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Invasive weeds overtaking my farm, looking for other methods for controlling

                          


Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 32
I've read a lot about controlling weeds, and the permaculture way seems to almost embrace them. My problem is that I have a species of grass growing here that is similar to a running bamboo (canary reed grass). It goes through corn plastic, multiple layers of heavy cardboard. I've been "farming" my place for almost 7 years and yet to find the trick.

Very persistent stuff! As it grows 6' or more tall and smothers most plants including sunchokes and nearly chokes young fruit trees, I need to find a method to get rid of it in the most sensitive areas such as around my fruit tree guilds (surrounded by and beginning to choke out the asparagus/comfrey/other herbs,berry bushes etc), the small fruit area and veggie patch. I often will weedwack around the fruit trees, without hitting the cultivated species- but naturally you're hitting a few each week.

I have tried:
-Cows keep it down in all but my aprox 1.5-2 acres of fenced planned food producing zones.
-gallons of horticultural vinegar, seems to work a bit but repeated applications are surely bad for soil
-cardboard/corn plastic and combos
-solarizing (fail!)
-pigs, they did an ok job but left a few patches- trying them again this year- but this method does not help already planted areas!!
-ducks/chickens/geese... they pick at young shoots but don't seem thrilled with the coarse leaves- it is not palatable like many other grasses\weeds. And continual mowing for shoots was tried and I actually had grass eating geese losing weight- they don't like the stuff
-I'm sure others I'm forgetting

I was hoping that outcompeting the grass with more beneficial species would do the trick but I've created a maintenance nightmare... I always thought of permaculture as low maintenance after establishment but here it is a full time job. I pay my mortgage by working off-farm- I'm unable to spend all of my time weeding.

If you happen to have any ideas, I'd appreciate hearing them! Thanks!
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 744
Location: Northern Italy
    
  17
This is probably not what you want to hear, but I'll throw it out there anyway.

"The grass can also easily be turned into bricks or pellets for burning in biomass power stations."
"Furthermore it provides fibers which find use in pulp and papermaking processes."

But...you probably don't have enough to make it a cash crop in those ways.

http://www.rollitup.org/members/morfin56-216185/albums/dmt-13169/1016234-canary-reed-grass/
If you click "next" you'll see how this person makes a drink from the thing...

Oh my goodness...is he/she making DMT from that stuff? You're RICH! ahhahah

anyhoo, moving on...
http://www.pelletmillshop.com/Make-Reed-Canary-Grass-Pellets-for-Heating.html

Buy a home pellet making machine and heat your home?

As for getting rid of it...what is the square feet/meters of the thing. Could you build a huge (1 meter tall) hot compost pile over it burn it out? Smother it alla sheet mulch - from Gaia's Garden? Make a huge mound of something that worms like over it and then put 6 inches of dirt and grow stuff on top. Goats? -- then get the pigs in, then grow sunchokes, then get the pigs in again, then build a huge sheet mulch. Just wondering out loud.

William
Taylor Stewart


Joined: Feb 15, 2012
Posts: 45
    
    2
If you ran pigs, could you run goats? Depending on the number of animals and the area you want to control, you could use polynets to fence them away from anything you need to protect. If you run a large number of sheep or goats the polynets become way too labor intensive to move every day, but if you just ran a few you could easily control the invasive species.

There are several ways to encourage animals to go after one species specifically. There is a woman named Kathy Voth doing some really cool work training cows to eat unwanted species. Here's a link to her website.

http://www.livestockforlandscapes.com/cowmanagers.htm

Even if they do eat the grass, you can use a similar method to simply encourage their taste for it. We're thinking of spraying some of the canadian and musk thistles with a sugar solution to teach goats and sheep to seek them out, we'll see how it works. Set stock grazing may control the species, but unless the animals seek out the invasive, they will stress desired species at the same time.

If it's a really small area that needs to be controlled, you could use boiling water. After a rain you could use a weed burner torch, but be careful with those things....I started a board fence on fire once.
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
With both fireweed and RCG you must be local... It is commonly abbreviated to RCG in the restoration trade. It seems that every lowland stream floodplain in Cascadia has 1' thick mat of rhizomes -- a complete monoculture. I understand it was introduced for levee reinforcement. I have heard that it gets tough when old and so is not prefered forage as the season gets on. One problem with using livestock is that RCG is typically is on ground that is saturated in spring, and so you'll do a lot of soil damage by grazing it heavy early in the season. The most effective restoration approach is to create enough of a soil disturbance in summer to buy yourself a year or two of patchy grass (commonly wetland creation or creek channel remeandering can create a lot of bare earth, plus sites that are wetter and drier than RCG really likes). Than over-plant the hell out of it with wet ground pioneers (willow and cottonwood stakes, maybe alder, maybe spruce... don't even worry about ground cover...) Then come back in 5-10 years with a chainsaw and a chipper, create sun pockets, using the woody slash for mulch.

Without soil disturbance, think about planting in dense rows, one scythe swath apart, flagging well. Protect bases with old sections of drain pipe, and mow once a year to reduce overtopping until your replacement tree crop is 'free to grow' (above the sometimes 6' canopy).

The only viable alternative is gylphosate, which is taboo around here... Or several years of continuous tillage and clean cultivation...

No offense, but I have never seen any of the the 'low impact' weed management tricks get very far in a thicket of RCG. I'd prefer transitioning to forest through a doghair stand of pioneer trees.

Another option as mentioned above is to simply manage it as an organic matter source for another area (like mulch, fodder, or fuel mentioned above)... harvest before seed set.

Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 399
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
I volunteer at a nearby wildlife refuge which has hundreds of acres of reed canarygrass. The refuge management uses traditional mow/spray/spray/plant/mow/mow/mow/mow/... methods when converting from RCG to native plants, which pains me, but it is not my refuge to manage. However I have gotten them worn down enough to let me try some permie-inspired experiments next year.

But anyway, in several places on the refuge I have observed an ongoing battle between RCG and stinging nettle. In most of these places it appears that the nettle is slowly winning - but I cannot yet say for sure.

One of the experiments I plan to do is to plant nettle in the midst of RCG and see what happens.

Another experiment will be to try various methods of planting native shrubs and trees in a patch of nettle.

So the idea is to first let the nettle beat back the RCG a bit, then establish native shrubs and trees in the nettle. Hopefully the combination of nettle and trees will keep the RCG in a weakened state.
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
I'll look for nettle interactions! I think of nettle as a nitrogen indicator. I bet soil moisture and nitrogen levels might affect competition between RCG and nettle, with nettle favoring drier, shadier and more nutrient rich settings, but maybe failing as it gets too wet.. at which point switching over to willow might be better suited... just speculating out loud.
P
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 399
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
Yes, I think you are right. Please keep me posted on your nettle/willow/RCG interaction observations.
Paul Cereghino wrote:I'll look for nettle interactions! I think of nettle as a nitrogen indicator. I bet soil moisture and nitrogen levels might affect competition between RCG and nettle, with nettle favoring drier, shadier and more nutrient rich settings, but maybe failing as it gets too wet.. at which point switching over to willow might be better suited... just speculating out loud.
P
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1406
Location: Chihuahua Desert
have you tried burning it? it might knock it back enough for something else to grow...


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Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
Another couple thoughts:

A temporary patch of weed fabric can keep the competition down long enough to get your canopy up above the grass.

Because it is so intensely rhizomatous, and the clonal mass can transfer nutrients and water laterally, I have speculated that chisel plowing or tillage might be a good treatment before covering or mulching, in that it disrupts the network, and the fragments don't have as much energy individually to get established again than if you were trying to affect the clonal network.

Unfortunately, by the time it is dry enough to burn, all the energy has gone back down the rhizome system. I'm not sure it would skip a beat...

P
Lloyd George


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 159
will geese eat it? maybe not so much deep soil damage that way. and two goose eggs makes for one big omelette.
Eric Thompson


Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 250
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
    
    1
I would agree with the advice to disturb the roots and cut before seeding -- fortunately it is a nice nutritious feed, and you may get a few cuttings if you first cut below 3 feet. Grass needs huge headstarts on removed clumps to compete. Thick clover mats do better but not great. Jerusalem artichokes should win if you dig clumps and replace with these.

My main method would be: 6 mil black plastic from Sept-May followed by thick buckwheat or radish...


In the big picture, it's a decent grass and helps keep canada thistle down
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
We have some very aggressive exotic grasses here, two things kill them. Acacia Mangium and sheep. Some people say horses will too. The reason cattle won't is they eat with their tongue, so won't go down to the roots, sheep and horses eat with their teeth, so will eat to the roots, and sometimes into the root. Acacia will produce a canopy so fast it will smother out weeds (and encourages other trees to grow). Get some fairly worthless sheep and overgraze for a while. They will kill most anything, if they like the flavor.

Warning, I live in the tropics - beware trying Acacia outside of the tropics.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
that sounds horrible, like our quackgrass here, if a piece gets left it just rejuvenates and takes over again quickly.

I hope you find an answer to this question, suprises me it makes it past the Jerusalem artichoke barrier ! I'd keep trying the animals or have someone come in and hay it off??


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 399
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
  10
Here is one of the stinging nettle plots that I am monitoring. On Thursday I marked the perimeter with bamboo stakes.

Gordon Hogenson


Joined: Aug 25, 2009
Posts: 22
I have an area on my land that's a low-lying seasonally wet pasture of reed canary grass. When I bought the land, it had already been planted with Oregon ash and Sitka spruce as part of a long-term plan to shade out the reed canary grass. This is the standard technique that wetland biologists are using to deal with reed canary grass. Of course that means I will lose a sunny area and have a shady forested area. Maybe after those trees get big enough to actually kill off the reed canary grass, something else can be done there, but for now I'm just going to observe how this goes.
Boyd Craven


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Linden, Michigan
I have an old friend who always tells me that if something wants to grow that bad, let it. Embrace it, and find a use for it. Someone above said pellet mill. I'd have to agree. You can pelletize it, then make those pellets a percentage in a feed recipe for a variety of animals. They may not like it all by itself, but if mixed with something that tastes better to them, and ran through the pellet mill again with that something, you'd have a winner!

I raise rabbits and play with things like this with their feed. Sometimes you just have to look at something from a different angle!
 
 
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