Conflict In The Garden!

My Battle with Garlic Mustard


I’ve spent the past two weeks in a hard-fought battle, a battle that has consumed more of my daylight hours than I care to calculate.

You would expect that as a Mediator I’m battle hardened, and while I’m usually comfortable being in the middle of a fight, this time the fight was mine.

It’s called Garlic Mustard, and it’s not as delightful as it’s delicious name suggests.  In fact it’s a highly invasive plant, and this spring it turned my yard into a battlefield..

I’ve got a beautifully landscaped yard that I have no time, desire or skills to maintain…

We live in the country and have a few wooded acres, about one acre is landscaped with beautiful gardens that the previous owner put a lot of care and thought into.  To be honest, I don’t love those gardens, I’m just not down with the work that goes into flower gardening.  I’ve been slowly turning a good chunk of the back garden into a veggie garden.  Eating food I grow is more my speed and something I really enjoy.

I can grow my own food!

It was my love of eating food I grow that started this journey in fact.  We have a strawberry patch, and that strawberry patch has yet to provide us with a single juicy berry.  The first year was really dry, last year was really wet…..but seriously how hard should it be to get some strawberries!?!!?  I was convinced that this year was the year and so in early May I set out to clearing out the strawberry patch with the thinking that some of the other flowers and plants that had made their way into the patch might be chocking out the berries.

I noticed a lot of a single plant, tall and green and seemingly growing in groups.  I wasn’t sure if it was a proper planted flower,  but my usual logic is that if it grows easily and plentiful then it’s probably a weed.  So I set to work pulling these plants out of my strawberry patch.  It was back breaking work, and I was surprised by how many there were.  But I felt like I had pulled enough to finally snag a home grown strawberry photo for my Instagram account!

My strawberries have room to bloom!

Then we left to go on vacation for a week…… During that week, that tall green plant had bloomed EVERYWHERE.  It was as thick as a bush in almost every corner of our backyard, it had taken over and was now full of little white flowers which I knew meant seeds to follow.

I spent our first day back at home pulling the plants out of the garden next to the strawberries.  My husband wondering why I was spending so much time in the garden when there were so many other things to do.  (He’s not wrong, there was a lot to do since springtime came late)  The next day I was getting ready to go back out to pull more when he commented that I was being obsessive.  I decided it was time to see what I was dealing with so I googled “Tall green plant with little white flowers” and there was my answer, Garlic Mustard.

Holy crap that grew fast!

My heart sank as I read, and I’m sharing this with you in case you’ve got Garlic Mustard and didn’t know it.  Start fighting it.  NOW.  The Nature Conservancy of Canada describes Garlic Mustard as “invasive alien plant that is now spreading across the continent at a rate of 6,400 square kilometres per year — that’s an area 10 times the size of Toronto.”

Not in my yard Garlic Mustard.  Not.  In.  My.  Yard.  

I vowed to conquer this weed and finally with proof that it was in fact a terrible weed I also had the help and support of my husband.  Once we took a good look at the backyard he was shocked by how much had grown, and how big the gaps in the garden were where I had already cleared out the Garlic Mustard.

Large gaps in the garden where the garlic mustard had been YIKES!

As a non flower gardener, my first thought was to just clear everything out.  But my ‘kill it with fire’ instinct would have hurt all the chippies, bunnies and other animals that live in our yard.  They are part of what makes us love living in the country.  So pulling the plants up by the roots was the best option.  I’m proud to say that after a week and a half I’ve now got about 95% of the Garlic Mustard pulled from our yard.

Side note: some people don’t want to kill it with fire, they go looking for it as something to eat!  Check out a garlic mustard pesto recipe here:

It’s been a battle indeed.  You know what else likes to come out the same time of year as Garlic Mustard?  Blackflies!!  But I remained undeterred, this is a battle we are going to win.  Everything I’ve read says that beating Garlic Mustard is a multi-year commitment but I’m going to win this.  Even if it means that for over a week every spring I disappear from clients and friends to fight it.

As an optimistic Mediator I always go into mediation sessions believing that we can solve things, after all who wants to hire someone who doesn’t have faith in solutions?  I’m just as optimistic about this battle, I’ll just probably be using a few more curse words as I work through it.

I’m an optimistic mediator!

If you think you’ve got Garlic Mustard, check out to learn more.

mediator Sarah Turl looking at phone

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