ongoing stiltgrass battle...update

adidas(6/7)May 23, 2014

Ran out of wood chip mulch but needed to cover a deer path going down into woods...overrun with stiltgrass and smartweed but also w/natives like black and blue cohosh, bloodroot etc. I dumped a load of grass clippings (early in the season clippings without too many unwanted seeds) and it *seems* to be having the desired cohosh has grown HUGE and if I pull the clippings aside I see that the stiltgrass is yellowing and dying....just wondering if, in my ignorance, I'm making the situation worse or creating a new "bad" situation? Any thoughts are welcome!

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interesting.....Adidas, did you put down the grass clippings before the stiltgrass had a chance to come up? Assuming it suffocated it. Would *love* to hear an update in a few months, as my stiltgrass battle is ongoing. I am starting to see the little buggers come up so I can identify them (vs other weeds).

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:20PM
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Actually I did manage to cover about an acre or so with wood mulch and cardboard....labour intensive! It did curb the stiltgrass growth quite a bit but I have patches that were not as heavily mulched and the grass came up....I tried to pull as much as I could but the woodland perennials grew a lot with all the rain and made it difficult to access the grass! The grass clippings were awesome at blocking the stiltgrass. However, clippings have a downside...they smell pretty bad if you use them heavily (not a big deal if this is done far enough away from your house) and apparently if you use clippings by themselves they can block rain water from getting to desirable vegetation...though I didn't notice this and I found the ground under the clippings to be well saturated.

I am away from the area for the summer and am hoping that I will come back to find plants other than goldenrod that have survived the summer! Last yr I returned to acres (I have only a couple of acres but it seemed like acres and acres) of 5 ft tall stiltgrass and little else! Good luck to you and please update soon!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:56PM
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Here in Bucks County, PA. I'm deep into my battle with stiltgrass.
For the last month (June) I have been whacking the SG right at ground level. So far I don't see any regeneration. I'm hoping that the roots don't store enough energy to resprout. So far so good.

I know that mowing SG does not work, as that leaves greenery for the plant to utilize to regenerate, and even seed faster.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 10:53PM
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A (possibly stupid) ? for you. What is the difference between whacking and mowing? I mean don't you end up w/a small amt of greenery remaining in both cases? I have never whacked and I probably wouldn't where I live because it is such a large area...but just wondering what the difference would be.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 6:07PM
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Since your earlier posting on this wicked plant, I have somehow developed a problem with it myself! It's in my front yard mostly in the wood chip mulch.

It's a large but not huge area - 2000 sf or so - where it is popping up. I'm thinking if I rake away the mulch to cover the plants with cardboard that I would have to get rid of the original mulch and use fresh mulch on top. Otherwise, there might be seeds in the original mulch. Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 8:27AM
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There is no way of knowing where the seed came from (mulch, neighbouring property etc) so removing the original mulch will not necessarily help (in my non-expert opinion) and according to one source I found probably removing the mulch or disturbing the area by digging will cause even more seeds to germinate! What I did when sg came up in an area that I had mulched the yr before was to cover the worst of it (old mulch and all) with cardboard and I mulched over that. If the stiltgrass growth was thin I simply pulled it and mulched (thickly) over that area. This has worked fairly well for keeping the sg in check.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:59PM
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The difference between whacking and mowing is that with mowing you will always leave a bit of greenery, the blades don't go low enough. When i whack I make sure its right at dirt level. Yes you will miss a few patches because of sticks etc. but so far its been a month with a lot of rain and I don't see any regrowth of the patches I have been able to cut right at dirt level.
I have ten acres and I use a long stem professional trimmer with bike handle like grips with a harness (Stihl FS 56.) Works like a charm and is easy on the back. It can also take a cutting blade for cutting barberry, multiflora, wineberry and autumn olive sprouts.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:34PM
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Thanks for the info, Nature! I've heard there's usually a second growth spurt in the late summer so I'm curious to hear if you see this after the "whacking"! W/winebery I put on 2 prs of gloves and pulled a field of them at the roots...time consuming BUT I cleared 15 yrs of growth in a couple of months last yr and very few have come back this yr!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Adidas, your comment about second growth compels me to remind anyone who lands on this string about the TIMING being so important. Your PRE emergent effort is key and I plan to try your wood chip method next Spring.

I am adding in my comments here as a reminder that as our Summer moves along, we are coming upon the Aug/Sept timeframe when these annoying plants set flowers with seeds! (I think this was my downfall when I didn't know what I had in my yard! We didn't pull or mow in time! I think we made our problem worse by not getting it in time.) Anyone who has a stilt grass battle on your hands, you must, must plan your battle with precision :-).

I just did a search and found an informative site from NY state, inserted the link below. I see something in here (Management and Control section) about not pulling up existing colonies before July, hadn't seen that before. Apparently, undisturbed seeds could germinate in time to set seeds in early Fall. No rest for the weary!

I am battled worn like you in this, but love the continued dialogue and education we can help others with.

Here is a link that might be useful: NY state site with good info

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 10:02AM
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That is great info Jilly! Thank-you! Interesting...the bit about experimenting w/dry ice...wonder how they carried that one out!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 6:01PM
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There is not really a second growth "spurt". If partially cut it just continues to grow back like lawn grass. But insufficient cutting CAN accelerate flowering and seeding. I see exactly this happen in my lawn where I use only a mower. I try to mow frequently and low when I see it starting to flower up in late July (lawn). Normally it begins to flower around labor day

I would be very surprised to see it green back up after being cut at dirt level in the woods, as there is no sign at all after one month, just dry grey cut stalks laying on the ground. JST is an annual, not the type of plant that can really afford to go "dormant", as they have thin root structures without much energy storage capacity to totally "reboot" after losing ALL its solar panels.

Again it is imperative to chop it off right at dirt level.
In my opinion for larger areas, this is the least work intensive method, other than poisons, and early cutting leaves the areas open for other plants, hopefully natives.You will however have to "touch up" in early September to get the ones you missed because or rocks and sticks. They will be tall and easy to get to and you don't have to worry about reflowering at this stage.
In fact if you have a small area and limited time, early sept is ideal.

I like to cut early as the cleared areas have a summer to be not shaded and in turn to be colonized by natives.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 1:31PM
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Adidas...I wondered that too!
Naturedeva....more great info! Will give your method a "whack" ;-)

FYI, since we are on the topic of mowing, wanted to add a note about JSG in my lawn ....we did a preemergent at the right time this year (luck!) and have been doing the mowing high (at 4 on our rider). and leaving the clippings on the grass, not bagging. Seems to have helped so far this year, as last year my "lawn" was overrun with the horrible stuff as well.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:14AM
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I have a lot of stiltgrass, but I do not think it is very undesirable. It is much better than Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose, wild raspberry and other wood plants.

I just leave them alone and it does not bother me.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 6:01PM
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You are partially correct....I visit a friend in the mtns of NC in the summer and there is plenty of stiltgrass growing in that area. However, for some reason the grass never seems to get much higher than uncut lawn grass and for the most part it is growing at roadsides or in places that would not otherwise be occupied by anything else. On my property in No VA, however, the stiltgrass grows everywhere and attains heights of 5ft or more. By the fall everything in its path is smothered and in this case that includes natives like bloodroot, cohoshes, violets, meadow rues, spice bushes etc etc. Seedlings that I have planted have disappeared due to lack of light and water after being summarily smothered by the stiltgrass! Everything under the stiltgrass is a sickly yellow and is unable to grow. Any disturbed, formerly wooded area on my property is overrun w/stiltgrass and this is preventing me from doing what I am trying to do which is trying to regrow the wood as much as I possibly can!! I think deer are a big factor in the friend in NC has very few deer in the area and they do not appear to be present yr round. In No VA, however, deer are numerous and their well worn trails cut through the woods everywhere. The deer eat just about everything in their path but not the stiltgrass (of course). They love to lie in the stiltgrass and probably spread its seed everywhere they go!

Whatever the reason I can tell you that stiltgrass does not behave in the same manner everywhere. Asian bittersweet and wineberry are difficult to control but trying to pick out blades of stiltgrass from under and around rocks w/out disturbing desirable natives over several acres (my property is not huge but after 3 hrs of pulling stiltgrass it feels as though it's 100 acres!)is not fun and knowing that for every blade I pull it'll be replaced by 10 more which by the end of the summer will be 5 ft high because I don't have time to sit and pull blades of grass all summer is even less fun :( !

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:27AM
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My stiltgrass is only about 3-4 inches tall. It still can't get into my lawn area.

It did come up in the areas I cleaned up. Now I've dug up a 8' wide strip for my garden. The stiltgrass is buried now. I'm sure it will come up again, even my garden is mulched.

Before I cleaned up my areas, stiltgrass was never the problem. I had a lot of goldenrod, dandelions, something like daisy, and a lot of other tall "weeds". stiltgrass came up when other "weeds" are gone.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 1:15PM
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Interesting! My property has a lot of goldenrod and dandelions and where I can, I actually divide clumps of goldenrod and spread the clumps around. The only time I have seen a monarch butterfly here, it was on the goldenrod and I find that stiltgrass has a harder time trying to come up in an established patch of goldenrod. I am presently trying to, as odd as this may seem, grow some aggressive (native but fast growing) species such as Joe Pye and Common Milkweed in an effort to populate areas that have bare dirt. I have mulched heavily as much as I could afford where the shade perennials persist and though I know the stiltgrass will probably never be eliminated I'm hoping I can reduce it enough to give the deforested, disturbed areas a chance to regrow.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 4:00PM
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stiltgrass responds badly to mowing. Here is the place I have most of the stiltgrass:

The area were I dug the dirt was occupied by the wild plants (multiflora rose, J. honeysuckles, tree honeysuckle, etc) several years ago. Then the tall plants (goldenrod etc.) fill the gaps. This year, I cut down the tall grass, so the stiltgrass came in. Now I just mow the stiltgrass whenever I cut my lawn. I'm going to dig up the stiltgrass and make some vegetable beds and flower beds.

This is the other area:

I once a month mow the area right of the tomato cages. stiltgrass never get established. Some type of grass with thick blade (a little like liriope) responds well to mowing and would not want stiltgrass to get in.

Here I have all kinds of weeds. So none of them bothers me any more. stiltgrass is the same as dandelions, garlic mustard, clover, crabgrass etc. Just remember do not leave bare land for the weeds. Cover the disturbed land with some plants, or mulch it.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:12PM
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Addidas, I don't think it odd at all that you would be purposely working with strongly colonial species. We do it all the time. Speaking of which-and I'm not accusing you of this-I find that the native mantra of diversity has compelled some folks into an erroneous belief that in nature, all plantws exist in a homogenous mixture, no one species being any more common than any other. From what I've seen all my life, nature works quite differently in many cases, a species going strongly colonial-even if not rhizomatous-for a while at least, with other plants moving in only later. I think of many forest ecosystem disturbances as examples of this. Where my land is, for example, forest fires occured during the 1930s. What happened following these fires is an explosion of native northern white cedar-Thuja occidentalis-such that in many pockets, it is pretty close to a monoculture. And this is not at all a rare thing, even in strictly herbaceous/grassland scenarios. Look at what sawtooth sunflower can do in a moist area.....completely cover the ground in a short timeframe. A completely natural occurence.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 12:57PM
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Thanks for the input, wisconsitom. My property is 60% Lindera benzoin (spicebush) so even if great diversity does exist in some places on earth it isn't here :)! What I was saying above, was a response to achang, who if I understood correctly, had removed what he/she considered to be weeds, including goldenrod and found stiltgrass had moved in to occupy the space. I thought it was funny because we seemed to be going in opposite directions but were both hoping for a similar result!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:25PM
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One thing's for sure-remove one plant, something else moves in!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 8:29AM
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this is good info about fighting stiltgrass. it's directed to woodland owners. I have a cabin in the West Virginia woods and have used Roundup in the past. I am going to try a string trimmer on the large areas of it this year. in the areas that I have sprayed Roundup for three years, the amount of stiltgrass has been greatly reduced and there are many more native grasses and wild flowers.

Here is a link that might be useful: forestry recommendations for stilt grass

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 3:24PM
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I guess it really depends on where your stiltgrass is growing and the size of the area affected and maybe how you applied the roundup but I don't think I'd choose that method on my property. I had a nasty patch of canada thistle over the drainfield and I experimented w/roundup this past Spring. The only thing growing in among this patch of thistle was stiltgrass. It did knock it back some but it just keeps coming up...the seed bank is infinite AND the deer are so numerous here (I am near the W. VA / VA border and I'm guessing if you're in the woods in W. VA you have a LOT of deer too!) that the seeds are spread continually as the deer trek across the area. I don't quite understand how you can use roundup w/out killing native plants....not sure about native grasses but if you've been applying roundup for 3 yrs how can you have ANYTHING growing there? Please tone is not argumentative and I am the first to admit I know next to nothing...I'm not totally against chem. control I just like to know all the potential consequences ahead of time :)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:01AM
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I have a 1/4 mile road frontage and a septic field that I spray. We do have a lot of deer, but I don't have stilt grass on my deer trails. I think my stilt grass came from auto vehicles down my road. Since the construction is finished, I hope that over time, there will be very little stilt grass remaining.
I am very careful when spraying the Roundup and spray on a calm day. I use a one-gallon sprayer and mix the concentrated Roundup with water. I only spray the leaves of the stilt grass. It grows in around the milkweed and other grasses. as long as you don't spray the "good" plants they are not affected.

the area in the photo was covered with stilt grass 4 years ago. now you can see the brown dying stilt grass I sprayed a week ago and all the milkweed and native grasses that have filled in where the stilt grass was killed in prior years.

my neighbor "went to town" with Round Up on one thistle plant on his side of the road and everything in a 3 ft diameter was killed. that's just awful.

in my situation, I am probably doomed to fight it forever, since it is very prevalent in my entire development. the HOA used to spray extensively throughout, but stopped last year.
My earlier post regarding the string trimmer use was on the common area trails that the HOA is no longer spraying. I like to hike the trails with my dogs, but the stilt grass is 2 feet high on them.
I'm not ready to give up on them like the HOA is, but don't want to spray such a large area. So I hope the string trimmer will "do the trick".

I would love to hear of anyone's experiences with string trimmers on trails. the doc I link to recommends cutting it right down to the dirt. I'm afraid it will be a huge task and the long grass will get bogged down on the trimmer line.

I just hate to see an invasive taking over our entire development out here in Wild Wonderful West Virginia.

This post was edited by jules8 on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 19:29

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 1:12PM
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A friendly reminder......we are close to this horrible stuff going into flower (SW CT, zone 6), so get those string trimmers ready....zap it down BEFORE it goes to flower/'s on our weekend to-do list. Fun times!!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:05PM
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Jilly, Thanks for the reminder! Unfortunately for me, though, I am not at home until mid Sept and by that time EVERY bit of stilt grass living w/in a 5 mile radius has dumped its seed into the ever expanding (seed) bank :(

That's why I spend all Spring trying to smother the SG w/mulch, cardboard and my kids ......I get them to stomp around in the open bits and this "seems" to kill the grass...odd how deer stomping doesn't have the same affect!

Jules, that looks like my driveway! It looks as if the roundup might be working....were any of those milkweeds (is it common milkweed, A. syriaca?) present when the SG was there? I have large patches of common milkweed and goldenrod both of which are fairly aggressive but they are competing w/the SG.....and when the SG stops growing at the end of the season it will be about 4-5 ft and it will fall over everything around it, knocking plants down and/or cutting the light. Last year by some miracle, I found a very sad looking, pale putty root orchid (Aplectrum hyemale) under a HUGE clump of fallen SG.... makes me wonder what else has died out under this stuff....

This post was edited by adidas on Sun, Aug 24, 14 at 7:10

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 12:26PM
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i don't know the variety of milkweed that it is. it grows wild out here in the mountains and moved in from elsewhere in the development. there was very little if any there 4 years ago. as the SG was reduced, it moved in.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:29PM
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