Give weeds the brush off!

Weed control is hard work so it makes sense to look for ways to do less of it. Preventing weeds from moving to new places is one of the easiest things we can all do to reduce the need for weed control. Plants don’t walk from place to place, but they can hitch a ride on those of us who do. Some seeds attach themselves to socks and shoe laces, others simply hide in the dirt that we carry on our boots and tools, and in the mud that our furry friends like to roll in.

In King County, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is one of the most notorious noxious weeds that has been carried on the boots of hard working volunteers and restoration workers. It seems almost insulting that the very plant we are trying to fight is being carried by us to new places where it can thrive. This is not anyone’s goal. Fortunately, we have discovered an ancient but highly effective technique for preventing this: brushing off our boots. It turns out that if we clean the dirt and mud off before we leave the infested area, we also leave the garlic mustard behind.

Log with young garlic mustard plants growing along both sides.
Garlic mustard grows thickly along the log where Kiwanis Ravine workers stop to brush their boots before leaving the park.

Restoration workers and volunteers can find out where garlic mustard and other noxious weeds are growing in their parks by checking out the noxious weed map for King County, or contacting the noxious weed program. It might be best to avoid the infested areas all together if possible, or at least take extra care with cleaning up after working there.

Park visitors and dog walkers can help stop the spread of invasive weeds by staying on trails and keeping dogs on leashes, and then brushing off shoes and pups before getting in the car to drive home.

Cleaning boots is not just for city parks either. A recent press release by state agencies in Washington helps explain how invasive plants are threatening our wilderness and backcountry areas and urges hunters to do their part to prevent spreading weeds. Invasive plants directly harm wildlife by crowding out the plants they rely on for food and habitat, so it makes good sense for those who enjoy wildlife to help prevent problems by cleaning up between visits.

Person brushing off their boot
Brushing off your boots before leaving an infested area can prevent an invasive plant from taking root in a new area.

For more information about noxious weeds and invasive species, visit these websites:

King County Noxious Weed Control Program

Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

Washington Invasive Species Council