WILD ONIONS!

Asked March 18, 2014, 9:06 PM EDT

Hi from Rochester, NY
My daughter and son-in-law just bought a home in Clayton,N.C.
Their yard is loaded with tufts of wild scallions (at least that's what I call them!)
They are wondering how to get rid of them. I consulted a friend up here who is a landscaper, but he suggested I contact you!! I think he's right!! Any suggestions you could give us would be greatly appreciated! A friend of mine said he uses white vinegar successfully for every weed he's ever had! What do you think? I know they are extremely tough to get rid of....but I'm hoping that where there's a will, there's a way. I anxiously await your reply! Have a great day!

Monroe County New York fruits and vegetables wildflowers and native plants wild onion ramps horticulture

1 Response

Vinegar works by dehydrating the foliage. Horticultural vinegar is about 5 times stronger than white vinegar, and is considered an environmentally friendly form of weed control. However, it must be applied often, and probably won't work at all with tenacious bulbs such as wild onion or wild garlic.

This factsheet is directed toward commercial growers, but it may provide some useful information about these plants:
http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/pests/weeds/hgic2311.html

In my area, chemical herbicides are not permitted for residential use, but I do not advocate their use in any case because of their environmental impact. Instead, I suggest digging the bulbs and screening the soil in garden beds. Continued weeding will be needed because any stray bulbs will regrow. However, "lasagne mulching" can help control resprouting: After removing bulbs, cover the soil surface with overlapping newspapers (about 8 sheets thick.) Wet the paper to hold it in place, then place shredded bark mulch on top (2-3 inches thick). In theory, the bulbs will eventually weaken and die if they are starved of light.

As for lawn area, I suggest using good lawn maintenance practices for a healthy lawn. Frequent mowing (no shorter than 2 1/2 inches) will control growth and spread of the onions. Worst case scenario, they may stay green when the turf goes dormant in the heat.

You can't hope to eradicate weeds entirely without damaging the soil and water, but get them to an acceptable level through sustainable controls. I hope this is helpful.

Happy gardening,