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Clear Your Underbrush

Or hire goats to do the job

A Bay Weekly reader recently asked me how he could clear away the underbrush in woods surrounding his home without using weed killers. It can be done with persistence and perseverance.
    You don’t want to cut away any brush until you see mature foliage on the brush you desire to control. Mature leaves go from light green to dark green. The change is very noticeable in such perennial weeds as honeysuckle, poison ivy and trumpet vine.

Keep Your Hoe Sharp

A garden hoe is not to be used as a digging tool but rather to separate the top of weeds from their roots. The less disturbing of the soil you do in weeding the garden, the fewer weeds you will have to cut. Using a gardener’s file or gardener’s stone, sharpen the cutting edge of your hoe before each use. If you weed your garden weekly, you will find that simply dragging the sharpened edge of the hoe will cut the tops off the weeds while hardly disturbing the soil — providing the weeds are young annuals. Follow this plan when weeds are less than two inches tall.

 

    By delaying cutting these plants at ground level, you begin to exhaust the reserved food stored in the roots.
    In eradicating brush, you’re after mostly perennial plants that have been growing in place for many years and that have a very extensive root system. Since most under-story brush is broadleaf, the residual stems may contain latent buds that can sprout into new shoots. Roots can generate adventitious buds that can, in turn, produce new stem. As long as there is stored energy in the root system, new sprouts will emerge after the stems have been cut.
    After the leaves mature, cut the new stems back three to four times each year without disturbing the soil, keeping the new growth from producing and storing energy into the roots.
    Following this procedure, it will require three to four years to control the under story enough to cut only once a year.
    Bringing in goats is a wonderful way of clearing brush. But don’t expect them to do the job in just one year either. Your goats will also need water and fencing.

Weed Killers Will Also do the Job But Not Now

    This is the wrong time of year to try to kill brush with weed killers. Kill brush with weed killers only after the plants are growing well and nearly all of the foliage is mature. When the foliage is mature, photosynthesis is in high gear and the roots are being resupplied. The sugars being produced by the leaves are translocating back to the roots. This process generally begins in mid-July and peaks in August and September.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.