Balancing weed control vs good self-seeding

docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)April 28, 2013

I have a large yard with many large beds in a woodland setting. Currently the beds contain English Ivy, Vinca minor, Lily of the Valley and an aggressive yellow Lamium. Last year I made great progress in one bed and was able to remove 30' x 40' of the invasives while preserving (transplanting) many Trillium. I left the area mostly bare to keep track of where I'd been and leave it available to plant new things into the space. Just now I've discovered hundreds of garlic mustard seedlings where I was hoping for columbine sprouts. Grrrrrrrr! Anywhere I left the oak leaves and pine needles. Ther are no spouts--good guys or bad. How can I encourage growth of native seedlings without the invasives taking hold. Also, my neighbors on either side literally vacuum their lawns and beds each fall and spray for Mosquitos before they have folks over for drinks by their pool. They're already shaking their heads at the leaves I did leave for weed suppression and nutrient/moisture retention. Any ideas or suggestions? I also wonder about the legality of transplanting native wildflowers on my own property for the purpose of saving them from chemical or physical damage that may occur as I clear away noxious invasive species. Hope to hear from some of you. TIA


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I'm battling a similar situation. I live in a wood but the previous owners decided to cut a large number of trees and shrubs down to create a large grassy area over the septic and I think they had plans to landscape so they left large areas w/out grass...just bare patches of earth which they covered w/hay which of course has sprouted! Long story the area that they were going to landscape where all trees and shrubs were removed, there is a mature layer of wildflowers...bloodroot, mayapples, trillium etc etc coming up among dense thistle, prickly lettuce, dandelions etc.

I've been told the only way to control the weeds is to overturn the whole area...natives and all. I have tried using cardboard and mulch in the front of the property but the weeds are all coming up through's not a long term solution.

Instead, I have decided to grow shrubs. I've noticed that the shrubby areas adjacent to the bare earth areas have NO WEEDS! So I don't know if this would be an option for you but the wildflowers you name do better in a bit of shade... how about adding some shrubs?

I think if you are talking about relocating plants on your own land, it's ok to move them...I *think* you just can't harvest and sell them.

This post was edited by adidas on Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 13:56

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 7:16AM
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Check your local laws re collecting plants. In NC you need permission because property owners grant easements to utility companies and the hwy. dept., but they still own that land.

In most public parks, i.e., really public lands, you still need permission, and usually only people who collect for the state heritage group or some other institution that studies and catalogs plants.will be granted permission.

It is sad to see some great plants cut down or destroyed when the areas are mowed, etc., but legally you are not supposed to rescue without permission.

I work with rescue groups, and we usually have a very difficult time getting permission, even when a road is being built through the property, as the liabiity issue is a major concern.

As for clearing that area, hand weeding and chemical treatments (which I don't like) are usually your only choice. I don't have much trouble in my shady areas, but in the sunny spots we just mow. I have created a few beds in the sunny areas and have to hand weed those often. Sorry.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 8:33AM
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rbrady(5/Eastern Ia)

Martha-did you throw the seeds on top of the mulch or were they under? I usually have excellent germination of my natives when I just toss them on top of the mulch. In fact, I have better luck with germination just tossing the seeds out there than by any other means. To keep weeds down in my beds I usually just hand pull-that way I don't eliminate any desirable plants. I would not suggest turning over the soil-many weed seeds that are dormant can surface and germinate. I also believe that it ruins the soil structure and can kill beneficial microbes.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 2:23PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I didn't do any mulching beyond the natural oak leaves and pine needles. The area in question is under heavy oak and pine trees, so is very shady. I actually did have good germination of the natives as well as the garlic mustard. In fact, I have about 18 or more Trillium seedlings. One established Trillium that is just about to bloom, is surrounded by seedlings, but even more closely surrounded by Lily of the Valley sprouts. The only way to save the Trillium is to dig it up and tease apart the roots and replant. I'm just going to do it. I don't have time to apply for a permit to move one plant. Will you all visit me in jail? Back to hand weeding. Fortunately, it's one of my favorite therapies.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 6:48AM
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I am so sorry I misunderstood. On your own property you don't need permits, at least here. So far, I can even move plants from one parcel to another, as long as I own the land.

Is your lily native? If so, why get rid of it? In the mts. in NC both Trillium and lily can grow in the same general area.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 7:27AM
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Just a thought...Columbine does germinate under pine needles! Just takes a little more time! I was sent a bucket load of seeds one yr. I accidently mulched over them because they had not sprouted and I'd forgotten where I'd sown them but they did germinate and grow vigorously! I also purposefully covered some azalea and mountain laurel seeds this winter w/cedar "leaves" and pine needles to retain moisture...these have all sprouted! I think you are doing the right thing w/the mulch! Stick w/ just takes time to see results!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:56AM
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Here's a pic of tiny seedlings coming up under cedar (?) leaf. They were W/S.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 8:00AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

The lily is absolutely NOT native. It is a noxious invasive that spreads by rhizomes and forms a tenacious mat of roots that can regenerate from the tiniest minuscule fragment. They are quite beautiful and have a glorious fragrance when they bloom, but they will crowd out every other plant and can jump over paved driveways,etc. Unfortunately, I have probably half of an acre of heavily invaded beds. I already know it will take me years to irradicate them, if I ever succeed entirely. But, it's like playing in a sandbox for me. I did transplant 4 young Trillium plants today. I also moved 3-4 Trillium seedlings. Once I've rescued the native plants, I'll elicit the services of my teenagers and their friends to help with the grunt work of digging out the roots and pulling the invasive ivy that is also part of the mix. But, I don't trust their attentiveness to detail enough to ask them to differentiate good plants from bad.

Adidas, I have had decent germination of columbines and native Forget-Me-Nots. The difficulty is that the garlic mustard seedlings have spouted in amongst the columbine and FMN. So, I have to hand weed. I actually enjoy weeding, but the size of the beds makes hand weeding prohibitively time consuming. I will continue to plug away. It appears that every single Trillium that I transplanted last year survived, despite a horrible hot, dry summer. That is rewarding enough to keep me motivated. I'll take pictures as things progress.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Congrats on your trilliums! What species?

I do know what you mean about the weeds! My "garlic mustard" is thistle and prickly lettuce! I bought one of those weed puller gadgets...the thistle root is so hard to extract...but it is taking FOR-EVER! The one thing I have going for me is that this place is sitting on rock so that a lot of the weeds couldn't go in as deeply as they would have liked and I guess there could have been twice as many weeds where the rocks are. Could I borrow your teenagers for an afternoon? My 7 yr old is against killing anything :(

I have a question for you: I was reading in one of the other forums about using full strength vinegar to kill, if you had a spot where no natives were present and you weren't going to plant there for a yr would you consider using vinegar? I'm thinking about it.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 7:06AM
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Lots of work in your future, but the results will be wonderful. I have better luck with regular hand weeding over a ten year period, and I know what you mean about having others with no knowledge working in the area. Guess that is why my property still has things waiting for ME to remove.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 11:31AM
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I'm so glad that I found this forum. It feels like I found a small number of people who know exactly what I do every day. I sometimes feel like I'm the only weirdo in the world who spends several days a week on his knees yanking up tiny weeds from ground covered with pine needles and leaves. My neighbors must think I'm crazy. My family members don't quite understand it. But after 5 years of doing this, I'm proud to show them that I now have various small "groves" or "thickets" of natural woods on my property. And once they're established, they will hopefully last for generations. I'm such a weirdo that I've been taking a lot of photos lately of the various seedlings that sprout up. And my photos look a LOT like the one Martha posted. I feel like I'm home. Thank you, folks! And to answer Martha's questions - yeah, just keep weeding by hand and ignoring your neighbors. I wouldn't trade my property for theirs in a million years.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 9:45PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I finally broke down and purchased weed killer to use on the invasive lilies and the garlic mustard. I've done a ton of reading, and the number of seedlings this plant can produce, and it's growth pattern make it rapidly destructive of the native plant species. If I want to have any impact on the local habitat during my life time, I need to get rid of this stuff so I can get other things growing. It was amazingly liberating to know I was actually making headway rather than falling further and further behind. Good luck to all of you in your efforts.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:03PM
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