Monday, March 7, 2016

Goals for 2016 season

As spring is rapidly approaching I'm finishing up my plans for what I'd like to accomplish this season.  One of my primary goals is to continue to control and eventually eliminate the invasives.  Most management strategies call for eliminating to satellite  populations first to control spread and then work toward the center.  Based on published guidelines such as from the US Forest service, I'm using the following techniques:
  • Stilt grass, Microstegium vinineum, by managed mowings, timed pulling in late July or August and displacement with natives/manageable species.
  • Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) and autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) by mowing or cutting then treating the stumps with glyphosate at 20% concentration.  (Herbicide treatment is more effective in late summer and fall.)
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) by pulling, or cutting back and treating the stubs with glyphosate.
  • Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) mostly by pulling when the ground is soft, making spring a good time to work on this.  However, I will do a foliar spray with something like glyphosate for massive infestations.  Later in the season remaining plants will get cut and bagged to prevent seed dispersal.
If I can't get into the base of the plant to kill it, I will cut them back to keep them from setting seed.  Check for local restrictions on pesticide use and follow published instructions for proper use.

Here's how that area looked last September.  The dominant plant here is wingstem, 
Verbesina alternifolia. which is a very common native in this area.

I am managing a meadow conversion with early mowing and adding more native shrubs to the back edges, like Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa).  Invasives to target in this area are oriental bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle and wineberry.  This is an area that I also seeded with some native annuals and perennials I had growing elsewhere on our property.

I initially cleared this area in spring 2014 and have
been cutting back undesired shrubs each spring.
Of the small trees and shrubs I added in previous years the elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and American plum (Prunus americana) are doing well.  The chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) will still need some protection and nurturing, but they seem to be surviving in this minimally managed area.

At the beginning of March the elderberries are beginning to leaf out.

In the middle of an open lawn we have a mature butternut tree (Juglans cinerea).  It has a nice upright form and open canopy that works well in the middle ground.  It's easy to walk under and you can get glimpses of the distance through the branches, even when the leaves are out.  Unfortunately this tree, like many other butternuts in North America, is in decline.  This is likely due to a fungal infection that currently has no treatment.  Since this tree is still producing fruit I will try to keep it for a few more years.  But, since I know it will fail before too long, it's time to look for a replacement.  After considering a number of possibilities, I have settled on trying a Sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum).

Here's the butternut in fall of 2013,
it's lost a couple of branches since then.
The Sassafras has a similar upright form and is of moderate size (30-40') so it will not monopolize the space.  Also, like the butternut, it has an open canopy.  Instead of nuts, the sassafras is a berry producer.  If I am lucky enough to get a female tree, I should get berry production for the birds, since there is a nearby native population of these trees.  My plan is to put in a small specimen a few feet to the south of the butternut to let it get started before I have to take the butternut down.

Here's a mature Sassafras at Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Not only does it have a nice open form, it has great fall color.

Another area that I am focusing on this year is a hedgerow on a steep hillside.  The goal is to remove the invasives without destabilizing slope and to repopulate it with natives.  Japanese honey suckle is the predominate invasive in this area.  Late winter is a good time to spot these vines since they still have green leaves.  The ground is soft and moist so pulling is relatively easy.  For the plants that won't pull out, cutting the stems close to the ground and treating with 20% glyphosate.  This is effective as long as the ground is not frozen and it is less disruptive to the soil.

Other invasives that are easy to spot and pull now include multiflora rose, garlic mustard, wineberrry and Vinca minor.  I've already put in some smooth sumacs and Persimmon trees.  This year I'll add some gray dogwood and bushy St Johnswort, Hypericum densiflorum.  As I fill this area in with native shrubs and perennials that provide full season benefits for the native fauna, I can start eliminating the butterfly bushes that are of limited use to wildlife.

This rather messy area is a tangle of Japanese honeysuckle, wineberry (the red stems)
and butterfly bushes mixed in with desirable plants like wild blackberries and smooth sumac.
There is about a 5' difference in grade between the top and bottom of the slope,
 so I am trying to avoid pulling out all of the existing 'bad' plants.
The green leaves on the Japanese honeysuckle make it easy to target in late winter,
before the other plants begin to leaf out.