Cleaning the woods, nightmare plants

achang89(Z6)October 31, 2005

I've beening cleaning the woods at the boundaries over the last two weekends. It was really bad. Lots of invasive plants, multiflora rose, Jap honeysuckle. I'm sure they are many others. I think some trees were killed by the beasts. Some others lost limbs. Some of the old canes are wrist-size thick and hold very tight at the trees.

I cut the thick canes and removed some of them. I also put on some round-up at the cuts and I hope some will be killed. I only shredded half the cuttings and the wood chips are about a cubic yard. There will be more cleaning to do with I get time.

Now my question is: What should I do with the open areas? After I took out the bad plants, the ground is covered mostly with leaves and dead twigs. What will come up next year? Anything I should do?

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What will come up next year? Who knows? Based on my experience, you can bet that something will return, especially the honeysuckle and other nuisance vines. We've cleaned various parts of the boundaries in the woods, with a fair amount of success, but you'll have to be diligent about keeping it cleaned out if that's what you want to achieve. Keep an eye out next spring for the return of the dreaded vines & use round-up or a stronger brush killer on the leaves before they get too big. Sometimes it takes more than one application. We let most of ours go with the natural cover of leaf/twig mulch, and trim a few of the lower branches of some of the trees to keep a nice canopy. We have found ferns and other desirable plants that we leave alone.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 9:15AM
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Weed seed (and desirable) lays dormant for years until such an event as this.
Monitor in Spring for growth on the newly uncovered areas and let the leaves develop until you can positively ID what is coming up. If it is invasive, weedy garbage, spray it or hand eradicate it.
After a while you should see a change and natives may begin to return.
Good job on your hard work!


    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 5:41AM
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sabe(z7 NY)

In addition to seeing some of your nightmares return, I'd lay heavy odds that you'll see a good bit of Pokeweed and Garlic Mustard.

nail them before they take hold. both spread fast, yet can easily be conquered if you deal with them in early spring.

As far as "what do with the newly opened areas?"... If you want to do it the spring, start searching for some "friendly" saplings in other parts of your woods and relocate them to your newly cleared area. I'll bet you'll find a bunch of small holly, viburnum, boxwoods, and even some little baby cedars nearby, all waiting for a new spot. If your really lucky, you might find some 2-3 footers, but most'll be small enough to transplant with just one or 2 simple shovel scoops. Either way, its a great way to reclaim your woods from the invasives. You can also buy some nice shrubs and groundcovers if you want to move things along a bit quicker.

good luck and don't give up. I'm about 4 years past you in a similar endeavor, and can tell you that it gets easier each season. I'm just about rid of the honeysuckle, Poison Ivy, and Multi-rose. And I've got the bittersweet mostly under control, but I still have a job ahead of me with the virg creeper and porcelain berry, both of which are fighting back hard.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 2:05PM
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In the wild, I can easily locate about 15-20 everygreen seedlings, and I do not know what they are, cedar, juniper? The large one is about 2' tall. I can also find quite a few oak seedlings. When I get chance to clean the debris, I'll transplant them to the desired locations. I've not found any shrubs I can use.

My first concern is the large vines/shrubs that pose dangers to the large trees. When I get them in check, I'll take care of the weed grasses. I won't be spreading seeds because of the cost.

Thanks for the advice....

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 5:00PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I would not plant anything. Not only are there dormant invasives, but there probably are dormant natives also. Keep the invasives under control and the natives should eventually fill in on their own.

You may want to consider a prescribed burn in early spring. But I would hire a professional to help. There is some prep work that needs to be done and you dont just "light a match" either.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 10:10PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

You wrote: "My first concern is the large vines/shrubs that pose dangers to the large trees. When I get them in check, I'll take care of the weed grasses. I won't be spreading seeds because of the cost."

Go to the seed exchange forums here. Even if you have nothing to give someone in return, most people (including myself) will give you the seeds for free if you send a SASE.

As far as things getting worse before they get better, it's likely going to be true. Clearning out the nasties often sparks an influx of other nasties but eventually with hard work and perserverence things will turn around quite quickly. We were invaded with Garlic Mustard (aweful stuff) and Oriental Bittersweet but I've been dilligent with it and now all I have to do is pluck the odd stragler. I 'do' overseed areas where I've taken out the invasives though, and that has helped a great deal.

Really though...check out the seed exchanges here on Garden Web. You will find people are VERY generous and kind.

Also, NJ is close enough to me that we have a lot of species in common. Anything I can do to help you out in terms of plant or shrub seeds, just say so. I'm pretty much out of seeds from this year but I can certainly collect for you through the year in 2006. Does anyone know what you have to do in order to clear seeds for cross border mailing?

Southern Ontario, CANADA zone 6a

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 10:01AM
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Sabe, you said garlic mustard can be conquered if you deal with it in the early spring. I'm struggling with garlic mustatd. Exactly what do you do with it in the early spring? Cut it down? Pull it out? Smother it with layers of newspaper?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 6:57PM
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sabe(z7 NY)

After 4-5 years of dealing with this, I've finally figured out the system. I'm working with the corner part of my property thats about 1/4 acre of neglected woods, and the gm is everywhere. I never tried smothering with newspaper and layered mulch, because of the sheer size of the 1/4 acre area would be too overwhelming for me to cover all those gm spots. If you were just trying to work on a few beds, perhaps thats a good method, but since this is the "woodlands forum", I assume you also have a good sized area that might not be practical to cover with paper.

Here's my Garlic Mustard Eradication Analysis...

Garlic mustard, as you are aware, is an evergreen (at least in my climate (30 Miles east of NYC, on Long Island). Its the first plant to wake up after thaw, and the quickest to grow as well. it smothers out the good stuff, and even can choke out established shrubs that are 4-5 feet tall.

It truly is the orc of the woods and will infest every square inch if left unchecked.

So in early spring, after temps have finally started to be a touch spring-like rather than winter, I get out there and pump all my garlic mustard colonies with round-up. It pretty much stops it in its tracks within a few days. It takes a few weeks to finally wither and die off, but some initial reactions after a few days might be some bleached or withering leaves. Another indicator that its working is that its not actually growing anymore, when compared to the ones you may have missed that just a few days later are now already twice as tall.

But the timing for the spraying is critical... for one, its convenient that its the only green ground cover at that time of year, so its easy to spot amongst the greyish woods floor. Secondly, since nothing else has emerged yet, you don't have to worry about overspray hitting the "nice" plants because they are still dormant under the soil.

However, as a tip, I've learned its essential to hit this stuff BEFORE it starts to "pop up" and grow. In other words, you have to hit it when its still very close to ground level. Once it starts to grow, even by a few inches, it becomes incredibly hardy and resiliant to the spray, and I find that the amount of roundup required to kill it too wasteful to just wipe out one single plant, so don't even bother wasting the spray on it. I've found that the window of opportunity from those first warmer temps, to when the GM wakes up and starts to grow, is merely a few days. So its important to keep an eye out and be ready to nail it then and there. Sure, if you spray it when its in this growth spurt, some of the foliage starts to distort and turn ugly, but it just keeps on growing taller anyway and sticking its toungue out me(actually those aren't tounges, but rather flowers and seed heads) but they mock me and my roundup bottle nonetheless. So if they are already growing, the bottle is done, and now its time to get physical.

So once it starts its growth cycle, it has to be pulled. That's the only way, because if you merely hack them, they will easily and effortlessly sprout new leaves and keep right on growing. But, thankfully, they're easy to yank out, especially once they are about 2-3 feet tall and their stalks have thickened up, and by looking at the roots, its pretty easy to tell that you got the entire root structure out.

And if you yank them, you HAVE to remove them from the area. If you lay them down on ground they will STILL GO TO SEED. and then next spring you're exactly where you started! I kid you not.

So all my garlic mustard goes in a garbage can. It festers and rots and turns to black sludge by june. I then use that as the base of very deep compost pile that won't see the light of day for a whole year. That seems to kill off the seeds, thankfully.

if you can't compost it yourself, then bag it and throw it away. Its one of the only plants that will cause more harm than good if you try to use it as "free mulch" or "easy greens for the pile". LOL

Throughout the growing season, you will see new plants emerge. As long as they are at ground level, and haven't started that spurt yet, you can spray them at will, as long as your mindful not to accidentally overspray onto desirable plants.

My area used to be heavily infested, but after a few years, I've really made a major dent. From being "everywhere", its now only in certain section, and those sections get smaller and thinner each year. It takes a lot of will and determination to get rid of these suckers.

As an aside, once I've created a clear spot in a formerly gm patch, I'll throw down some clover seed. It pops up quick, stays low to the ground, and is thick enough to trap out other weeds (or more gm) from getting a foothold. Clover seed is cheap, and a 1 pound bag goes a long way for me.

good luck, I hope this helps you out. lemme know if there's any other questions I didn't address.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 10:46AM
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Sabe, thanks so much. I'm sure that info will be useful to others too, since GM is so pervasive. I have GM both in the woods behind my house and in a couple areas close to my house. Last year I used the newspaper method close
to my house (about 150 sq ft), but I only got around to it well after the plants had gone to seed. What I notice is in that area I only had first year plants this year -- no flowers. Seeds must have blown in from the edges and germinated on top of the newspaper/mulch, but the plants below died. I repeated the same process again this year and am hoping that will get it, since I didn't have any plants seeding. However, since I don't really know how all those new plants appeared above the newspapers [I used at least 10 layers] I'm not sure what to expect next year. I haven't had time to start on the woods, but now plan to try your approach there next spring. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 11:29AM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

When I rid my wooded part of my backyard of Garlic Mustard I also did it in spring before the flowers developed. I hand pulled it all. You can easily hand pull it if you get your fingers just below the surface of the ground around the main root. Above ground the stem is weak and will break off but just below ground level the root is extrmely tough and the whole thing will come out. It took me a full year to remove it all but now all I have to pull is the odd seedling established by birds. There has been little to no re-seeding at all which I was very shocked at since I expected several years worth of germination from seeds that have laid dormant. Quickly filling in the blank spots will also help to keep alien invasives from returning or newly establishing themselves after all your hard work. All pulled Garlic Mustard and Oriental Bittersweet was let to rot in garbage bags in the sun and then disposed of in our garbage pickup. After all that work I didn't want any chance of ANY of it coming back.

ontario, CANADA zone 6a

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 10:38AM
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I have about a quarter acre of very steeply graded, mostly neglected "woodland". Unidentified trees, one huge carob, and lots of trash. I've cleared out the trash, and mostly taken out the invasive bulbs, etc. But the real nightmare plant problem is what I call the devil weed, what it really is I don't know. It's an insidious vine, with wicked, wicked thorns. It's everywhere, stronger than barbed wire, dead or alive and impossible to kill. When I cut it off at the ground level it stays twisted with dried tendrils and finger-thick vines in the trees and dries into vicious, thorned, hanging booby traps. Anybody know what it is and how I can kill it and get it out of my trees?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2005 at 12:39PM
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Batya.. the vine you mention sounds similar to cat briar. It is challenging because it is so tough and is spread by birds which consume the fruit. For invasive undesireable vines we try to cut them off and paint the stumps with round up. We have eliminated a lot of invasive vines but have be keep after it continually. EP

Here is a link that might be useful: briar

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 6:50AM
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Nope, I checked the site you sent, and by the picture, it's not cat briar. I'll try the round up anyway, I know I can get it here, unlike all of the great plants I want that I read about on GW!! Maybe I'll try to send a pic and see if anyone can id it, i'd love to have a name for this nightmare besides @#$%^$%&!!! Thanks anyway enchanted.....Batya

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 7:36AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

I'm volunteering to help restore an Oak Savannah, and what they use to control garlic mustard is blue fescue, I believe. GM will not grow through it, and a burn kills it off. It was an amazing thing to see. The site was also picked by the state to trial this little bug that eats the roots of GM, and only GM. Should be interesting.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 11:30AM
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I went through the same in my back yard..I've planted lots of different hostas--they're great--nothing comes up through and they like the shade the trees provide.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 11:21AM
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veronicastrum(z5 IL)

Sabe, thank you for your garlic mustard advice! I (knocking loudly on wood) don't have this beast on my own property yet, but i hope to be restoring a bit of woodland on our church's property and the edge had about eight gazillion first year plants last summer. Your advice will be priceless!


    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 12:31PM
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sabe(z7 NY)

good luck to you. spotting the patches and being totally ready when the warm temps come is the first step. Its one of my first "chores" when the cold weather finally gives way around here.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 2:06PM
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Its helps to understant the life cycle of a plant if you want to outwit it.Garlic Mustard is a biennal.seeds sprout in spring grow thru out the summer ,winter over ,bolt up and flower the following spring,set seeds and die.The pods decay in late summer and drop the seeds to restart the cycle.Pulling the plants early spring is hard since the tap is fragle and breaks off only to resprout.But near the end of the flowreing cycle,the tap becomes woody and is less likly to detach.Yank them while they still stick up above the surrounding veggitation,and have the white flowers to give them away.Dispose of the plants where the seeds cant sprout as they will ripping on the uprooted plants.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2006 at 11:50AM
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