Wild Garlic
Scientific Name: Allium ursinum
Origin Europe and Northern Asia
Shapes Capsule which has black seeds inside
Taste Pungent, bitter
Health benefits Treats Chronic Diseases, Improves Heart Health and Treats Stomach Issues

Wild Garlic scientifically known as Ramsons, bear’s garlic, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek, gipsy onion, hog’s garlic, ramsomes and wild leek is a wild relative of chives. It is a part of the large Amaryllidaceae family, represented by 59 genera and over 850 species all over the world. As a member of the Allium genus, bear’s garlic is closely related to herbs like onion (Allium cepa), garlic (Allium sativum) leek (Allium ampeloprasum), and chive (Allium schoenoprasum). Its botanical name, Allium ursinum, is derived from the Latin ursus, meaning bear. It was named bear’s garlic because it is a true spring treat for bears that have just woken up from their winter slumber. The plant is native to damp shaded woods in Europe and northern Asia. Wild garlic is an attractive spring-flowering perennial which may be grown for both ornamental and culinary uses.

Plant Description

Wild Garlic is a monocot bulbous, perennial herbaceous plant that grows about 12 feet (3.7 m) tall. The plant is found growing in moist deciduous forests, valleys and along streams and normally favors moist soils, preferring slightly acidic conditions. The plant has upright and thin bulb that is white or yellow in color. The plant produces small rounded bulbs on branched rhizomes. The stem is triangular in shape and the leaves are similar to those of the lily of the valley. Every year, leaves appear in late winter, flowers bloom in spring, and seeds mature by mid-summer at which point the plants die back and go dormant until the following late winter.

Leaves

The plant consists of bright green, entire, elliptical leaves that are long, pointed and oval in shape with untoothed margins up to 25 cm long x 7 cm wide with a petiole up to 20 cm long. Leaves grow from the plant base, from the bulb of the plant itself. If bruised or crushed, the foliage emits a strong onion/garlic-like aroma. Wild garlic plants typically have 2 or 3 leaves, but older, well-established plants may have more.

Flower & Fruit

The inflorescence is an umbel of six to 20 white flowers only, lacking the bulbils. The flowers are star-like with six white tepals, about 16–20 mm in diameter, with stamens shorter than the perianth. Six petals make up a flower, with around 25 of these forming the rounded shaped flower cluster. Flowers are on leafless stalks. Umbellate garlic-scented flowers produce capsules which has black seeds inside.

Leaves and flowers may be eaten raw in the form of salads or cooked as an addition to soups, sauces or stews. Leaf flavor begins to drop as the flowers start to bloom. Underground bulbs can also be eaten raw or cooked.

History

Bear’s garlic (Wild Garlic) boasts a very long history of use. The 1st-century Greek botanist Pedanius Dioscorides stated it in his five-volume herbal encyclopedia, describing its effectiveness for the cleansing and detoxification of the body. During the middle Ages, King Charlemagne of present-day France classified the plant in his Capitulare de Villis imperialibis, a guide that highlighted the medicinal properties of common herbs.

In 1992, bear’s garlic was named Plant of the Year by the Society for the Protection and Investigation of European Flora. Although easily overshadowed by its more lucrative relatives, bear’s garlic still holds the same wonderful health benefits that initially earned it the esteemed title. Today it is found in several parts of the world due to its wonderful health promoting benefits and amazing addition to different cuisines.

Buds-of–Wild-Garlic Closer-view-of-flower Flowering-Bud-of-Wild-Garlic
Flower-of-Wild-Garlic Leaves-of-Wild-Garlic-plant Plant-Illustration-of-Wild-Garlic
Ripening-fruit-of-Wild-Garlic Seedlings-of-Wild-Garlic Small-Wild-Garlic-plant
Wild-Garlc-Seeds Wild-Garlic-Pesto Wild-Garlic-plant
Wild-Garlic-plant-Growing-Wild Wild-Garlic-Recipe Wild-Garlic-Sketch


Health benefits of Wild Garlic

Medicinally speaking, there are several remarkable uses for wild garlic, including in the treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stomach upset, and chronic disease, among others. This particular garlic can be used internally or topically as an herbal supplement or added to poultices and other home remedies. Listed below are some of the well-known health benefits of using wild garlic in your everyday routine

1. Treats Chronic Diseases

Active ingredients in wild garlic have the ability to neutralize free radical activity before it can lead to cellular mutation and oxidative stress in different parts of the body. This can help to lower your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease or arthritis.(1)

2. Improves Heart Health

Garlic is known to have a soothing effect on high blood pressure, which can lessen your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. Additionally, wild garlic is able to lower overall cholesterol levels, keeping your heart in good shape as you age. (2)

3. Treats Stomach Issues

Antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds found in this wilder form of garlic can help to re-balance the bacterial flora in your gut, which helps to calm inflammation, bloating, cramping, constipation, and other stomach issues you may be handling. (3)

4. Antibacterial effect

It was already shown that garlic has strong antibacterial effects. But the effect is to feel really strongly, take fresh, rough leaves. Wild garlic helps to cleanse the stomach-intestinal system of microbes and bacteria. So, its regular consumption can be used as prophylaxis against serious illnesses, including cancer.

5. High cholesterol and blood pressure

Due to the presence of some important minerals Wild garlic leaves still young is recommended to people who suffer from high cholesterol level and triglycerides in their blood, as well as high blood pressure. This plant has a beneficial effect to the arteries and it can also prevent atherosclerosis.

6. Inflammations and infections

Consumption of fresh wild garlic has a beneficial effect on the parasites in the intestines. It helps to prevent the intestines from irritations and also protects the organism from colds and flu. It helps in the treatment of bronchitis, because it clears the airways, relieves breathing and decreases cough.

7. Good for the skin

Wild Garlic in the form of bath is ideal for everyone who suffers from problematic skin, inflammatory processes on the skin, skin irritation, eczema and dermatitis.

8. Decrease aggravations and allergies

Utilization of crisp wild garlic has a profitable impact on the parasites in the digestion tracts. It keeps the digestion tracts from issues such as ulcers furthermore shields the living being from colds and influenza. It helps in the treatment of bronchitis, since it clears the berating routes, mitigates breathing and prevents cough.

9. Helps in Detoxification

Recuperating properties of wild garlic are additionally proficient for purifying the body from poisons. To be more exact, wild garlic cleans the liver, kidneys, insides and nerve bladder.

10. Against fatigue

Fatigue during season changes afflicts many people. It is often the lack of certain vitamins – calcium, potassium, iron, etc. fatigue can be overcome very well and quickly with the help of the Bärlauchs. The plant has these and many other important vitamins and minerals in itself.

Traditional uses and benefits of Wild Garlic

  • Ramsons produce sulfide compounds similar to those found in garlic and onions, and appear to have similar medicinal effects, including antifungal and antimicrobial properties and cardiovascular benefits.
  • It is particularly effective in reducing high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
  • It is recognized as having a good effect on fermentative dyspepsia.
  • Plant is anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, cholagogue, depuritive, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypotensive, rubefacient, stimulant, stomachic, tonic and vasodilator.
  • Ramsons ease stomach pain and are tonic to the digestion, so they can be used in the treatment of diarrhea, colic, wind, indigestion and loss of appetite.
  • Whole herb can be used in an infusion against threadworms, either ingested or given as an enema.
  • Herb is also beneficial in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Juice is used as an aid to weight loss and can also be applied externally to rheumatic and arthritic joints where its mild irritant action and stimulation to the local circulation can be of benefit.
  • Bear garlic is a wonderful Immune booster.
  • It combats heart disease like Angina and Palpitation.
  • Asthma and bronchitis are effectively treated by bear’s garlic.
  • It takes good cure of the stomach and helps in treating indigestion, Anorexia and stomachache.
  • It is applied on the skin to alleviate skin rashes.
  • Garlic chives improve kidney function and are used to treat urinary incontinence, kidney and bladder weakness
  • Seeds can be used to treat nausea and vomiting
  • Leaves can be made into a poultice together with Gardenia Augusta and used to treat knee injuries.
  • If you have problems with high blood pressure, try adding wild garlic to your spring diet.
  • Wild garlic can provide help to people with frequent migraines.
  • Juice can be used as a rub to treat joint pain, and can also apparently be used to aid weight loss.
  • Bear’s garlic wine is an extremely healing agent for the elderly suffering from persistent pulmonary catarrh and related breathing problems.
  • It is also recommended in cases of pulmonary tuberculosis and dropsy, from which older people often suffer.
  • It has beneficial effects on the urinary system.
  • Bear’s garlic can be used as a bath for treating eczema, dermatitis, hematomas and wounds.
  • Pulverized dried wild garlic leaves are used to prevent ischemic and arrhythmias disease.
  • Extract from the bulb are also used to treat blood pressure and platelet aggregation.

Culinary Uses

  • Ramsons leaves are edible; they can be used as salad, spice, boiled as a vegetable, in soup, or as an ingredient for pesto in lieu of basil.
  • Stems are preserved by salting and eaten as a salad in Russia.
  • Bulbs and flowers are also very tasty.
  • Flowers or buds can be eaten in salad, and the bulbs are also edible.
  • Ramsons are eaten as a spring tonic, to cleanse the system in Germany.
  • Flowers in small quantities make a decorative and very tasty addition to salads.
  • Small green bulbils are used as a caper substitute.
  • Small bulbs can be minced or added to a stir-fry for an extra kick of flavor.
  • More mature leaves are great in Italian style preparations: pesto, risotto, polenta, fritatta etc or chopped and tossed with warm Jersey Potatoes and sautéed bacon.
  • Young shoots which look similar to chives work well in Asian style cookery, sautéed in peanut oil with ginger and finished with a little soy sauce.
  • You can also use wild garlic to make a great late night snack by slipping a couple of leaves between a slice of toast and a slice of cheddar style cheese before melting under the grill.
  • Bold, oniony taste of fresh bear garlic bulbs makes it attractive as a boiled vegetable ingredient in hot soups.

How to Consume Bear Garlic

While fresh bear’s garlic lends itself to the best of the herbs various medicinal preparations, it can also be dried or its oils extracted.

Remedies

Main preparations: Capsules, tinctures, decoctions

Every part of the bear garlic plant holds medicinal value. Commonly ingested as a capsule or liquid extract, remedies made from bear’s garlic contain its powerful, concentrated ingredients.

  • Capsules: Capsules are stuffed with the dried leaves of the bear garlic plant to provide a consistent, easily-ingestible dosage of cholesterol-lowering herbal treatment.
  • Tinctures: Ingesting about 30 – 60 drops of bear garlic tincture twice daily can provide the body with all it needs to recover from illness.
  • Decoctions: Often overlooked in medicinal preparations, the stems and bulbs of bear’s garlic make excellent ingredients for slow-brewing homemade decoctions.

Recipe

1. Toasted linguine with wild garlic

Toasting pasta gives it a nutty flavor that perfectly suits wild garlic, and in this recipe complements the toasted almonds. When it isn’t in season, use a few cloves of finely sliced garlic and a handful of chopped parsley.

Ingredients

  • 400g linguine, snapped in half
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 20g butter
  • 3 large red onions, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 100ml white wine or dry cider
  • 200g wild garlic, trimmed, washed and shredded
  • 40g raisins, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
  • 40g blanched whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 60g parmesan, grated
  • Salt and black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Put the linguine on an oven tray, sprinkle 1 tbsp olive oil and rub into the pasta. Spread it out into an even layer and bake for 10 minutes.
  2. Give the tray a good shake, turn it round and do it again. By now the pasta should be a rich, golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, put the rest of the olive oil and the butter in a heavy-based pan with a lid, add the onions and bring them up to a sizzle. Add a pinch of salt, pop the lid on and turn it right down.
  4. Leave the onions to soften for 10 minutes. Once meltingly soft, take the lid off, turn the heat up and add the vinegar and wine. Simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated. Throw in the wild garlic, put the lid on again and leave it to wilt for a few minutes.
  5. When the pasta is toasted, add it to a pan of boiling water and cook for 7-10 minutes, bearing in mind it will take a little longer than usual. Add the raisins, stir and taste for seasoning.
  6. Drain the pasta, return to the pan and tip in the dressing. Mix thoroughly, check the seasoning, and add the almonds and pile on to plates with parmesan.

2. Wild garlic soup

Ingredients

Garlic Cream

  • 25 g Parsley
  • 50 g Wild garlic
  • 125 g Sour cream

Methods for Garlic Cream

  1. Wash and dry the parsley and wild garlic, remove any thick stalks from the wild garlic.
  2. Puree together & pass through a drum sieve.
  3. Cover, chill and keep for three days max.

Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion (sliced)
  • 3 Garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 25g Butter
  • Salt & milled white pepper
  • 120ml White wine
  • 50ml Noilly prat
  • 600ml Chicken stock
  • 250ml Double cream
  • 100ml Sour cream
  • 1 Lemon (juice from)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 25g Cold diced butter
  • 3 tbsp Wild garlic cream
  • 3 tbsp Whipped cream

Method for Soup

  1. Sweat onions and garlic slowly in butter until soft, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Deglaze with white wine and Noilly prat, boil to reduce by half.
  3. Add chicken stock and reduce again by half.
  4. Add cream and sour cream, simmer for 15mins.
  5. Blitz and pass through a fine chinoise.
  6. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne.
  7. Whizz in cold butter and wild garlic cream with a hand blender.
  8. Fold in whipped cream.

3. Venison Carpaccio with Wild Garlic Pesto

Ingredients

  • 400g Roe Deer Fillet or Topside
  • Sea salt
  • 120ml Walnut oil
  • 15ml Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Very finely diced vegetables (red onion, carrot, celery)
  • 2 tsp Wild garlic pesto
  • 1 tbsp Crème frâiche (thinned slightly)
  • 100g Shaved parmesan
  • Wild herbs for garnish

Directions

  1. Wrap the venison in cling film and freeze.
  2. Slice very thinly.
  3. Season plates with salt and pepper and lay the slices on top.
  4. Season again and scatter a little vegetable brunoise then baste with the walnut oil and vinegar.
  5. Drizzle with a little wild garlic pesto and thinned crème frâiche.
  6. Garnish with shaved parmesan and herbs.

4. Wild Garlic Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • About 10 wild garlic leaves (add more for a stronger flavor)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp English mustard
  • 200 ml sunflower oil
  • 200 ml rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • White pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and have a bowl of iced water ready.
  2. Plunge the garlic leaves into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then lift out with a slotted spoon and drop into the iced water – this helps to keep the green color.
  3. Leave for a few minutes, then pat them dry and put in a mini food processor with the egg yolks and mustard.
  4. Pulse until finely chopped, and then scrape into a big mixing bowl.
  5. Pour the oils into a jug.
  6. Whisk the yolks mixture with an electric whisk.
  7. Slowly add the oil, first a drip at a time, then in a steady, thin drizzle – the mixture should thicken and start to look like mayonnaise.
  8. If at any point it starts to look greasy, add 1 tbsp cold water and continue whisking until all the oil has been added and you have a thick mayonnaise.
  9. Add the vinegar and season with salt and white pepper.
  10. Lay cling film directly onto the surface of the mayonnaise so a skin doesn’t form, then chill. (It will keep for 3 days in the fridge.)

Wild garlic – healing recipes

1. Wild garlic juice

For the preparation of this juice you need wild garlic leaves that you’ll chop finely and squeeze the juice out of them using a juicer or a strainer. Keep the acquired juice in a small bottle or glass jar. You can consume 1 teaspoon of wild garlic juice three times a day which you’ll add in a glass of water, tea or yogurt.

2. Wild garlic honey

To prepare wild garlic honey, you’ll the need the formerly mentioned wild garlic juice that you’ll add into natural bee honey. Mix the ingredients in the following quantity: 300 ml of wild garlic juice in 1 kg of honey. You can consume 1 tablespoon of this wild garlic honey, 3 times a day with a little bit of water.

3. Wild garlic wine

For the preparation of this wine you need the following ingredients:

  • 50g of wild garlic leaves
  • 250 ml of white wine

Put the finely chopped wild garlic leaves in an adequate bowl and pour them with white wine. Cover and filtrate after 20-30 minutes. Consume the acquired wine in small sips during the day. Wild garlic wine is ideal for the decomposition of accumulated mucus in the lungs and its secretion.

4. Wild garlic leaves tincture (wild garlic drops)

For the preparation of this tincture you need the following ingredients:

  • 20g of wild garlic leaves
  • 1l of grape brandy

Put the finely chopped wild garlic leaves in a bottle and then pour them with grape brandy. Let it rest for 20 days in a closed bottle and shake it from time to time. After it has stayed for a while, filtrate the acquired liquid and pour it into a dark glass dish, covered with a lid, which you’ll keep in a dark place. You can consume 1 teaspoon of this tincture in the morning and at night. You may add it in half a glass of cold milk or yoghurt.

5. Wild garlic butter

For the preparation you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 50g of wild garlic leaves
  • 750g of butter
  • salt and black pepper if you wish

Mix the finely chopped wild garlic leaves with the previously melted butter. Then, put some salt and black pepper if you wish and stir it all well so it can join together. Put the acquired mixture in the fridge so it can go back to its solid condition. The usage is the same as in regular butter.

Other Facts

  • Ramsons leaves are also used as fodder. Cows that have fed on ramsons give milk that tastes slightly of garlic, and butter made from this milk used to be very popular in 19th century Switzerland.
  • Juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent.
  • Whole plant is said to repel insects and moles.
  • Juice of the plant has been used as a general household disinfectant.
  • Wild garlic is an attractive spring-flowering perennial which may be grown for both ornamental and culinary uses.

Precautions

  • There have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in very large quantities and by some mammals, of this species. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.
  • Avoid use during pregnancy and breast feeding.
  • Wild Garlic leaves can be easily confused with Convallaria majalis, Arum maculatum and Crocus autumnalis all poisonous plants, with potential deadly consequences.

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Flower:

Rounded flower cluster at the tip of a sturdy, erect stem, encased by 2 or 3 broad, oval bracts that dry to a papery light brown. The cluster is 1 to 2 inches across, typically a mix of small, stalkless bulblets and stalked flowers, though flowers may be absent altogether. The bulblets are about ½ inch long, greenish to deep maroon, round and broadest at the base and can be short tapered to a conical tip, or the outer sheath can elongate into a round, leaf-like blade over an inch long.

Occasionally secondary clusters of small bulblets form at the tip of these extensions. Flowers, when present, are white to pink (typically pale pink), ¼ to ½ inch across, on a stalk ½ to 1 inch long, with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals all similar) and 6 white to pink stamens surrounding a pale yellowish-green center.

Leaves and stems:

Leaves are grass-like, as long as or shorter than the flowering stem, slender and flat, 1/10 to 2/10 inch wide and up to 12 inches long, nearly basal but sheathed around the lower 1/3 of the stem. Stems are round and unbranched. Leaves and stems are hairless and have a strong onion scent, especially when crushed. Underground bulbs are covered in a fibrous mesh.

Fruit:

Minnesota populations rarely produce fruit. When present, fruits are small, three valved capsules about 1/8 inch across with a small shiny black seed in each valve.

Notes:

Wild garlic can produce massive, showy displays around the moist edges of ephemeral pools of Minnesota’s southwestern granite outcrops. But in much of its range, as along the banks of the Mississippi and the damp meadows of the Minnesota River Valley, it is often scarce of flower and its slender, grass-like form easily gets it lost amongst the grasses and sedges. It has revealed itself to me more than once by its fragrant onion odor after I’ve trampled on it. It has persisted quite well amongst my wet meadow plantings in the backyard garden and, while not of much substance, the crisp cluster of fresh bulblets can be a tasty treat when the mood strikes. There are 6 recognized varieties in North America, distinguished by a range of characteristics from flower color, fragrance, and size of the flower stalks, with var. canadense, which produces more bulblets than flowers, found in Minnesota. It is easy to distinguish from other Allium species by these bulblets and the mesh-covered underground bulbs.

Wild Garlic Control: How To Kill Wild Garlic Weeds

I love the smell of garlic sautéing in olive oil but not so much when it permeates the lawn and garden with no sign of abating. Let’s learn how to get rid of wild garlic weeds.

Wild Garlic in Landscapes

Wild garlic (Allium vineale) in lawns and garden areas can be found throughout the southeastern United States along with its almost indistinguishable relation, the wild onion (Allium canadense). A true annoyance, wild garlic grows rampantly during the cooler months and controlling wild garlic can be a challenge, not to mention the stench that may linger for hours after mowing or cutting.

As they are both similar in nature, wild onion and wild garlic control are also similar with a few exceptions – wild garlic is more commonly seen in crop-like areas and wild onion most common in lawns. This is not always the case, but can make a difference when it comes to treatment since you do not want to introduce chemicals in areas where you grow edibles. When identifying wild onions vs. wild garlic, it helps to know how they’re similar and how they’re different.

Both are perennials, coming back each year, and can be problematic in spring. Though senses of smell vary, it is often stated that wild garlic smells more like onions while the opposite is true for wild onions, smelling more like garlic. Both have narrow leaves but wild garlic only has about 2-4 while wild onion has many more.

Additionally, wild garlic plants consist of round, hollow leaves and wild onions are flat and non-hollow. The bulb structure for each slightly differs too, with wild onions having a fibrous net-like coat on the central bulb and no offset bulblets, and wild garlic producing offset bulbs enclosed by a papery membrane-like skin.

How to Kill Wild Garlic Weeds

The question “how to kill wild garlic weeds” can involve a number of suitable methods.

Hoeing

Controlling wild garlic can be accomplished by hoeing during the winter and early spring to prevent new bulbs from forming. The bulbs of wild garlic may lay dormant in the soil for up to 6 years and nothing sprayed above ground level will penetrate and control wild garlic. Getting rid of wild garlic completely may take 3-4 years utilizing a combination of methods with hoeing as one option, especially in garden beds.

Hand pulling

Wild garlic may also be pulled; however, the chance of bulbs being left in the soil minimizes the likelihood that wild garlic control has been attained. It is better to actually dig the bulbs out with a trowel or shovel. Again, this works well for smaller areas and gardens.

Chemicals

And then there is chemical control. Wild garlic doesn’t respond well to herbicides due to the waxy nature of its foliage, so chemical control of this weed can be somewhat difficult to say the least and it may take several attempts before you see results, if any. There are currently no herbicides which are useful for controlling wild garlic pre-emergence. Rather, wild garlic must be treated with herbicides after the bulb has begun to grow shoots.

Apply herbicides in November and then again in late winter or early to mid-spring, with greater results in lawns following mowing to improve uptake. It may be necessary to retreat again later in spring or the following fall to completely eradicate wild garlic. Select herbicides which are suitable for the landscape site where they are being applied and deemed most effective for use on wild garlic weeds, such as the application of 2.4 D or dicamba, when the weeds are 8 inches tall. The amine formulations of 2.4 D are safer then the ester formulations. Post application, refrain from mowing for 2 weeks.

Examples of suitable products containing 2.4 D are:

  • Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns
  • Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns – for Southern Lawns, Lilly Miller Lawn Weed Killer, Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec®, and Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer

These three-way broadleaf herbicides are safe for use on most turf grasses with the exception of St. Augustine or Centipede grass. Do not apply during the spring greening up of warm-season turfs, newly seeded lawns or over the roots of ornamental trees or shrubs.

Lastly, the final option the battle of getting rid of wild garlic is called Metsulfuron (Manor and Bladet), which is a product that should be applied by a landscape professional and, thus, may be a bit more costly.

Wild Garlic & Wild Onion

Description

Wild garlic (Allium vineale) and wild onion (Allium canadense) are winter perennials, with wild garlic being predominant in South Carolina. They emerge in late fall from underground bulbs and grow through the winter and spring. In late spring, aerial bulblets are formed and the plants die back in early summer. The underground bulbs can persist in the soil for several years. While both have thin, green, waxy leaves, those of wild garlic are round and hollow, while those of wild onion are flat and solid.

Wild garlic plants (Allium vineale).

A cluster of wild garlic bulbs (Allium vineale).

Control

Pulling: With a small number of weeds, pulling, though difficult, is an option. It is easier to pull up large groups of bulbs when the soil is moist. However, it’s likely that bulbs or bulblets will be left in the ground and new leaves will later re-emerge. For best results, dig them out with a thin trowel.

Mowing: Mowing will not kill wild garlic or wild onions. However, regular mowing can weaken plants and prevent them from setting seed.

Chemical: Unfortunately, there are no preemergence herbicides that will control wild onion or wild garlic. They must be treated with a postemergence herbicide, and persistence is the key. Plants will need to be sprayed more than once and for more than one season. One characteristic that makes control difficult is that both have a thin, glossy leaf to which herbicides don’t readily adhere. Unlike most weeds, mowing wild garlic or wild onion immediately before applying an herbicide may improve uptake. After application, do not mow for at least two weeks.

Timing of Sprays: Treat wild garlic and wild onion in November and again in late winter or early spring (February or early March) before these plants can produce the next generation of bulbs. However, be careful not to apply most weed killers onto centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass during their spring green up period. Inspect the lawn again in the spring and the next fall, and treat if necessary.

Recommended Herbicides: Imazaquin, the active ingredient in Image Nutsedge Killer, will provide control for wild garlic and wild onion. This product should not be used on fescue and should not be applied to warm season turf during green up in spring. Wait at least 1-½ months after treatment before reseeding, winter overseeding or plugging lawns. This product is not for use on newly planted lawns, nor on winter over-seeded lawns with annual ryegrass.

Three-way broadleaf herbicides containing 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP) will provide control of wild garlic and wild onion with repeat applications. Examples of three-way herbicides for residential lawns in homeowner sizes are:

  • Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer – Contains Trimec® Concentrate
  • Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec® Concentrate
  • Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; + RTS
  • Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns Concentrate; + RTS
  • Bonide Weed Beater – Lawn Weed Killer Concentrate
  • Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; + RTS

These products can be used safely on most turfgrasses, but reduced rates are recommended when applying to St. Augustinegrass or centipedegrass. Apply during November, very early spring, and again the next November for best control. Do not apply these herbicides during the spring green up of warm season turfgrasses, or over the root zone of nearby ornamental trees and shrubs. Do not apply these products to newly seeded grasses until well established (after the third mowing). Treated areas may be reseeded three to four weeks after application. Always check the product label for rate of application and to determine that it is safe for use on your species of turfgrass.

Celsius WG Herbicide, which contains thiencarbazone, iodosulfuron, and dicamba, will control wild garlic, especially if applied when the average daily temperatures are over 60° F. Apply in the fall and again 2 to 4 weeks later. The addition of a non-ionic surfactant, such as Southern Ag Surfactant for Herbicides, will increase control. Celsius is selective to control many broadleaf weeds & several grass weeds in all four of the common warm season turfgrasses, but cannot be used on a fescue lawn.

Imazaquin, as in Image Kills Nutsedge Concentrate or RTS, maybe used on warm season lawns for wild garlic and wild onion control. Do not apply to warm season turfgrass during the spring green-up of the lawn. It is not for use on fescue lawns & do not apply to St. Augustine lawns during the winter.

For Landscape professionals Metsulfuron, such as in Quali-Pro MSM 2500 Herbicide and Manor Herbicide give very good control of wild garlic & wild onions in bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine, and zoysia lawns. Quali-Pro Fahrenheit Herbicide also contains metsulfuron along with dicamba. For these three professional products, a non-ionic surfactant, such as Southern Ag Surfactant for Herbicides or Hi-Yield Spreader Sticker Non-ionic Surfactant, is required at 2 teaspoons per gallon of spray mix for best control. A non-ionic surfactant will help the herbicide adhere to the leaves for increased penetration, but many temporarily cause yellowing of the turfgrass. Blindside herbicide also contains metsulfuron along with sulfentrazone. Apply metsulfuron products to lawn at least one year old and when temperatures are below 85 °F.

Do not apply metsulfuron to a lawn if over-seeded with annual ryegrass or over-seed for 8 weeks after application. Do not plant woody ornamentals in treated areas for one year after application of metsulfuron. Do not apply metsulfuron herbicides within two times the width of the drip line of desirable hardwood trees.

Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide that will also provide control of wild garlic and wild onion. If you are unable to prevent glyphosate from getting on desired actively growing grasses, a selective herbicide should be used. To avoid harming the turfgrass, apply glyphosate during winter, but only to bermudagrass once the lawn is completely dormant. However, during mild winters, the turfgrass may not be completely dormant. Examples of glyphosate products in homeowner sizes are:

  • Roundup Original Concentrate,
  • Roundup Pro Herbicide,
  • Martin’s Eraser Systemic Weed & Grass Killer,
  • Quick Kill Grass & Weed Killer,
  • Bonide Kleenup Weed & Grass Killer 41% Super Concentrate,
  • Hi-Yield Super Concentrate,
  • Maxide Super Concentrate 41% Weed & Grass Killer,
  • Super Concentrate Killzall Weed & Grass Killer,
  • Tiger Brand Quick Kill Concentrate,
  • Ultra Kill Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate,
  • Gordon’s Groundwork Concentrate 50% Super Weed & Grass Killer,
  • Zep Enforcer Weed Defeat III,
  • Eliminator Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate,
  • Monterey Remuda Full Strength 41% Glyphosate,
  • Knock Out Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate,
  • Southern States Grass & Weed Killer Concentrate II,
  • Total Kill Pro Weed & Grass Killer Herbicide,
  • Ace Concentrate Weed & Grass Killer.

The ‘Bulbing’ Weeds: Wild Onion, Wild Garlic and Star of Bethlehem

Q. Dear Mike: I’m from the Philadelphia area and LOVE your show (and my maiden name is McGrath, which, I confess, is why I started listening). Anyway, we moved south, and our home’s lawn is plagued by wild garlic. My 14-month-old daughter will be playing on this grass so no herbicides. What can we do instead? Thanks,

    —-Emily in Knoxville, TN

Any suggestions on how to rid my yard of onion grass? I dig the plants up but cannot seem to prevent their spread over more of my lawn each year. Thanks for your help!

    —Rosemary in Philadelphia

My flowerbed is overrun with wild onions. They are impossible to pull; how can I get rid of them without killing any perennials or bushes in the same area?

    —Lori in Kankakee (Illinois)

A. Well, you can forget about using herbicides on these invaders, no matter how you feel about the virtues of spraying death in order to disable otherwise fine plants you have been conditioned to despise. Most of the chemical—and non-chemical—treatments designed to destroy existing plants are “broadleaf herbicides”. Simply put, the broad leaves of the targeted weed catch and hold the chemical—or vinegar or soap—in place so it can do its plant-killing work. These ‘onions’ and ‘garlic’s—wild members of the Allium family—are tall and slender, and thus shed herbicides very effectively. And their underground bulb—like that of a cultivated onion or garlic—stores a lot of energy for future rejuvenation.

The answer to these weeds in flower beds and high-quality lawns is intelligent pulling. I’m mystified that Lori in Kankakee says that they’re “impossible to pull”, as I have had some of the distinctive clumps appear in my peach orchard and the entire clump comes out easily when I pull on it gently but firmly after a good, soaking rain. This is one of the many benefits of improving your soil, boys and girls—weeds that sprout out of nice, loose rich soil that contains a lot of organic matter in the form of compost practically pull themselves out. Conversely, weeds that grow in lousy, compacted clay are pretty firmly anchored.

And pulling from wet soil is always more productive than dry. So go out after a rain, reach down to the soil line and tug gently; that’s how you get the underground bulb out completely. If you only snap them off at the soil line, the plant is not harmed; you spend the same amount of time and energy as someone who does it correctly, but get no benefit.

You can also remove tight clumps with a sharp, long-handled ‘poachers spade’, which is also a very useful tool for transplanting and rabbit hunting in Merry Old England.

Single sprouts are the most annoying and time-consuming to deal with. So be smart. If you have a large area with mostly single plants, clear small sections at a time, being sure to pull slowly and get the bulbs completely out. Start with highly visible areas and give yourself several seasons to do it all; if you’ve just been cursing them for the past five years, you can’t expect overnight eradication. And don’t let the un-pulled plants in other areas set seed while you’re doing this; mow or weed-whack the tops off those miscreants before they can procreate.

In a lawn, the best answer is always the indirect approach; grow a healthier lawn. That means using a corn gluten meal weed and feed in the Spring to provide a nice feeding and prevent any dropped seed from sprouting; and then provide a big natural feeding with compost or a bagged organic lawn fertilizer in the fall for cool-season grasses like bluegrass and fescue. No summer feeding for cool-season grasses! And no chemical fertilizer—ever!

In addition, never cut cool-season lawns lower than three inches. Water all grasses deeply and INfrequently, and only when needed; never water every day, for short periods of time, or on a schedule that ignores rainfall. Do these things and the alliums—and other weeds—will diminish naturally over time

And I would be remiss if I did not note that these plants are edible, and highly sought after as ingredients in Springtime ‘tonics’. Yes, the flavor IS very sharp compared to that of cultivated alliums, but that’s a sign that they contain much higher amounts of allicin and other natural antibiotics and cancer-fighting compounds than their cultivated cousins. Try mixing small, well-chopped-up amounts into dishes. Or chop some up (cloves and greens) and soak them for a few months in a good quality apple cider vinegar to make delicious garlic vinegar.

Q: Dear Mike, I’m being plagued by the beautiful six-petaled flower, Star of Bethlehem, and want to know how I may eliminate it.

    —Harry in Levittown, PA

Any advice on how to obliterate the invasive little devils known as Ornithogalum umbellatum, or Star of Bethlehem? Digging them up one by one is a long and tedious process. I tried putting fieldstone over them, but they just come creeping out the edges of the stone.

    —-Linda in Collingswood, NJ

A. Control of these escaped ornamentals is the same as with the wild alliums; get the underground bulb out by intelligent pulling and that plant will trouble you no more.

Or install edging to keep it confined to certain areas and consider this entry from Anna Pavord’s excellent and highly recommended new book “Bulb” (Mitchell Beazley; 2009): “If you have not been brainwashed to think of it as a thug, Star-of-Bethlehem will appear unexpectedly charming, with wide spreading heads of light, feathery, airy flowers with very precise habits, opening at 11 o’clock and closing at three in the afternoon. A good flower to naturalize in meadow grass or under shrubs.”

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