Battle Plan for Clearing Woody Invasives

graficaamy(6)August 20, 2013

I have an area with great conditions for my future woodland garden: filtered part sun, nice sloping terrain, great organic soil, attractive exposed boulders, etc. But among the couple of large shade trees there are lots of unwanted & invasives at understory and ground level. Rosa multiflora, poison ivy, Hedera helix, Japanese honeysuckle, and many weedy Sassafras that come up everywhere from previously cut plants which are now practicaly impossible to dig up.

I want to clear the woody weeds enough to be able to plant a variety of native shrubs for insect / animal habitat & food. I can get infinite amount of wood chip to mulch paths, but what to put down or plant on ground level to try to replace the vines and such?

I understand it will be a long term battle, mostly heavy manual work. Though I am afraid I'll also have to use herbicide too at least to eradicate the poison ivy.

Any suggestions for a battle plan? Any encouraging stories of success?

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Let's start with telling us where you are located.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 11:41AM
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Zone 6B verging on 7A, Westchester County NY. The area in question is slight south-facing slope, shaded by several mature large shade trees and some good understory trees / shrubs among the stuff I want to clear out.

I need suggestions on the clearing / management / long term reduction of the undesired woody stuff. Want to clear out Rosa rugosa, Japanese honeysuckle, poison ivy. Also minimize over time the re-occurance of sassafras shoots.

Love to hear other folks' strategies.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Clearing out those plants (rose, honeysuckle, ivy) probably requires some careful herbicide treatment. Rose and honeysuckle should be cut to ground level and then dab brush killer on the cut part (no need to spray). Poison ivy you don't want to cut (unless you are one of the few that is not allergic) so some spraying may work. By the way, poison ivy berries are a FAVORITE with birds .... English ivy can be mildly irritating to some people as well so be careful handling cut pieces of it.

Long term strategy for me is to walk the property often with clippers in hand and just cut it again and again (whatever) until it runs out of energy. I have japanese honeysuckle too. I walk the dog through there and pull/cut something every time.

The issue with the sassafras roots that if you put herbicide on them then you are likely to kill other sassafras trees whose roots may be interconnected to them. I assume you have mature sassafras trees that you are keeping? Very good for wildlife. You could try putting black plastic over the sprouts and try to smother them.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 10:58PM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

I have been having some success with the poison ivy herbicide that Round Up has. It works on ivy, briars. morning glory, roses, and honeysuckle.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 11:36PM
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Long term is right! I moved here 27 years ago, and the woods were full of undesireables. Cutting back the briars over the years has been the best strategy for those plants, and ivy and honeysuckle "pulls" followed by some chemicals when things resprout also helped. And keep cutting back, always.

I still have some things, such as privet, which is tough to kill or pull, and, of course, the stilt grass that someone is also working with on this forum. (That just showed up about 10 years ago!) And in former years when I had more energy, I actually dug out huge multiflora roses. Too old to do that now!!

With all of the rain we have had this year, I know I will see tons of "bad" seedlings next spring, but I am also assured of seeing lots of wonderful wildflower babies. So I take the good with the bad.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 8:07AM
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Thanks so far, folks. I figure it will be a long-term (i.e. never-ending) activity, like you all are saying, a combination of pulling, cut-and-poison, and continually trimming again. I don't have a dog but I like that routine of walking the property frequently!

Oh, forgot to mention another of my most evil weeds: Porcelain Vine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata). I am doing some "just in time" pulling these days, before the berries ripen and become attractive to birds. I often feel like putting up a billboard in my neighborhood: PULL THOSE PRETTY VINES! They are all over, so it will be another eternal battle.

esh_ga : Re your point on Sassafras, the mature ones are long gone, cut before I moved her 15 years ago, and I was left only with their huge stumps, plus roots that keep sending up babies that never get a nice form, since forced to stretch up looking for light! I might try to keep the least ugly group for a small grove. So will keep your point in mind not to spray around that area.

I was thinking of trying to use plastic (more likely, thick layers of newspaper) covered by thick layer of wood chips, but only for paths -- too hard to use more widespread than that, plus terrain kind of sloping, and working around existing trees.

jcalhoun: I may try the Round Up Poison Ivy version, do you know how long it remains active? I think I've seen it and it persists for much longer than the "standard" round up.

Any suggestions for a plant to use as sort of ground cover, that's "vigorous" but desireable, which for me means: Native (Northeast US if possible); Won't climb trees or easy to remove; Thick ground layer to hopefully discourage weeds; Berries or Flowers if possible for wildlife...

I'm thinking fern (Hayscented Fern), maybe White Wood Aster.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 9:53AM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

The RU PI stuff I've been using is formulated for vines, briars and very small shrubs/trees.Similar to the Ortho Brush-B-Gone but works better with the vines. I'm not sure how good it is with weeds & grass.

Strawberry plants are a good ground cover and native too.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 10:29PM
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I have been letting the Virginia creeper roam. Some people don't like it, but I think it is a beautiful plant, with outstanding fall color, ornamental berries, and great wildlife value. It can be used either to climb up trees or allowed to roam on the ground as groundcover.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 4:45PM
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Consider goats if you can provide housing, fencing, & protection from predators.

We've done some clean up in our woodland by hand. After much work & much more to go considering additional assistance from goats.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 5:23PM
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Grafic, the standard method is to cut the stem(s) of the undesirable woody species, near to the ground, and immediately dawb some herbicide on the cut surface. One or more of the Garlon formulations are useful for this, as is glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Whichever you use, be sure to mix up the stronger concentration intended for this use, not the typical 2 or 3 % version which is used as a foliar spray. For example, if using glyphosate, a 50% concentration is called for.

It can help to add blue dye to your mix so you don't loose track of what you've treated versus what you have not.

Timing is important with this tech. Basically, from right about now clear through winter, in my area up to about the end of February, is the time when this method can work the best.

Please note, if fruit/seed is hanging on the plants you're trying to get rid of, it is helpful to remove these from the area and pile and burn or take to the yard waste site.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 9:51AM
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lukifell(zone5 NH)

Herbicides are only used by people who have no idea what they are doing.

I have been gardening my whole life and I have never seen a situation where spraying poison on the ground or anywhere else would be an appropriate solution.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:07PM
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I disagree with the above statement. There are situations where using an herbicide to achieve some goal is less disruptive to that plant community and its associated fauna than would a physical or cultural approach. Each and every situation must be evaluated on its own terms.

The amount of actual active ingredient that is used in cut/treat is very small. Let's say you're trying to remove rampant common buckthorn from a wooded area: How, short of cut/treat herbicide application would you-lukifell-propose to accomplish this? Even when herbicides are used, this is a daunting task. Of course, I'm speaking from experience, not from some philosophical platform.

But all techniques are potentially worthwhile. So I ask again lukifell: In a serious infestation of common buckthorn in wooded property, how would you eradicate, or even begin to get these things under control?

The floor is yours!


PS....Many people, and you, lukifell, appear to be one of them, mistakenly use the word "poison" when what you really mean is "toxic". Poisons can kill a person right then and there. Very, very few of our commonly formulated pesticides are poisonous. Most are toxic though. I'm guessing you think this to be a semantic argument. It is not. The thousands of times I've applied glyphosate to vegetation that was unwanted in its given setting, I never poisoned anything, except for that very vegetation. Pest control products simply do not "poison" everything around them.

Are there cases where things went badly? Of course. Think about all the atrazine (still) getting applied to millions of acres of corn in this country; That's a bad situation. Glyphosate or Garlon in a cut/treat usage for invasive woody plant control? Laughably on a different level of concern. Or....glyphosate being used on millions of acres of corn and soybeans of the "Roundup-Ready" variety? Yeah, that's causing the emergence of "super weeds" that have resistance to this common herbicide. That coukld be real bad in the not too distant future.

But the way you butted into this thread, with your big pronouncement indicates to me that you're a beginner. That's okay-we all start somewhere. I would say though that it can be better to lay back and learn for a while before shooting your mouth off, or whatever keyboard equivalent you like. Your statement is wildly off the mark.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 2:18PM
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lukifell(zone5 NH)

Roundup is not magic. You still have to cut the plants down.

Roundup is useless against oriental bittersweet. For lesser invasives it is hardly necessary. It is a gimmick in my opinion.

I am still waiting to hear about someone who actually saved themselves some work by using Roundup.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Your position on this issue is a difficult one to take seriously. Are you actually suggesting that herbicides have not been successfully used to control woody vegetation? I am going to have to presume that yours is an outlook which has never considered such massive-scale activities as native lands restoration, powerline corridor management, reforestation efforts in the presence of unwanted invasive species....the list goes on.

Magic? Who said that? We're talking about useful and useable techniques here. They're all work, of course.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:04PM
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madtripper(5/6 Guelph)

My property was overrun by European Buckthorn. The first year I just cut them down thinking that would damage them. They not only resprouted, but cam back with more stems than before. The cut + Roundup was used in subsequent years. It has saved me hundreds of hours, and it is the recommended procedure by the Ontario Government.

Lukifell--I don't think you have experience with such problems, or you would not have the opinion you state.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Myths

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 8:51PM
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lukifell(zone5 NH)

Power companies do not use Roundup. They use much more powerful herbicides. In my state they are required to post warnings in the newspaper before spraying them. Presumably because of danger to humans.

It is pretty sad that I am the only person on gardenweb who believes in ecology.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:17PM
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Once again, you have made a wildly off-base assertion, that being that you, and only you care about ecology, which, btw is a science whichinvestigates the relationships between all the living and non-living components of the landscape. Thus, to "believe in ecology" is similar to one saying they believe in geology. Not really a cogent thing to say.

Maybe someday when you've come down off your amazingly high horse, you will have something of actual value to contribute here. Thusfar though, this has not been the case.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 2:37PM
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