Invasives Begone

Garlic Mustard, Canary Reed Grass, and Buckthorn oh my! Reclamation of our property’s Bull Creek shoreline required a lot of DIY sweat. For the past several years, Steve and I have worked diligently to conquer these non-native dragons. With the help of weaponry such as a lawn mower, spade, saw, pruners, loppers, and RoundUp (glyphosate) we have successfully cleared and prepared small sections of our property’s 100ft. shoreline soil for land restoration.

Seedbed preparation is the most important steps in re-creating a prairie. Proper soil preparation provides a hospitable seedbed, aids planting, and reduces competitive weed growth. In our yard, the major invasive species were Garlic Mustard, Buckthorn, Amur Honeysuckle, Canary Reed Grass, Multiflora Rose, Canadian Thistle, Purple Loosestrife, Bishop’s Weed, and Ground Ivy. Several options for soil preparation exist; the route we took is as follows:

  1. Removal of the large Buckthorn shrubs occurred via the use of a mighty saw or loppers followed by painting the remaining stump with concentrated RoundUp. Disposal of the Buckthorn’s woody debris requires that the branches be dried and subsequently burned or removed via one’s yard waste hauler to prevent maleficent re-growth.
  2. Beheading the Garlic Mustard with our lawn mower repeatedly during its growing season for two to three consecutive years put an end to the beast. Mowing to ground level kills a high percentage of garlic mustard plants. The lower the mower blade cuts on the plant, the greater the plant destruction. Repeated cutting insures the prevention of secondary seed formation from the remaining root crown.
  3. Canary Reed GrassMultiflora RosePurple Loosestrife, and Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie) were removed using a spade.
  4. Depending on the size of the Amur Honeysuckle shrub, a spade or loppers plus RoundUp were used to eradicate the invasive species. Small honeysuckles were removed using a spade; completely digging up the shrubs root ball thereby effectively killing the shrub. Large shrubs were lopped to the ground and the stumps were dabbed with RoundUp to prevent re-growth.
  5. Canadian Thistle was eradicated using RoundUp. The plant is unaffected by removal via digging or pulling given that its root system extends into the soil to a depth of three ft. and therefore can never be fully eliminated.
  6. Bishop’s Weed (Goutweed or Snow on the Mountain), a particularly aggressive beast, which propagates via seeds and spreading rhizomes was removed using RoundUp. Herbicide application was the eradication method of choice for our site given that the previous property owners had planted large patches of the plant along the upper shoreline zone to stabilize the slope. We found the most effective eradication of the plant occurred when we applied the herbicide three to four times annually.

With the invasive species gone and our kingdom reclaimed, prairie restoration could begin. The subjects of this reclaimed land would be plant species native to our northeastern Illinois area. Reintroduction of indigenous forbs, sedges, grasses, and trees begins step 2 in the prairie restoration process.

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