garlic mustard yard
Some of the battle ground!

Last spring I started a battle in my garden and yard after discovering that we had been taken over by a highly invasive plant called Garlic Mustard.  It drove me bananas and took 3 weeks to pull it out.  If you’re interested in reading more about that, you can read about last year’s experience here

I’m continuing the fight this year!

Now because I’m a mediator, I’m very aware of the fact that different perspectives exist.  Some people think Garlic Mustard is a fun treat to forage for, there are a variety of recipes online for making things from pesto to a Garlic Mustard blue cheese pasta. After last year’s post I even had a friend point out to me that it’s delicious and that I wasn’t giving it a fair shake.

I don’t share these perspectives for a couple of reasons. This year my husband and I decided to taste the garlic mustard, to see if we could be persuaded to change our minds.  Neither of us found it delicious, we just didn’t like it.  We certainly won’t be harvesting our massive crop for eating.  But if eating garlic mustard is your thing, share your pics and favourite recipes in the comments for others who might not share our perspective.

Have a Garlic Mustard recipe to share? Post it the comments for others to try!

The second reason, and by far the most important reason is because garlic mustard refuses to go quietly.  That’s right, we’re entering year 2 of our battle.  Everything I’ve read says that it’s a multi-year project to rid yourself of garlic mustard.  Because it’s a biennial plant, it looks like the amount of it ebbs and flows but it doesn’t.  The plants look different from year one to year 2, so you’ve got to be on the lookout for both.  Year one, they stay in clusters near the ground, strengthening their roots.  In the second year they grow tall and flower, which produces seeds so that they can continue to spread.   And boy does garlic mustard spread…  It not only takes over from native plants, it also changes the soil composition making it hard for those original plants to grow.  Native plants are an important food source for local wildlife. Because we live on the Niagara Escarpment I want to make sure I’m doing my part. 

Since I’m not an expert on Garlic Mustard, you can learn much more about it here:

garlic mustard plant

My opponent looks harmless enough, until you’re looking at hundreds of them all flowering with seed pods!

This year’s battle has been hampered by chilly weather and rainy days.   Here’s a positive about the rain, it softens up the ground and makes it much easier to pull the plants up by the roots.  So I suppose in a way I’m thankful for all the rain. 

I won’t let less than ideal weather stop me from this fight, I’m a little bit obsessed.  I look for it while walking the dog on trails, my eyes scan for it as I enjoy the daffodils finally blooming, and I take a little bit longer taking out the compost as I gather up any sprouts I see near it.

A bunch of garlic mustard

I can’t escape it, look at all the Garlic Mustard around the composter!

Garlic Mustard might be stubborn, but I can be stubborn as well.  I appreciate that it’s an ongoing process with many of us to learn when to let go and when to dig in.  It’s one of the reasons why I can relate to people in the middle of a conflict.  But I’ve weighed both sides….I’ve considered the time involved, the back and knee pain and I’m convinced that this is a battle I need to win.  Not just for my yard, but for the escarpment forest around my house.   

Garlic Mustard might be stubborn, but so am I

But you might be wondering, why am I writing another blog about it, shouldn’t I be mainly focusing on conflict issues that others face?  Well, I’m a firm believer in the concept of ‘know better, do better” and I want to make sure that people know about Garlic Mustard. 

Beyond that, I think my garden conflict does apply to my work in dispute resolution.  I believe that there are a few takeaways that we can all use in life and in disagreements, here are my thoughts on that:

  • When you’re in a conflict, it can be hard to see anything else. I’m working on reminding myself to enjoy the colours and beauty of the other plants in my garden.  It’s important to not let everything become about the Garlic Mustard.  Remember that when you’re having a disagreement…don’t let the disagreement make you forget about the good qualities a person has.
  • Know what is important to you. Don’t just take a hard position on something, make sure you’re clear on why you’re taking that position, what’s driving your position. That’s the stuff that people can work with.  My position on Garlic Mustard is that it has to go, my reasons why are about protecting native plants and food for the bunnies and deer.  (So that maybe they stay away from my lettuce!)
  • Be gentle when you can. In my attempt to clear the Garlic Mustard I need to make sure I pull the roots to literally get to the root of the problem.  But if I’m not gentle I’ll break if at the stem and then it can still come back.  Addressing a dispute with an eye on being kind to the other person’s marshmallow (see here for what I mean when talking about marshmallows ) will have a big impact on how willing they are to help you get down to their roots.

Garlic Mustard plant and root

    It’s always satisfying to get to the root of a problem (or weed)

Well, the rain has stopped and the dog needs to get outside for a bit.  It’s time for me to get my gardening gloves on and go hang out with Walter in the garden.  I’m going to make sure I balance my desire to clear out the Garlic Mustard with soaking in some fun time with the dog.  Wish me some weed pulling luck!

Sarah Turl, listening, mediator

As the lead Mediator at Empowered Results Conflict Consulting Services, Sarah understands that we all are fighting different battles.  It is her passion to be able to help people get through those battles to find practical, workable solutions.  

mediator Sarah Turl looking at phone

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