Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mowing Small Problem Areas

The recently completed large field was my primary mowing project for this fall.  Now I’m working on mowing odd patches that were once strongholds for woody invasive species.  This 0.2 acre plot is typical of the areas I’m dealing with.  The front half of this field contains a thriving stand of Dwarf Sumac and needs to be mowed every two or three years to keep the sumac from taking over.  The far end of the field was once a solid thicket of Multiflora Rose.

The Sumacs are easy to keep under control by mowing.  Instead of producing a mass of stump sprouts, which would result in a dense cluster of stems at the base of each cut plant, the Sumacs produce root sprouts that are scattered widely about the area.  If a stump sprout does occur, it is most likely to be a single shoot.  The mass of light colored trunks topped by red fruit clusters on the right side of the photo is a stand of mature Dwarf Sumacs that I have allowed to grow unmowed.  That illustrates what the rest of the field would look like if mowing was stopped.

This end of the field, out as far as the second tree, was once a nearly impenetrable thicket of Multiflora Rose.  I say nearly impenetrable, because I managed to fight my way to the center and slowly cut my way out in all directions.  Since then, native plants have been quickly filling in and this year, I only found five small rose canes requiring herbicide treatment.

This area used to require annual mowing and herbicide treatment to eliminate a variety of woody plants.  This end is now relatively free of invaders and didn’t require any attention this year.

The other end still has a strong stand of mixed Sumacs that need to be controlled.  There is also a continuous incursion of seedlings from Walnut, Ash, Cherry and Persimmon that must be cut and treated.

The trees and shrubs are only a problem in the deeper soil of this narrow valley.  Soil eroding from the neighboring hillsides settled in the valley and created soil depths in excess of four feet.  The hillsides have a soil depth of eight inches or less to bedrock.  At one time, the deep valley soils supported a thick stand of Sumacs mixed with trees of several other species.  I cleared the trees so the prairies on each side of the valley could join.

Clearing the trees resulted in a series of several brush piles down the valley.  The young Hackberry shown in the lower left of the photo originally sprouted from a large pile of cut Sumacs.  Sumacs decompose quickly and the pile, once six feet high, has completely disappeared.  A second old brush pile can be seen in the center of the photo and there is a third just visible beneath the cedars in the distance.

This brush pile was composed of a mix of larger species.   Its six foot height has dwindled to about 18 inches, but there are some Red Cedar logs that will probably last longer than I will.

I’ve maintained a single active pile tucked in next to a group of large cedars.  It is currently capped with a collection of young Persimmons that were removed from the mowing site.  Carolina Wrens love this type of brush pile and nest here each season.

This narrow strip beside an old fence row had the worst infestation of young Autumn Olive bushes of any place on the property.  Mature plants have been eliminated, but a flush of new sprouts appears every year.  This year’s crop was much reduced over last year.  I’m guessing it will be a couple more years yet before I consider things under control here.

I was through this area last month and did a pretty thorough job of cutting and treating Autumn Olive.  Only three of those red flags are marking Autumn Olive that still need treatment.  The rest of the flags are young Black Walnuts.  The large field that was just mowed can be seen through the tree trunks to the right. 

Even when the trees block my view of the horizon, the rapid drop in temperature alerts me to the fact that my work day is coming to an end.  That tiny little bit of sunlight is generally all that illuminates my documentary photos of work completed.  It’s no wonder so many of them are slightly blurred and lacking in detail.

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