Friday, May 28, 2010

Last of the Flags

I’m busily working to finish spraying the woody regrowth marked by red flags. I try to get the spraying done by the end of May, because at some point in June the vegetation will overtop the flags and they will be lost. This has been a tough year to get things sprayed. April was dry, but most of the shrubs had not begun to grow. Most days in May have been either rainy or windy. After spraying all the flags in this corner of the field, I looked back to enjoy the flag-free view and saw, right where I had been standing a few minutes earlier, a flag I missed.

Black Walnut can be tricky. They don’t begin to grow until late in the spring and then they suddenly grow at a rate of inches per day. It they do get too tall, I’ll trim them back to avoid having to spray too large of an area.

Tuliptree sprouts can be difficult to spray. The leaves are typically held vertically, so the spray has to come at them from the side. They also have a heavy wax coating on the leaves that can cause the spray to bead up and roll off. This requires a surfactant be added to the spray mix that erodes the wax layer and allows the herbicide to spread out and adhere to the leaf surface.

Ash sprouts are another that puts on a sudden burst of growth. The sprout first produces a cluster of large simple leaves and then begins to develop the typical compound leaves. The ideal time to spray is just before the compound leaves appear. At that time, the plant is very short and the simple leaves have a lot of surface area to receive the spray. Spraying a compound leaf is difficult because there is too much open space between the leaflets and spray easily gets onto non-target plants. If compound leaves are already being developed, I normally clip off the top of the ash before spraying.

Redbuds normally begin growth a little earlier in the season, but the early growth got hit by a late frost and died back. I had to wait for it to regrow enough to spray. By the time I finish spraying, I’ll have averaged three visits per flag, checking on its readiness to receive spray. This year I had about 1600 flags spread out over 12 acres, so the job of spraying allowed me to do a lot of walking.

Autumn Olive got a double spraying this year. They are early growers and typically get the earliest spray application. I’ve found that the larger shrubs will try to regrow after the initial die back. I left the flags in place after the first spraying and am now giving the resprouts a second shot. I’ll keep a watch to see if this method is more successful.


  1. What do you use for spray? I know you are cautious and deliberate. You certainly have your work cut out for you!! ~karen

  2. Roundup?

    We live in a forest, and I have a narrow strip of land (25x200ft) in back of the house between the rock retaining wall and forest below. It was cleared and planted to fescue when we bought the house 10 years ago, and I have let it go unmanaged since. It became invaded by woody sprouts, and this spring I went through with shears and chainsaw to remove the larger trees and then weed whacked the whole area to eliminate the smaller stuff. Surely everything will resprout and pick up where it left off if I leave it unmanaged for another 10 years - any ideas on how I could deal with this land to move it towards native grasses and forbs? I wish fire was an option, but it is not.

  3. Oh! I'm really surprised that you still spray. We're of a different generation, I guess. You and my pop would get along fabulously. I do like your blog. You have incredible information.

  4. Karen - I use a 41% Glyphosate solution that is diluted to fit the requirements for the type of spraying I'm doing. Until recently, when Monsanto's exclusive rights to the chemical expired, it was commonly marketed as Roundup. You can now find it sold under a variety of brand names.

    Ted - I've got some suggestions for getting the native grasses and forbs going. It's a bit much for this comments section, so I'll e-mail it to you early next week. If you don't hear from me by the end of the week I either forgot or the e-mail got lost, so remind me. I shouldn't forget, because as far as I can remember, I've never forgotten anything in my life.

    Well, Katie, I admit to being born at a time when chemicals were considered to be the greatest boon ever experienced by mankind. My childhood exposure to toxic chemicals has left my body carrying a chemical load that is probably more potent than all the spray I've ever used to kill invasive plants. I use herbicides when there are no other effective methods to restore a natural, working ecosystem. I'll do a post next week describing the herbicide I use and my reasoning behind it. I'm also doing the post for the two people who e-mailed me their concerns that I am turning Blue Jay Barrens into a toxic superfund site.

  5. NatureID - there is nothing generational about the use of glyphosate in habitat restoration work. It has one of the most benign environmental profiles of any herbicide, with low toxicity to animals (not just fish, birds, and mammals, but even insects) and rapid soil breakdown properties. Most restoration ecologists consider it an essential tool for their work.

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