Humans have done an awful lot of damage to the environment over the millennia, and I don’t usually advocate killing more things, however, when it comes to removing plants that don’t belong here, I’m all for it. My recent article was about identifying invasive plants. This time I will cover methods for removal of these invasives (aka weeds), starting with the simplest and moving toward the removal of larger or more difficult plants.
Hand pulling– As I discussed last time, the winter was so wet that the ground is still soft in many locations. Areas with good tree cover and lots of leaf litter are prime areas for hand pulling of smaller weeds. I have found that a lot of small privet will pull out of the ground pretty easily bringing its entire root system with it. Just wear some gloves and some eye protection to deflect flying dirt, then give that invasive plant a yank!
Pruning– By cutting a plant off at the ground, you deprive the roots of the sugars produced by the leaves. If the root system is large enough it may send up some new shoots, but trimming these off as well will eventually starve the root system and the plant will not return. For this task, you may want to use a good pair of hand pruners, loppers (long-handled pruners that give you more leverage to cut thicker stems), a brush cutting head on your weedeater, or even a chainsaw. Removal of large privet and even huge multiflora roses at our place has required a chainsaw. Gloves, hearing protection, and safety goggles are a must when using power tools and highly recommended for hand tools. Do not operate a chainsaw alone. If it was up to me, I’d have to use a hand saw. I’m not strong enough or brave enough to use a chainsaw.
Chemical control– Chemical control is always the last option at our place. I have a good deal of training in pesticide application which is probably why I am very selective in its use. Personally, I only use a few herbicides and for very specific purposes. Bayer makes a brush killer that works very well on multiflora roses – a plague at our place. I can carefully spot spray roses in the meadows without affecting the surrounding grass. Be advised, it will kill or damage most broadleaf plants, so spray carefully. I also use this with limited success on privet, Elaeagnus, honeysuckle, English ivy, and pear trees. (See the previous article for identification info and discussion on why these are noxious invasive plants). I usually have to spray more than once to kill these plants.
To avoid spraying over a large area or a large plant, first cut the plant at the base, then wait a few weeks. If new leaves sprout later, spray or cut off the new leaves. As described above, removing the leaves starves the root system. Each time you kill off the leaves either by cutting or spraying, you are reducing the size of the supporting root system, further disabling the plant.
I have used glyphosate (Roundup, et al) in the past. There is evidence that it is a carcinogen, so please investigate thoroughly if you are considering using it. If you use it, just a light spray on the leaves is sufficient. Do not apply until it drips off the leaves. Also, a squirt of dishwashing liquid in the tank sprayer will cause better absorption by the plant you want to kill.
If you do use it, remember will kill anything green and actively growing, including your lawn, flowers, etc. It can also be absorbed through crepe myrtle bark. Drifting spray can cause a great deal of damage, as well.
Before using any pesticide, read the directions carefully. Do not spray when it is windy. Wear eye and skin protection while mixing, applying, and cleaning up. Wash out the sprayer carefully and don’t pour out the wastewater where it will drain onto plants you want to keep. Wash, wash, wash your hands when you are finished. Maybe pretend you’ve just touched everything in a coronavirus ward.
All this talk of killing plants is not my normal approach to things, but the plants that need to be removed are ones that were brought in by humans. They are “Plants Out of Place” – the correct definition of weeds. We can help reverse some of the damage caused by invasive plants by carefully removing them from our woodlands, meadows, and other natural areas. Once these are out of the way, it is fascinating to see what native plants take their place.
By Donna Black 4/12/20