2016: photos of the oglethorpe yard as i worked to remove invasive and build a swale/ mini food forest.
the side yard saga:
My side yard (approximately 1,000 sq ft) was totally over-run with invasive plants. The area ran the gambit for the usual suspects in our area – privet, euonymous, nandina, Chinese holly, liriope, and the dread wisteria. The only native in sight was poison ivy – which I happen to be extremely allergic to.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this project. Years ago I wouldn’t have even noticed as I had no idea what invasive plants were and why they were a problem. Through my job, I have learned a lot about the plants themselves as well as their affect on our ecosystem. The issue with them is they take over and crowd out all native plants. They often form monocultures, eventually out-competing each other. The non-natives do not provide nutritious food for wildlife and insects.
At my job, we treat invasive infestations with chemicals due to scale and man power. I manage over 2,000 acres of land and most of it has is infested to degrees of severity. I knew I did not want to spray chemicals all over my yard though, so I came up with a compromise.
Here’s what I did: I performed one foliar application of RoundUp (glyphosate) at a very low concentration to knock back the viney growth so I could get in and start hand-pulling and digging. The glyph also helped me get rid of the poison ivy, which was honestly getting really aggressive itself. The application actually didn’t do as much as I thought it would, probably due to the low concentration. But it did knock back the plants enough for my landlords to come in with a brush cutter and brush back most of the shrubs. I waited a month or so for plants to start to regrow, so I could see what needed to be dug out by hand.
Most of the digging was the damn liriope, a clumping grass that makes these radish-root things called corms. It is a tough cookie and I had to dig it out with a grub hoe because a shovel wasn’t strong enough to break through the dense root mat this crap forms. I also dug up all of the privet and euonymous. I did perform some very specific cut-stump applications of glyph on bush honeysuckle and wisteria because those plants are so tenacious, digging them up will not kill them. I made sure not to let any chemicals run off the cut stumps.
Anyways, the compromise is that I am going to send this soil off for testing next week and see what the toxicity looks like. We are planning to try some mycoremediation by introducing a surge of mycelium to the area in the hopes it uptakes any glyph that got into the soil (and just helps rebuild the soil in general). Yay fungus!
In the process I uncovered a number of native trees including elms, and oak, and a pecan that were all barely surviving in that jungle. They are now FREE to grow and I hope they leaf out nicely next spring. In late summer, CHANTERELLES popped up in one area were I had already performed removal!! It was very reassuring to know there is some mycelium in the soil.
I worked hard to wrap this project up last week because our botanical garden is having a HUGE native plant sale this week!! I can’t wait to check it out and work with staff to purchase some native plants for this area to further the restoration process. I am also researching other ways to build wildlife habitat like how to pile the brush and maybe even creating a swale to carry some of the stormwater. This area will also be home to our mushroom logs once I confirm the soil is not toxic. One day at a time!