Just bought 4 acres of vines and trees

Nana40(Z7 AL)January 28, 2005

My husband and I bought a beautiful house, nice bermuda lawn and 4 acres of vines and trees. Love the trees and hate the vines! We have been working like mad to get rid of the vines and the small trees so that we might be able to see the creek that runs through the property. My biggest fear is that we will have a problem with run off water when it rains.The majority of the property is gently sloping to sloping. What should I plant to keep erosion down and be beautiful but not alot of maintenance? I don't think there will be any way to till the soil because of all the roots from trees and vines and a few boulders emerging here and there. Any ideas gladly welcomed!

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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Lots of native plants! They generally have very deep root systems. April

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 1:36PM
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If there is no sign of erosion now then I doubt that just clearing out vines and small trees will create a problem. You might want to wait until spring to finish so that you can see what some of those trees are before you clear them (unless you already know). Some delightful shrubs (like fragrant native azaleas that lose their leaves in the winter) can look like small trees.

Mostly likely you are leaving enough trees to keep the soil in place.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 2:55PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

often times after you clear the overgrown stuff (like vines) - existing plants that were dormant will eventually fill themselves in. i reccomend you do some research on woodland management particularly with respect to a prescribed burn. it might help you control the overgrowth of vines and other invasive species and promote the growth of natives that you desire.

if you want to add plantings, i think you are right to stick to edges or along your paths.

Here is a link that might be useful: some info about fire

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 7:09PM
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If you cut down all the small trees, where will the future big ones comes from? A natural forest always contains trees at all stages of growth. Also, those vines are probably where the birds live. Animals need cover. You can't have open woodland and abundant birds. Do some research on eastern forests before you take an ax to any of those trees.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 8:22AM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

I learned the hard way what ELaine was talking about. I went gung ho on my property removing vines. I got halfway through a dense section when a tiny bird popped out with a berry in it's mouth, dropped it and screamed at me. I found they were marsh wren, rather rare. I had removed half the colony. There were still some in the remaining bush that summer. When winter came I watched hawks dive bomb the bare remaining vine and take birds. The tangle had been their protection. Frankly those birds were kind of dumb. They just sat in the leafless vine like dead ducks screeching. This summer I am not hearing their chattery sound. I felt so bad. I am now rebuilding what I messed up in hopes they return. On the other hand a tree I freed from crushing vines has rebounded. I now think the best way is to plant a new spot with natives and let it get well established, make sure animals are settling in before removing a sport of non native brush.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 10:37PM
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mayflwrhem(z6-7 MAcoast)

I have 6 acres of trees and awful greenbrier everywhere. I'd love to do some thinning but have to be very careful due to wetlands regulations...could have major fines (gets into the River Act (national regs) and more rules relating to my 6 acres of saltmarsh, I have to deal with 200 ft buffer zone regs). Anyway, be careful that you know the regulations applicable to your brook etc.! Some people here in Mass. have been fined big bucks.

I hope you folks can tell me how to get rid of some huge oaks and pines without risking anyone's life!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2005 at 1:14PM
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Mayflower, I have to ask: Why do you want to get rid of huge oaks and pines?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 11:03AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

"You can't have open woodland and abundant birds"

that is TOTALLY dependent upon GEOGRAPHY... where i live you will have much more birds and wildlife with an open woodland than with a dense overgrown forest. the natural ecosytem here is savannah or prairie....

i reccommend that some research is done to find out what would have been the natural ecosystem of the area and then work from there. identify what you have and then identify what you need to do to bring the land towards its natural ecosystem.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2005 at 9:19PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Joepye is right...lots of savannah here, lots of birds. In fact, the woods that have lots of non-native underbrush here actually have less birds and wildlife. April

    Bookmark   February 4, 2005 at 9:39PM
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lukifell(zone5 NH)

I believe the basic concern for Nana40 and indeed most people from Alabama is " How do I get a forest I can walk through ? "

As opposed to a forest that you cannot walk through, due to heavy vines and underbrush.

There is no easy answer. You will have to do a lot of hard work.

Remember that wherever sunlight strikes the ground, there a vine will grow. So don't remove any large trees. Leave any saplings that look vigorous enough to become a large tree someday.

Do you have any Magnolia trees ? Magnolias cast dense shade. No vine will grow under a Magnolia tree.

First thing you have to do is buy a tree book and learn what you have growing there already.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 1:54PM
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Nana40(Z7 AL)

Thanks for all the replies you have given....lukifell seems to know what I am after. The land next to me is pasture and from my back deck I can see the creek running down and around the trees with a mountain for a backdrop......so beautiful and peaceful........till you look over to what I have to sift through! I do like the birds and mushrooms and such, but when you have years of trees that have fallen due to ice storms, wind storms, Tarzan vines (muscadine) that are smothering and bending the trees, trees that had been hit by lightening over the years and even the trees that were pushed over to build the house (10 years ago)still there, then you got a big mess instead of something pleasant to enjoy. There are vines(poison ivy) growing to the top of 100' trees that are as big as my arm! I don't plan on stripping the whole property of everything,(would pay someone to strip it instead of cutting by hand if I did) just want to get rid of the dead, bent gnarrled trees and vines and alot of the maples that have over run the place! Oh... and I can't forget to mention the briars! I think they are called similax...Poor dogs are always tangled up in them! I also have a huge jungle vine growing up a pine tree that has just wrapped around and around it. Maybe I can get an ID on this thing too... We don't have any Magnolia's. Lots of pine and oak though and a huge beech tree next to the creek! I have to say we are making progress. We can get to the creek and have a nice trail going. Lots of the old dead trees removed and some of the vines pulled down and lots of exercise! I do love my little forest!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 7:37PM
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Please remember that dead trees support more wildlife than living ones do! The reason people have to put up nest boxes for bluebirds and wood ducks and such is that we cut down and haul all the dead trees they used to nest in. Small mammals, reptiles, and many insects also need the shelter and nutrients that dead trees provide (not to mention the soil replenishment that occurs as the wood rots). There has to be some sort of compromise between what we humans think is pretty and what wildlife needs.

I am trying to suggest that you do some reading about forests as ecosystems before you take a hatchet to yours. Certainly, identify the plants you have, find out what type of forest you have, determine what's native and what's invasive, and then decide what to clear away.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 2:12PM
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barton(z6b OK)

My woods are mostly oak (blackjack and post oak) and hickory. A fungus is killing the blackjacks; the post oaks seem to be a bit more resistant. I leave the dead trees alone for the reasons Elaine stated. I had a pair of pileated woodpeckers coming around, and countless downys, red bellies, bluebirds and other cavity nesters. When the dead trees fall I leave them alone. The old rotten trees aren't pretty but provide food (bugs) and shelter.

But here's the kicker: The "native" (meaning 150 years ago) habitat was tallgrass prairie. After settlement, and fire control, the trees have taken over the prairie, and in some areas of Oklahoma, eastern red cedar is taking over both the prairie and oak woods. Interestingly, the eastern red cedar is a "native" plant, but formerly it inhabited areas that were naturally resistant to fire (rocky cliffs, etc). Without fire, it is incredibly invasive.

Therein is the dilemma. Allowing "nature" to take its course, and at the same time controlling fire, allows succession of undesirable plants. Mowing or controlled burns helps, but also encourages growth of a non-native plant, chinese lespedeza (which the quail love!). So no easy answers for us homeowners who buy five acre plots and put houses in the middle of the woods.

I do like the woods. I have planted Shumard oak seedlings which are supposedly more resistant to the fungus. I also planted redbud for color, and native plum for wildlife food. I do worry that I am meddling too much.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 5:08AM
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bcliver(z7 VA)

Hi Nana40,

I have 7 acres of woods and vines in central Virginia. First, identify the vines. I have poison ivy, easily identified by its aerated roots, grape vines with terribly bitter grapes :) and honeysuckle. Large trees can be choked and pulled over under the weight of the vines.

Here's what I do. 1) Cut the bigger vines with a saw or lopers now. Cut large vines above eye-level. This prevents you from walking into them. 2) Do nothing until fall. Then, try to pull the vines from the trees without breaking branches. Also, the spray the new-growth vine leaves with a herbicide. This works well with poision ivy when the leaves are red in the fall. 3) Repeat steps 1 and 2!

You may never completely eradicate them, but you'll save your trees and improve the landscape.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 12:11PM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

Goats, properly managed, can help rid an area of unwanted undergrowth. The Nature Conservancy has used goats to clear areas of greenbriar (Smilax is the botanical name, by the way). Contact state & local conservation groups and your local extension office for free help. A professional forester can help you manage your woods, but not sure if it is worth your/his or her time/money for 4 acres. My hubby & I just attended a forestry workshop sponsored by our conservation district last weekend--$5 each for lots of great info including 1-hr. lecture & 2 hr. in the woods with prism, logger's stick, etc. Very informative! Track down such things--often it is your tax dollars at work!
:-) We have used a DR brush mower to great advantage on our 23 acres. CK

Here is a link that might be useful: DR Field & brush mower

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 10:43PM
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PoppyTart(z7 TN)

I understand your problem. My woods used to be the same way. I did what was suggested before. Cut the monster vines at the base (and then for good measure cut again 12" up. They will die all summer up high and be no problem to either fall down on their own or be pulled if you can. Make sure to keep all vines cut at bases of trees. Pull what you can from the ground. After about 10 years I have made a definite dent in honeysuckle and grape and trumpet vines, also briar and creeper. (You will never get it all, and you shouldn't. But... too much is too much.) Once you get a start on the ground, you'll probably start finding great stuff. Some trees can be dropped to the ground. They will rot the best on the ground and with the bark on them. Plant some ferns next to them. Bet you have some. Don't give up. I usually work in early spring, late fall and some warm winter days. Work in my real yard once the ticks get too busy in the woods. Maybe start with a favorite area and spread out from there. I am still finding new things in my woods. Probably because of these forums and other garden readings that help me identify them. Be careful not to go too fast. Good Luck !!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2005 at 6:48AM
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JJeane(7/N Ga)

I have a similar siutation. The only plants we are trying to remove are poison ivy and privet. We're gradually getting rid of the biggest privet (trees!) along the creek and replacing it with willows, birches, red twig dogwood, doghobble... natives to stabablize the creek banks. All the dead trees stay where they fall (unless they are close to the house) to provide wildlife habitats and to continue to enrich the soil.

I'm creating paths just by walking through the woods.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 10:31PM
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Fledgeling_(4b SD)

identify the tree species you want to save. remember that preservation is the best option if possible. Try to save some understory tree species as well because they too are important parts of the ecosystem

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 9:15PM
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I have to agree with Elaine in NJ and PoppyTart...go slow. We have 9 acres in No AL and had the same problems after finishing our house 5 years ago. We also have a gentle slope. We had already had to clear the mature pines due to a neighbor's pine beetle problem (a certified forester came out and helped and it's free). Do look to plant native plants if you are worried about erosion & low maintenance. Viburnum, oak leaf hydrangea, pieris, azaleas, and many other shrubs would do well in your setting as border for your woods. These are just some of my favorites. You didn't say whether you wanted to plant more trees or shrubs, but I have had success in transplanting some of the seedlings from the woods. In the past few years we have tagged the things we want to thin (young sweet gums for instance which are everywhere). We've also pulled a lot of honeysuckle, PI, smilax, etc to protect the desirable trees, but only in a few areas. In doing so we have found ferns, beautyberry, red buckeye, etc which have stayed put and are doing very well. Talk to neighbors in your area and see what has worked well with them. Also, visit a nearby botanical garden several times a year to see what's growing and blooming in various settings. And I also recommend buying some books that will help you with future identification. Enjoy your woods!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 4:54PM
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JJeane(7/N Ga)

This is my second spring on our woodland... I'm really glad I didn't try to do much last year because this spring I've found much more stuff ... silverbell trees, sweetspire, etc. This year I walk the woods and creek banks every day so I'm seeing more "good stuff." The Name That Plant forum and a couple of id books have been very helpful. I"ve also been to a couple of wildflower walks - all these are helping me learn to identify the plants. Just as last year, I'm still only trying to eradicate privet, poison ivy, and invasive honeysuckle.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 1:00PM
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