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Letter to the editor: Mary Lewis wants to stomp out garlic mustard and seeks help

Posted: Tue, May 7, 2013 5:12 PM

We've waited a long time, but it's finally here, garlic mustard weeding time!  The last hurrahs of swirling white and lingering sidewalk refreeze are behind us, and even the ground has thawed in most places, which is important because we got to get them up by the roots.
Although garlic mustard desires the sun as much as we do, we will deny it, because it is greedy.  It  spreads over the forest floor like a tsunami and prevents tree seedlings from growing.   It also leaves no room for our treasured bloodroot, hepatica, and Dutchman's breeches.  Seeds spread when the soil is picked up by flowing water, deer hooves, and treads of shoes, bicycles, and vehicles.
The new organization, Friends of Decorah Parks, is planning several gatherings where you can learn how to recognize, report, and eradicate this invader.   
Where: Palisades Park: go past the entrance along the gravel road by the river half a mile to the end.

When: Sat. April 13, 9:00-noon and Sat. April 20, 9:00-noon

Plan to arrive sometime before 10, as we may be moving to other locations.
Bring gloves.  We'll have hand diggers and hoes, but we could use more hoes.
To get rid of garlic mustard is very simple.
1. Know it.  
2. Know where it is.  
3. Kill it.
4. Go back and kill what you missed the first time.  
Number 1-3 are like duh, but I feel I need to explain 4.  

Most seeds will grow in the year after they fall to the ground, but some will wait till the following year or the next, and the most devious wait 2 presidential terms to send out their roots, shoots, and most evil of all, their seed producing flowers. And then the nightmare starts all over again!

OK, more about number 1, and don't bug me about not going in order.  In the spring the little seedlings grow big and strong into a low lying plant with round leaves with wavy edges, like big creeping charlie leaves.  They stay that way under the snow till the next spring when they send up flower stalks and their leaves look more pointy.  The flowers are small, many, 4-petaled, and white, unlike the other mustards in the area that are yellow.  Go google, there are lots of great photos.  Have a blast.
Number 2.  Those orange flags in Palisades?  Yup, places to come back to.  Hint:  first look for the little satellite populations beyond a main big area, and save a whole new hillside from infestation.
3.  Kill them before they go to flower, just like any good gardener.  If they begin to send up a flower stalk, you have to put them in bags till they rot, or else they can finish the job even with their roots in the air.  Really, I have pictures.   That's why we get out as soon as the ground thaws in the spring, not because we're industrious, but because we want to save a heck of a lot of work later on.  
5.  The last one, really.  Tell your local hardworking park and rec department that you think this is important.  They're putting in some good work to manage invasives, and need the support of the public, that's us.   
So join the Friends of Decorah Parks and other volunteers.   Come out, enjoy the spring woods, and keep them healthy.  We'd love to have your help, and besides, you can see from the photo of volunteers last year, we have quite a bit of fun.  In addition, we're taking a cue from the highway clean up folks, to adopt a plot.  Think of it, you can be the one who brings a patch of forest back to its original beauty.  

There will be other times, in other parks, so let us know if you'd like to be part of another gathering, or if you're interested in adopting a plot.
For questions contact Ellen Macdonald at  419 0339
Here's a great video about how to identify and control garlic mustard--

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