A new perspective?

catherinet(5 IN)June 6, 2013

We have lived on this 35 acre property for 32 years. When we moved here, there were some woods, some fields, and some crop fields. We decided we wanted to let it all grow up. The man who first owned this property had planted 3 long rows of japanese bush honeysuckle, Russian olive, raspberries, and several stands of black walnut.

It was only fairly recently that we realized that some of this stuff was invasive........big time. My husband tried to pull it out for years (we don't use chemicals). It was a losing battle.

Long story short......much of our acreage is covered in jap. honeysuckle........some 15' tall. And we thought we had gotten rid of the Russian olive, but it has had a resurgence.
If Black Walnuts weren't native......I'd say they were invasive too! We have thousands of them popping up on a daily basis.

Our focus has been wildlife. For years we thought the jap. honeysuckle was great because the birds ate the berries like crazy. And it seemed like every single seed that was pooped out has grown like crazy.

We also have wild yam, poison ivy, garlic mustard, wild grape, euonymous vines, and many other vines I can't identify.

We are in our 60's and can no longer deal with this. My husband keeps the immediate yard cleared, and a couple other spots in the woods that are special. We do have virginia creeper growing in many places, and Dutchman's Breeches, and a few weeks ago I found a big Jack-in-the-Pulpit. There are lots of good things here too. This spring, even under all the honeysuckle, large areas of trout lilies were growing, and we have wild ginger.

So..........this leads me to my conflicted feelings about trying to get rid of invasives. I suppose if you have an acre, its not that hard to get rid of them. But 35 acres is too much.....especially when the entire area has all these invasives, which would quickly repopulate our property.

Plus.......we love birds and have many kinds........which poop seeds from everywhere here.

As a country (and world, I suppose), we encourage movement all over the place. We now have birds and plants and animals from everywhere. How can we possibly ever "go back" to just our native stuff? The public wants what they want, and the nursery owners sell what the public wants.

I have become very despondent over the state of our property. I recently accidentally came upon someone's blog who was having the same problem and she essentially said "Globalization is here to stay", and she couldn't fight it any more and would just try to keep the immediate area around her house clear of these things. I really agree with her.

Here's my thinking...........of course we adore the natives.
When I found that Jack-in-the-Pulpit I just about cried. But time marches on. Are we in a stage, evolutionarily speaking, when things are just going to change.......whether we like it or not? Are we just fighting evolution..........the survival of the fitest? Only the strong survive??

For someone who doesn't have this amount of acreage I know what I am saying might sound unreasonably pessimistic. But I HAVE to start feeling better about this situation, without paying thousands of dollars for the core of engineers to come in and get rid of this stuff.........or using chemicals that will harm the natives...........all of which will be futile, unless the whole country/world starts getting rid of these things. (Asia has invasives bought from the U.S. too!)

So.........I'm in the process of encouraging all the natives I can........but accepting that I have these "adopted" plants all over that obviously love living here.. And the birds love all of it...........for cover, food, etc.

Do we, at some point, have to cry uncle? ..........and accept what seems to be the way its going to be?
I'm having real struggles over this. We love taking our evening ride in our golf cart through the woods and fields. But lately, its mostly a honeysuckle ride.......interspersed with vines all over.

I honestly can't bear it if you're going to say "just keep trying to get rid of it"......because we CAN'T.

So I guess you could say I'm trying to take a more Zen approach to it all.....and concentrate on how much the wildlife flourish in it. They LOVE it!

I'm just trying to be realistic here. Life/the earth is changing.........for good or bad, its what's happening. I'm trying to not fight it, but find the good in it.

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I have only seven ac., but I still face the same problems. I will be 74 soon, and when talking about moving because I cannot keep things under control here, a friend said, "Just lower your expectations." That really hit home and helped a great deal. Nobody really visits here much, so whatever I have must "suit me," and I do yard work most days when home, but at my own pace.

I, like you, try not to worry about the Japanese honeysuckle. I read an article recently that indicated there are some plants that we just cannot eradicate but need to learn to curb their growth and live with the rest. That is what I am doing. I have too much periwinkle and monkey grass to take it all out, and although I sometimes break down and use chemicals, these don't respond well to that, so I have given up. (I use chemicals on English and poison ivy only.) I do what I can and don't apologize for the invasives that are still here.

I may hire someone to limb up trees this fall and try to cut down or pull out privet, but we don't have the money to spend on everything, so we must choose.

Bottom line: don't feel guilty. Enjoy what you have. I would love more property, and you sound as if you will be good stewards within the realm of your capabilities.

Tallamy says, "Include natives," which is mainly all that I am adding to any space here. And, through my benign neglect, as I call it, many natives have returned on their own.

Don't be depressed. Take a deep breath and enjoy, enjoy.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 10:10AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Thanks for that ncrescue..........I needed that pep talk!
And I will continue to give my natives a good pep talk too.
Its hard, as you know, to have a property you've loved for many years and start to not be able to keep up with it. But like you said, we have to just enjoy what we have.
Thanks again ncrescue!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Yes, you have way more land than I do - I can certainly imagine how you feel. I feel that way when I visit parks and realize how much is there (invasive) and how the limited park staff and skimpy show of volunteers can never deal with it all.

I try to tell people: if you can't remove things, do what you can about the fruit. Carry a bag and small pruners when you wander around the place. Cut off big clusters of privet fruit (or flowers), bag it and throw it in the trash (flowers you can throw on the ground). You just took care of 100 new plants right there! Or more. Use those pruners to cut honeysuckle vines at the base; it will take them several years to get big enough to bloom again. You have effectively removed their berries for two years or more. Yay!

Snip other vines as you go ... you'll head them off for a while, the natives will have a chance to grow more vigorous in the mean time.

Next time you walk, take a different path ....

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 1:24PM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

I have battled the Asian invasion for several years now. Popcorn (Chinese tallow) trees, Chinese privet, Japanese Honeysucke, and morning glories were rampant on my place. I killed them with chemicals and had a tree service remove the trees and bushes. I still have to spray the vines and seedlings every summer.

If you have a large area it's almost impossible to get rid of them without the chemicals and cutting.

In place of the invasives I planted sweet bay magnolia, red maple, red oak, red bay, dahoon holly, Carolina jessamine, coral honeysuckle (native), and muscadines.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 11:45PM
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Catherine and ncrescue, I have 0.25 acre. Half of it is taken up by the house, driveway, and my dog's 'play pen'. I cannot fathom the work you have put into your yard (can I call it a yard when it's so vast?).
I moan and groan just trying to take care of what I have and get rid of the invasives like winged burning bush and Japanese bamboo (knotweed). Pachysandria may not be on the invasive list in CT but it did over run the property when we bought the house a few years ago. Grrr....
I don't use chemicals. Instead, I use a shovel, a hand saw, gloves, and my boots.
Some people have this perspective of beauty e.g. a manicured lawn sans dandelion (or should I say a fairway?), trimmed bushes (10 footers kept a 3 or 4'), and mulch everywhere.
I don't think it's giving up or submitting. I think taking the Zen approach is good and finding beauty because it benefits nature. Also, taking a breath and enjoy....good advice.
When you're in your 60's and 70's, you have earned the right to do whatever pleases you.
Best wishes,

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 6:47AM
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Your post really touched me. I have only one acre and I often feel overwhelmed by that.

I do the best I can. I put great effort last year into getting rid of vines (Oriental bittersweet, grape, and multiflora rose.) I thinned out excessive trees. This spring I did a ton of planting--native viburnum, aronia, elderberry, ferns, Tiarella, and so forth. I still have plenty of problems with weeds (battling garlic mustard, thistle, and nutsedge, and some of those are here to stay, no matter what I do.) But it's better than a year ago--much better. I think that has to be the way you look at it. Can you improve something, anything? Try to focus on that. Is there a spot you can carve out that is a place of beauty, to refresh your soul? Not a place of perfection, but a place of peace and beauty?

On a technical level, I think it's difficult to impossible to restore a landscape without chemicals. The vines are deadly to trees. To me, it's worth it to use Roundup judiciously. With vines and shrubs, cut at head height, cut again at ground level, and paint the stump immediately with Roundup. It will be absorbed and kill or at least weaken the root. That method doesn't require you to splash chemicals indiscriminately around the environment. If the vines resprout, you can spray the regrowth or repeatedly break off the shoots. Eventually you will exhaust the plant.

Best of luck in your gardening. And don't forget to enjoy your trout lilies. I wish I had some!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 7:20PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Thanks again everyone.

This spring has been incredible. I was telling my husband, it seems like our property has fast-forwarded 10 years. The vines of all sorts are going crazy. But the birds love it all. In fact 2 new birds seem to be staying here now (Northern Parula and Yellow Breasted Chat) that weren't here before. We have more birds than alot of state forests! I'm trying to focus on that, instead of having so many "invasives". And I am going to try to plant more natives every year. I don't know if they can fight the invasives, but we'll give it a try.

"Its a jungle out there" has become a daily phrase for us.
But then I see all the wildlife, the birds, the butterflies.........and it calms me.

Yes, we do try to keep a few little areas free of these aggressive invasives. It DOES help to have a few smaller spaces that are free of them.

We also have alot of invasive grasses in our field. In fact, they are so tall that a juvenile deer can walk through them and not be seen. So we're focusing on having the deer, not the tall weeds.

All this has really got me thinking about the our little space on the planet and what it means to have natives and/or invasives. If humans never traveled from continent to continent, or traded animals and plants, things would be very different.
But this is what we've got. We're trying to be grateful for everything, in a different way now.

Thank you all for your responses. Its been comforting.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 11:24AM
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I think you would be more motivated about invasive removal if you took a trip to an old growth forest in the southern Appalachians....when you see what Eastern North American forests are suppose to look like its just breathtaking....every plant has a role and they all live together in harmony, no single plant appears more dominant than any other, as a result these forests are aesthetically pleasing unlike those forests filled with invasives.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 1:03PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I'm another person with only a 1/4 acre property with a house sitting on half of it and I too, can't imagine how overwhelmed it would feel to have 35 acres and a serious invasives problem. And once you reach a certain age, it really brings the message home that you are limited in being able to tackle the problem.

We managed to dig out every shrub in the backyard back in 2004. Our three grown kids tackled the job with shovels and gardening tools. The worst problem we are dealing with is a neighbor who insists on growing Bittersweet on their chain link fence and it's seeding itself all over the neighborhood. I discovered a huge vine of it in my front foundation planting under an Itea shrub after it had evidently been there awhile. And now we can't decide how to get it out of there.

We have been gardening organically for 30 years and I have not used chemicals, but I find myself thinking maybe I should judiciously use a chemical which would make life a whole lot easier to take care of that Bittersweet.

Right now, all we're doing is cutting it back to the ground until we figure out what to do about it. That same neighbor with the bittersweet has rampant poison ivy that keeps coming under our fence, but really, I keep finding it appearing all over the yard, so I think the birds must be bringing it in.

Our worst problem has always been two Maples that reseed horribly. Which we made a decision to live with them, because of the cost of removal and the fact they were the only mature trees on the property.

So, our issues are small potatoes compared to those with large rural properties. But we still wrestle with them and end up having to make compromises that we can live with. We don't live close by to any natural areas that our trees might find their way into. And we're trying to do as much as we can to keep our own little corner of the planet in harmony, but I am under no illusions that we can 'restore' our property to what existed here originally. We've added Oakleaf Hydrangeas, Iteas, Aronias, Viburnums, Clethra, Cornus and groundcovers like Arctostaphylus, Tiarellas etc., but I also made the decision to grow non natives.

I can't see any reason to give up Lilacs and Daffodils. And I've planted a lot of Epimediums, that come from Asia, that have become a perfect plant on a shady property. they don't reseed, they don't travel, they have wonderful thick roots, that I'm using along my fence line to combat the PI that is trying to creep under the fence. They are completely disease and pest free, so making it easier to garden organically.

And funny, like Catherine and her Black Walnuts, I now find the worst problem I have is a native Cornus racemosa that someone on this forum actually recommended when I was just getting started with natives. On a 1/4 acre property, to me, it is inappropriate. I planted one shrub and it has suckered about 10 ft away from the original on both sides in a very short time. And as lovely a shrub as it is, I wish I had never planted it.

So, I believe that we all do the best we can and that has to be good enough. The problem is bigger than any one of us and unless there was a national awakening to the problem whereby it was possible for it to be a priority for attention from many people, I can't see that anyone expects someone who is in their 60s and has 35 acres of invasives to attempt to eradicate them on their own.

This post was edited by prairiemoon2 on Mon, Jun 24, 13 at 6:32

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 5:39PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

But that's my point greenthumbzdude.........I LOVE what we (in American) used to have. But that time is gone. Its a futile battle, unless the entire continent is willing to participate.
When you say that those wonderful old forests are "what American forests are suppose to look like".........you're not taking into account that man has decided that not only should the U.S. be a melting pot of humans, but also of flora and fauna.
I could cry, thinking of how it all is "supposed to be". It was a paradise. But life is different now. It depresses the hell out of me, but I have to "make lemonade out of lemons".

Like I said, if the whole nation got on this, it would be wonderful.......but the horse has gotten out of the barn a long time ago.......and not enough people care. The vast majority of people don't care about the consequences of the plants they buy and put into their yards. They only care about the looks and color.

Today, my husband pulled out a bunch of honeysuckle in a small area back in the woods. That's all we can do........just small areas. I'll plant native plants and trees there. But in just a couple years, it will be filled with invasives again.

I think man has "paved paradise and put up a parking lot"......so to speak. Its out of control now and I have to somehow make peace without physically killing myself or going bankrupt trying to rid all the invasives on 35 acres. And we won't use chemicals.

I would love to die lying down in an old growth forest. I know it sounds morbid........but what a place to go in!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Without getting into the big picture aspects, I will only say that cut/treat herbicide applications, mentioned by somebody above, are a legitimate way to rid a site of woody invasives. For best results, this work would be done from fall right up to March in the Northern Hemisphere, the time of year when woody plants are most apt to pull substances down into their roots.

And it should be mentioned that concentrated herbicidal solutions are used for this. So, if you're using glyphosate, ie "Roundup", you would take the pure concentrate and mix 50/50 with water. If you were using Garlon, another herbicide useful for such applications, a likewise strong dilution would be used. The point being, this is doable, it does not harm adjacent vegetation, and it will allow one to begin to get a grip on the problem.

But I know all too well how quickly some of this junk comes back. We've cleared whole hillsides under mature oaks of common buckthorn. Stems were dragged off site, all cut surfaces were treated as described above, and for a year or two, it looked like we had perhaps won that battle. But in no time, the seeds from the years and decades of buckthorn growing there began to recolonize the site. So.......if you do elect to do serious battle with woody invasive species, be aware it's a multi-year program.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 9:22AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks so much for that information. I'm seriously considering using roundup on the bittersweet that is growing right under two shrubs along the front of my house. Especially if it is not a spray and you can just apply it to the cut end and not damage the surrounding plants. My alternative option is to use a bulldozer to come in and dig out everything growing along that foundation and unfortunately, not only would I hate to compact the soil with a big machine, but the water pipes from the street run right along that area and I hate to risk damaging the pipes with the bulldozer.

Is the product you are talking about, 'Roundup' the common one that is available in all hardware stores? I didn't know when you bought them you had to mix them with water.

On our small property, my strategy is to plant so many good plants that there's hardly any room for anything invasive to get a foothold. So, I try not to clear anything without having a plan for what is going to grow there instead. Of course, the situations you refer to and the size of a larger property would make that strategy challenging.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 1:05PM
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Prairie moon, the "Roundup" available at the heardware store is pre-diluted. This would not work for the tech I described. For that you need pro-strength concentrate, whether of actual Roundup or one of the probably hundreds of generic equivalents available today. The key is you want the herbicide glyphosate, in concentrated form, and you want to mix this 50/50 with water. Might have to do a little digging to find concentrate. Horticultural/agronomic supply houses might sell it to you.

I'd mention some of those generic equivalents, but there's too many to mention, plus it seems to vary by section of the country.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 8:21AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Ok, thanks +oM I'm sure I can find what I need now that I know what to look for. :-)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 12:32PM
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terrene(5b MA)

You don't need to buy the Roundup brand, which is distributed by Monsanto. The patent on Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Roundup, expired 13 years ago and much cheaper and stronger forms of generic glyphosate are available online.

For woody stumps I don't use glyphosate anyway, I use concentrated Brush B gone or BK 32. And I don't feel guilty about using herbicides for the worst invasive plants. Left to run amok, there won't be anything left but invasive plants if they aren't controlled.

Re: the OP. I can relate to your predicament and try to take the approach that I will do the best I can. I have 1.25 acres and have been clearing out woody invasives for 8 years. I am working my way back and they are still out of control in the back .25 acres.

The bittersweet seems to be having a banner year this year and they are fruiting like crazy. I've got to get out and do some more cutting this summer, but we're having a heat wave and it's too darn hot at the moment.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 2:04AM
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