Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spraying Flags

I call it spraying flags, but I actually remove the flag before I spray. What I’m spraying is the plant, usually an invasive exotic, growing at the base of the flag. The most effective method I’ve found of eliminating invasive shrubs is to spray glyphosate herbicide on the stump sprouts that result from cutting the bush close to the ground. I cut nearly 1700 invasive shrubs and trees this winter and marked each with a red flag. Now it’s time for the killing spray.

Regrowth for each species occurs at a different time and rate, so I have to visit some of the flags several times before the sprouts are ready to be sprayed. Multiflora Rose is usually the first to produce leaves. It would make spraying easier if each species was marked with a different colored flag, but I’m afraid that the time saved during spraying would be overshadowed by the extra time it would take while cutting and marking.

Cutting by mowing sometimes leaves long branch stubs. I trim these off before spraying so the spray area is as small as possible.

I use an inexpensive spray bottle that employs compressed air to force the herbicide from the nozzle. I tried using bottles with trigger pumps, but besides making my finger tired, the triggers weren’t built to last through an entire spray season. This sprayer cost about seven dollars and is beginning its fifth year of operation.

One quick squirt at close range is enough to cover a small sprout. With a little practice you can learn just how far above the plant you need to be to cover the plant without overspraying onto the surrounding area. Usually there aren’t any desirable plants growing near the sprouts. The grass you see around this rose plant is tall fescue and is also an undesirable exotic. If a desirable plant is nearby, I try to cover it with a leaf of other vegetation to protect it from the spray. If spray accidentally gets on a desirable plant, I wash the plant with water from a bottle I carry with me.

It’s usually this time of year that I wonder why I marked so many cut shrubs. This year is especially bad because I can see a lot of flags from the house. It’s hard to find the proper conditions for spraying herbicide. I can’t spray in the mornings because the plants are covered with dew that will dilute the chemical. I usually can’t spray at mid-day because it’s either too windy or I’m at work. I can’t spray if it has just rained or if it’s likely to rain soon. That leaves evenings, if I’m not at some meeting and as long as the weather isn’t windy or rainy and if there’s time for the spray to dry on the plant before the evening dew begins to form. Sometimes I wonder how I’ll ever get one flag sprayed, let alone 1700.

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