How to Control Wild Onions, Wild Garlic, and Onion Grass


In early Spring and Autumn Wild Onion grass starts popping up in lawns across America. Their tall stalks rise above the now dormant turf grass and fescue, creating an unsightly mess. But fret not! I have a full-proof method to rid your lawn of these unsightly weeds!

Wild Onions, Wild Garlic, and onion grass can be effectively controlled by careful physical removal with a shovel or pitchfork without damaging the lawn. Additionally there are several post-emergent herbicides available that are effective a killing wild onions and onion grass without harming your lawn.

Other methods such as boiling water, vinegar or non-selective herbicides such as glyphosate will kill wild onions. But it will also kill the surrounding grass and any other vegetation that comes in contact.

We’ve developed a unique method for physical removal that doesn’t harm your lawn or turf grass. I’ve used it to successfully kill and remove dozens of onion grass plants over the years, and they never return.

How to control Wild Onions / Onion Grass without damaging your lawn

The only tools you need for removing Wild Onions/ Onion Grass / Wild Garlic from your lawn is a spade, or potato fork, and a bucket to hold the Wild Onions.

Also, this method works much better with moist soil. So, water the yard or wait until after a good rain to perform this chore.

1 – Position the shovel

Place the shovel about 4″ (10 cm) away from the wild onion. Tilt it so it is about 30 degrees from vertical. This will help ensure you get underneath the bulbs.

2 – Dig underneath the bulbs

Using your foot for added force, dig the shovel down at the steep angle about 6″ (15 cm) so that you get underneath (and then some) the bulbs.

3 – Tilt the shove back to lever out the sod clump

Using your weight on the handle, pry up a clump of sod that fully has the onion bulb grouping. If the sod starts to break apart, you may need to repeat steps 1 and 2 to ensure a single, solid clump of dirt.

4 – Locate the bulbs. Pull them out.

Gently pick/scrap away dirt from the bottom of the sod clump to locate the white, stringy roots. Then, carefully continue removing dirt until you can get your hand around the bulb cluster.

5 – Remove the Onion Grass from the sod

Getting your hand completely around the bulb cluster so that it is gripping the onion leaves/stalks. Then carefully pull. The entire cluster of plants should slip out of the sod.

This step is kind of like pulling weeds, but in reverse. With this step you are pulling the weeds into the sod, and out the bottom of the clump.

Place the onion grass (bulb and stalk) in a bucket.

6 – Replace sod

Roll the sod back into the hole. Tamp it down with your hands or feet. Then dispose of your wild onions in the trash. Do not compost them.

That’s it! You can remove Wild Onion clumps one at a time without damaging your lawn using this method. I spent about 30-45 minutes a night for a week getting 95% of my Onion Grass plants several years ago. The weeds have never returned. This method is very effective.

Video of removing Onion Grass by Digging

How to kill Onion Grass with Chemicals

There are two commercially available herbicides that will selectively kill Onion Grass. Paraquat [1] has been found to be effective killing wild onions in the Spring, while Imazaquin [2] has been found to be effective in the Fall. Currently only Imazaquin was available on Amazon.

Certain herbicides have been tested in labs to see when is the best time to spray in terms of the plants age.  Research found that spraying herbicide when the plant was young, at the 2-leaf stage was the most effective way to damage the plant.  The problem with that is you don’t notice the plant at that stage very much!  It most likely just blends in with your lawn.

Do conventional herbicides work?

Normal broadleaf herbicides such as Weed-Be-Gonetm aren’t effective on Onion Grass. The reason being the small amount of surface area available on the narrow leaves/stem sheds the liquid droplets.

Other non-selective herbicides that are 2-4D or glysophate based are effective. However, they also kill any other vegetation (including grass).

More Info

We’ve written a detailed history on this plant, as well as it’s cousins within the Allium genus here. Check out how this weed was controlled in the 1800’s to keep farmers wheat tasting fresh and milk tasting sweet!

PIN IT FOR LATER:

References:

[1] – Herbicides and Dates of Application for Control and Eradication of Wild Garlic (Allium vineale). E. Peters, R. Mckelvey. Weed Science, V30, Issue 5. September 1982, pp.557-560

[2] – Postemergence Control of Wild Garlic (Allium vineale) in Turfgrass. Ferguson et all. Weed Technology, V6 Issue 1. March 1992, p144-148.

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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