Iowa City recruits volunteers for Great Garlic Mustard Challenge - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City recruits volunteers for Great Garlic Mustard Challenge

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- Community leaders are asking residents to roll up their sleeves and dig in for an event unlike any other.

For the past two years, the City of Iowa City has collaborated with the City of Coralville, local park and conservation support organizations, businesses, and hundreds of volunteers to coordinate the Great Garlic Mustard Challenge -- a community-wide, all-volunteer, weed-pulling event -- in an effort to protect the local woodlands from the effects of the highly invasive garlic mustard plant.

The third annual event will be held April 24 through May 17, with the City's community-wide pull scheduled for Saturday, May 2, from 9 a.m. to noon. Experts say this is considered the safest time to pull the weeds without the risk of breaking open the seed pods and causing even greater spread.

All pull site locations will be posted on the City's website. Volunteers who are willing to help are encouraged to sign up on the website. Private property owners who would like the help of volunteers to pull garlic mustard on their property are also asked to go to the site to register.

Garlic mustard is a non-native plant species that can spread at an alarmingly fast rate and completely dominate a woodland understory within just a few years, largely because it has no local natural controls. None of Iowa's native insects or wildlife relies on it as a food source, and most animals will not eat it. As it spreads, garlic mustard shades out native species of woodland flowers, ferns, and tree seedlings, which in turn reduces the food supply and habitat for woodland animals.

Organizers say proper disposal of garlic mustard is essential. The plants should be either cut or pulled and placed immediately in a plastic garbage bag. When the bag is full, it should be tied securely and placed with other garbage for curbside pick-up. The weeds should not be placed in City leaf or lawn waste bags, combined with lawn waste, or composted.

The efforts of the two previous Great Garlic Mustard Pulls have helped eliminate almost four tons of the weed from Iowa City, Coralville, and rural areas of Johnson County. In the Challenge's first year in 2007, a total of 1,960 pounds of garlic mustard plants were pulled. In 2008, it totalled 5,950 pounds, more than triple the first year. In 2009, with the help and support of the community, the City hopes to once again break the record.

Online Producer: Jenn Jarvis

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