Mature wild garlic plant in white flower
How to get rid of wild garlic

I love wild garlic - Allium ursinum, but as a native to Asia, Europe and the temperate regions of the United Kingdom it has a nasty little habit of self-seeding and taking over your carefully manicured borders. Now a thousand years ago or so this wouldn't have been much of an issue as the bulbs of the wild garlic were a particular favourite of both the wild boar and brown bear (Ursus arctos). Of course, a thousand years ago there wasn't much call for gardening. Alas, both species have since become extinct in Britain (although wild boars are now being reintroduced to the shores), but not due to the efforts of despairing gardeners sick of shooing large mammals from their property.

Now while they may look like a cross between a white bluebell and a lily of the valley, wild garlic is notoriously difficult to eradicate once it takes a foothold. Not only does it self-seed, it produces bulblets from the parent bulb and occasionally the seeds germinate to form growing bulblets (also in leaf) from the pericarp.

Weeding wild garlic

Germinating wild garlic seeds still on the plant
How to get rid of wild garlic
This is the initial response to an outbreak of wild garlic, however in heavy soils the stems tend to break away just below the soil surface. This leaves the bulb in place for the plant to regrow from. In light soils it is possible for the bulb to lift straight from the ground however it is likely to leave any bulblets that may have formed. They best way to lift wild garlic bulbs is to try and loosen the soil below the bulbs using a hand fork or trowel and then lifting the bulb gently with the aid of the hand tool.

There is another issue here as wild garlic is an ephemeral plant meaning that it comes into leaf and flower before deciduous trees leaf in the spring. By the end of June the leaves begin to die back returning energy back to the bulb so if you haven't finished weeding by the end of the spring it may be too late as they would have disappeared to below ground level.

Weed killer

Old photograph of weed control
How to get rid of wild garlic
Of course the reason why you are reading this article is because weeding isn't working and so apart from boars and bears your best method of control is likely to be chemical weed killers. That being said you will require a systemic weed killer (such as a glyphosate based product) where the active chemical is drawn into the bulb to kill it off. However wild garlic is surprisingly robust and a single dose will not be enough on mature plants. With systemic weed killer the plant will need to be active growing for the chemical to work efficiently, once overnight temperatures are regularly above 7 degrees Celsius. This means that there is only a short period of time from when the weed killer will work to when the leaves die back so timing will be all important as you will really need at least two applications.

Organic Control

Old carpet being used to kill off weeds
How to get rid of wild garlic
Due to the robustness of wild garlic there is arguably only method of organic control and this is probably best suited for overgrown allotments. This method is to cover the area with old carpet for a year (maybe two, possibly three) and then hand weed any plant resulting from seeds still viable in the soil.

Main image credit - Kurt Stüber - part of

In text image - By U.S. Department of Agriculture - 00DI0874, Public Domain,

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