Strolling through an oak savanna on March 10th, I found to my dismay, a patch of garlic mustard cotyledons (seedlings). This is the earliest I recall seeing garlic mustard seedlings emerge. Granted, the microclimate was optimum for early germination - a south-facing slope riddled with turkey scratchings that exposed the soil for maximum solar gain. But come on, it’s still winter according to the calendar! I guess I’ve been fighting it for years now, but perhaps it’s time for me to let go and accept what once was, is not what will be.
Is this climate change and an omen of things to come? Or is it just an anomaly, a temporary and statistically insignificant phenological advancement in garlic mustard development? These questions may be interesting, perhaps depressing, to ponder. But as a restoration practitioner, what matters at this point in time is that garlic mustard control activities need to be moved up on the calendar. And, in this case, the prescribed burn to control garlic mustard seedlings scheduled in the second-to-third week of April will need to be moved up to late March or early April. Hard to say, it depends on the weather. But, in any event, we need to be prepared, and it will be earlier than originally planned. The net immediate effect is a squeezing of many control activities (late winter burns, spring burns, spring spraying of 2nd year garlic mustard plants, etc.) over a shorter window of time.
The long-term effect, assuming change is coming, is that we will need to adapt. Our seasonal management control activities must be completed in a much shorter calendar window to ensure all ecological objectives are met. Given that many of us already feel time crunched to complete all of our management control activities, it’s nearly unbearable to think about any acceleration of the schedule.
But think about it we must. While the “whole” of it may be too paralyzing and beyond comprehension, do what you can in the now. Then wake up tomorrow and do it again!