Looking for an interim solution?

clarenancy(8)April 22, 2005


Any advise is welcome. I need a temporary solution for my "back 40". I want to get it back to woodlands eventually but it takes time. I need a strategy that will give me the upperhand on these weeds and vines. Well, excluding Napalm.

Once this whole area was covered in English Ivy, Blue Morning Glory, Honey Suckle, Potato Vine, Bamboo, Choke Cherries, Camphor Trees and Pop Corn Trees. Oh, and Chinese Wisteria. Well, I should also mention the $*@^!*% Privet.

I've busted my derriere every spring and summer for the past 5 years whacking it back off the native trees and shrubs and planting some more natives too. I discovered a few Southern Magnolia, Live Oak, White Cedar, and others beneath the vines. I've planted a few Buckeyes, Native Azalea, Service Berry, Maple, Long Leaf Pine, Big Leaf Magnolia, native ferns and other sundry regional plants. All are doing quite well so far but only because I'm ever vigilant in ripping those ^(@*!(#& vines off every time I turn around! Sadly, the vines and weeds have more stamina than me and most of my natives are still quite young and vulnerable.

While I don't have every foul sort of tree removed yet, every year I make great progress. Progress that I seem to lose to some degree at the end of each summer.

What can I possibly plant (clover? grass seed?) that will deter the fresh weeds from taking over again? As I'm sure you've guessed by now, every weed I iradicate gets replaced by another species. The power vacuum must be filled! This year is seems to be some sort of hitch hiker bur. Whatever it is, I hope for something that I will not regret later as my trees grow and shrubs grow and make blessed leaf litter.

I will post this on the Southern or Southeastern region and native forums too.



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What a wonderful job you are doing, Clare! I would not suggest planting anything like clover or grass as you will only have to get rid of that later. How about trying to suppress any weed seeds by spreading a natural germination inhibitor like corn gluten? I assume your "good stuff" is probably not producing much of it's own seed right now, so the inhibitor will not affect native seeds.

Good luck. I have some of those things that you have but not all. You are painting any woody stumps that you whack with brush b gone, right? If they sprout again, make a fresh cut below the old one and treat again.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 7:15PM
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I've never heard of corn gluten, at least not by that name. I've tried "pre-emergent" weed stuff with a little luck. I don't think it helps much on the more hardy types of vegetation.

I have much to learn.

You are correct about both assumptions...stump painting and no "good stuff" seed production.

The other forum recommended a walk behind brush cutter several times a year and absolutely no tilling, something I've considered.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 7:57PM
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Here's an article about it. I haven't tried it myself.

Here is a link that might be useful: Corn gluten

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 6:04AM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

So this is a sunny area taken over by vines or a shady area taken over by vines? What techniques do you use to get rid of the vines - do you Roundup, do you disturb the soil by pulling stuff up?

I wonder if you can go around the neighborhood in the fall stealing everyone's leaves and put them over your woodland-to-be. Put them on the ground really deep. Or you can even do the newspaper-and-mulch thing that is recommended in some of the no-till theories if you just want to hold the cleared locations steady without growth. Perhaps that would be right around the shrubs/trees you've planted or liberated that are smaller, items you need to keep safe from maurauding vines.

Best of luck!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 6:07PM
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Hi Susan, et al!

Thanks for all the advice.

I do go snatch bags of leave from my neighbors. My teenaged son helps, although he thinks I'm a loon!

I pull up what weeds I can. I get my son to dig up the smilax when I can. I use brush b gone and round up.

The lot (really 3 back to back) is quite shady on my neighbors side, but sunny toward the middle. Keeping is private.

I've tried the newpaper. I've even got roofing material out there now from last summer. The Trumpet Vine has already come through!

I posted this in the Southeast Coastal forum too. Someone there suggested using a walk behind brush cutter a few times a year until my shade comes in good. She says that the brush cutter will make its own mulch as it goes through there.

Here's my plan so far. I think I'll mulch (pine straw) well around all my desirable plants, push that brush cutter through there and come back with both brush b gone and pre-emergient. I'll get what ferns I can spread around and continue.

I'm also thinking of trying some flox in the sunny locations.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 9:44PM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

"Nature abhors a vacuum" is dead-on, huh? :>

If you're going to mulch the clippings from the brush cutter, you should minimize chopping up things that root from clippings. Otherwise you'll just create millions of tiny plants.

I've heard about people using up to 12 sheets deep of newspaper, with the edges overlapping quite a bit, and a heavy mulch to keep the newspaper down, like bark chips. I think you really want to move away from techniques that disturb the soil once the big stuff is gone - every time you pull something up, it exposes many more weed seeds.

Since summer is here, you can start stealing your neighbor's grass instead of their leaves! :D Also, I was wondering if you have tested your soil yet. That might help you pick an ideal cover crop for the soil that would really thrive in your situation but not turn out to be a monster.

Have you built paths through this area? It might help you feel more in control if there are walks through the brambles. Also, have you identified what native plants are in your future woodland? If you're brushcutting and herbiciding, it seems like you've decided it is all bad. It would be a shame to eliminiate the chance of getting back the natives that are currently playing second-fiddle to the invasives.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 2:31PM
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Hi Susan!
I was really talking about using real mulch or pine straw close to the desireable plants. I've tried the newspaper and it does help some.
As to the paths...we do have paths started. It initially began when I'd make my husband and son tromp through there with me several times a week. Amazingly enough, that helped tremendously.

I hadn't thought of grass clippings. We don't have much lawn to mow so it didn't occur to me. But that's a great idea.

And no, I haven't tested my soil. Our county extension office offers such a service. I reckon I ought to take them up on it.

As I understood it, I should leave the mulch from the brush cutter where is lies. I hoped that the herbicide on whatever wounds I create by cutting, will kill the honeysuckle, dewberry or whatever.

The area really is sooooo much better than it was when I started. But I feel so much older than I was then too! AND I work longer hours now. And the trees are still so small! In fact, I've still got a few mimosa's and crap oaks I won't get rid of until the other gain more height.

I don't think there are any natives left besides the ones I'm tending. What I have right now, this minute gaining size, are bamboo, trumpet vine, honeysuckle, morning glory and dewberry. AND Florida betony.

As to the natives in my future... I've got friends who propagate and hybridize natives for my region. I built their website for barter. Their specialty, and my husband's passion, is the native azaleas. They only sell wholesale but their site is a great resourse for SE native identification... www.doddnatives.com.

I also "rescue" natives (especially ferns) from lots that are on the verge of being razed.

The lot was at one time my husband's grandfather's vegetable garden and camellia propagation experiment. At that time our road was a dirt road that went nowhere and the florist lady across the street had a cow she grew kudzu for! That was in the 20s. We're now in the middle of suburbia. And it seems all the older ladies on this block (God bless their souls), planted the vines and let them run wild. I don't think there are any natives left that I haven't reclaimed and tended.

I'll get my soil tested and try to get your advice on the cover crop by early next week.

Meanwhile, I'm SURE there are grass clippings out their waiting for me!


    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 8:13PM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

What a neat word portrait of the south. mmm.

Well, good luck! Take some pictures for us, before AND after!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 2:03PM
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gmehl(z5 PA)

Because I live on a rocky ridge, we have to build up rather than dig down. So the first step is grading, which means cleaning off all the surface junk and smoothing out areas that will become paths. I use a 42 inch and 84 inch long 4-inch black sewer pipe for the sake of final grading (like a rolling pin) and use a level on it to keep it even side to side and not excessive in terms of grade changes.

Beds themselves are then built over commercial grade landscape fabric with very thick layers of local shredded leaves, ground trees/brush mulch (not the painted kind), septic sand (it's ground shale), a lot of compost, some humus if available, all worked together maybe even with some rocks (gravel to basketball size). A layer of ordinary mulch tops it off. Bordered by stone (not necessarily a neat stone wall, just sort of piled up stone to create planting pockets for small plants). About 12-18 inches deep. This is left to stand for a season before planting. These beds never need watering and will stay cool and moist all summer.

But weeds will arrive from myriad sources and they have to be cleaned out on a running basis until your natives take hold and control.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 4:17PM
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