August 25, 2015
Q. How do I get rid of garlic mustard growing in my garden?
Please suggest some native plants we could grow that are easily available at our local garden centre. We live beside a park at the top of Scarborough Bluffs.

A. It is a two-part process to grow native plants in your garden.
The biggest problem is the elimination of the garlic mustard. This must be done first.
Garlic mustard is an invasive species that exudes a toxin in which it kills other plants in the area, which allows it to spread freely. Native plants, such as dutchman's breeches, hepatica, trilliums, bloodroot, wild ginger, are very susceptible to this aggressive plant. Light, moisture, nutrients, soil and space are also consumed by this plant. The flowers of garlic mustard disperse thousands of seeds two weeks after bloom. The seed can be viable in a dormant state in the soil for up to 10 years. This is one nasty plant.

How to control it
At the moment, you as a homeowner are not able to use a herbicide, as there is a pesticide ban in Ontario. You may call in a weed specialist who has a license to spray. To find a specialist who services your area, go to the Find a Company page on the Green for Life website, and click on Lawn Care. Enter your postal code to get local results.
As you live beside a park, speak to the persons who maintain this space. Possibly, you can work out something for the eradication of this plant in both spaces. You may try smothering the area with heavy plastic, or many layers of newspapers. It would need to be left there for at least a year to make sure all plants are eliminated. After you have eliminated all garlic mustard plants from your garden, start adding native plants. The North American Native Plant Society has a great sale each spring, or you can contact your local independent garden centre to check if they stock the plant or if they can order it. Again, go to the Find a Company page on the Green for Life website, choose Garden Centres and enter you postal code.

Landscape Ontario is a partner in the Ontario Invasive Plant Council. This group has information on garlic mustard on its website.

Valerie E. Liney, Lake Simcoe South Master Gardener