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David Mindell on Weed Control

by Kathy Carter

The February 1999 meeting of the Ann Arbor Wild Ones featured David Mindell of PlantWise Native Landscapes. He discussed specific ways to control weeds. David noted six general methods of weed eradication, as well as their pros and cons...

1. smother
2. hand-pull
3. dehead
4. burn break (torch above-ground portion of plant)
5. herbicides
6. fire (burn entire area)

Using one or more of these approaches provides a means to get rid of the plant at the site you’re clearing. Use the approach that will best deplete the plant’s energy reserves. Since this will vary among plants, no one way can be said to be the best. Persistence pays. It usually requires several attempts before success is achieved.

To assist in keeping the exotics from returning, several things can be done. Plant as densely as possible, so very little room is left for the exotics to take hold. Likewise, a cover crop of annuals can be sown, giving perennials a chance to get established. Mulch can also be effective in reducing the return of weeds. Minimizing soil disturbance at the site is another key to discouraging the return of weeds. Or using a ground cover of less aggressive native plants works at keeping weeds at bay while getting more sensitive native plants established.

David discussed 10 highly invasive species that are widespread in southern Michigan and suggested ways to best control each particular plant. A quick overview of these follows.

  • Honeysuckle—woody plant with shallow roots; may be hand-pulled; larger specimens may be cut.
  • Buckthorn—woody plant with shallow roots; may be hand-pulled; larger specimens may be cut, with herbicide applied to cut.Teasel
  • Dame’s Rocket—similar to phlox, biennial; pull before setting seed.
  • Vinca (periwinkle, myrtle)—vine that remains green through winter; easy to pull during winter, propane torch also effective.
  • Teasel—short-lived perennial; first year puts out green, second year sends up flower stalk; cut at this stage.
  • Spotted knapweed—has deep tap root; can be pulled on moist days; MUST USE GLOVES—KNOWN CARCINOGEN.
  • Canada thistle—male and female plants; male sends out roots to clone; female sends out roots and flowers; mow down just as buds form, then mow several more times in that season.
  • White sweet clover and yellow sweet clover—hand-pull.
  • Purple loosestrife—produces copious seeds, so very difficult to totally eradicate; can be pulled when younger, but difficult when older; must get the entire plant or it comes back.

To contact David at Plantwise, call 734 665-7168
or send email to PlantWise@aol.com.

Article reprinted from the Spring 1999 issue of the Ann Arbor Wild Ones Newsletter. Copyright © 1999 Wild Ones–Natural Landscapers, Ltd.


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