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Vine infested slopes..

 
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I’ve got a relatively steep slope with various trees (poplar, prunus and black locust mostly..), a fair amount of joe pye and blackberry, and TONS of Japanese vining honeysuckle. The latter is doing a number on many of the smaller trees. Here I am in autumn (blue ridge mountains) and I am ripping it out, roots and all. It’s a tedious and lengthy endeavor, but some of this space I’d like to plant some fruit trees. I don’t need accesss to cultivate it all pet se, but if I were to leave it be, I’m a afraid the vines would destroy half the trees, or at least render their future products a much reduced quality..

So here’s where I’m confused. There is no doubt that the vine network must be reducing runoff to a fair degree. So while it may be good for the trees, it’s not going to be good for erosion. There are various downed trees and branches all over the slope. I will definitely be laying these on various contours to help the runoff to a degree. But since the vines have been shading out the ground between the trees, I will be left with a lot of now bare ground.

Should I just let nature do it’s thing and add more blackberry and other “weeds,” or would it be wise to introduce several shrub species? If so, any suggestions on what may be good? I can definitely propagate some comfrey here and there, but I’m still pretty new in terms of my familiarity with different permaculture species..

Thanks for any advice!!
 
pollinator
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Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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Steep slopes are tough.

I started this thread a while ago asking what people have done with their steep slopes.

https://permies.com/t/118173/steep-slope

There are some suggestions of plants that did well for people on their slopes. I haven't worked enough on mine to share any results yet, so I'm curious how yours progresses.

We don't have a lot of time to work on our land, but we have learned to only take on what we can actually finish in the time we had. We made the mistake of trying to do one whole step at a time without realistically having time to finish all the other steps.

Example: we tore up all the plastic mulch and junk that was left on some of our land, but haven't had the time to nicely mulch and plant the area. So now all that nice cleared land is full of giant grass and we are getting complaints.

From now on we try to just do a few square meters at a time and really finish it. If you do a bit of clearing and then plant right away, you can worry less about erosion.
 
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Rama,

UGH!! You have my sympathies.  Japanese honeysuckle is terribly invasive and if one doesn’t get rid of every last piece, the whole mess comes right back!

So far I have found only one weakness.  Through trial and error I have found that close mowing seems to do the trick.  From my observations, Japanese Honeysuckle (JH) needs to climb.  How steep is that hillside? Can you operate s mower there?  If the hillside is not too steep, I would consider mowing paths through the remaining trees and spreading some type of low maintenance grass seed in the cleared zones.

Take little chunks at a time.  Doing so will only expose small areas to erosion forces.  In time you can reclaim much of your hillside.

BTW, if mowing on a slope sounds arduous, a self propelled mower can make the job much easier.


I wish you luck,

Eric
 
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It sounds like you are venturing to adjust some of the slope contours in the long term.  That's a good plan.  I've got a similar situation in Kentucky, though perhaps not so steep.  

I too have been laying down junk trees and piling leaf debris to establish terrace stepdowns.  And hope to be able to mow paths along those lines to help with access and, as Eric says, mowing does help to contain spread.

I've spent time with my clippers too, freeing the blackberries in a couple of places.  They really appreciated the effort this year and I got an abundant crop.

One plant I can recommend that will establish itself easily but not be considered a pest is jewelweed.  I transplanted a clump from daughter's creek side to my much dryer ridgetop several years ago.  I've been astonished at how readily it has established itself in my gardens, but most importantly, in my woods.  It is replacing the poison ivy and the honeysuckle that I've been removing as the dominant understory plant.  It's a tender annual, but spreads by seed.  In the gardens, it is a cover crop that can readily be uprooted and dropped as green mulch.
 
Eric Hanson
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Rama,

I can think of one fairly effective means of controlling JH that is acceptable on this site, but not without risk.  That would be burning.  From what I understand, and please, feel free to fact check me on this, JH evolved to survive in a more moist climate and actually has something of an oily/waxy property in its leaves.  It did not evolve in the presence of regular fire.  I have heard of people who had such awful concentrations of JH that the only practical way to make even a dent in it was to do a controlled burn.  Again, as I understand, fire is fairly devastating to JH, but likely not nearly so to the other plants growing on your slope.  No doubt, they will be scorched too, but they recover faster than the JH will.


Just to be clear, I am NOT advocating you going out and setting a hillside on fire.  If this is something you even remotely want to pursue, I would contact a professional with experience in controlled burns.  At the very least, contact the fire department, tell them what you are thinking about, and I bet they would bend over backwards to direct you to the appropriate place instead of charging up a burning hill!

Just a thought and only a thought.

Eric
 
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Rama Malinak wrote:I’ve got a relatively steep slope with various trees (poplar, prunus and black locust mostly..), a fair amount of joe pye and blackberry, and TONS of Japanese vining honeysuckle. The latter is doing a number on many of the smaller trees. Here I am in autumn (blue ridge mountains) and I am ripping it out, roots and all. It’s a tedious and lengthy endeavor, but some of this space I’d like to plant some fruit trees. I don’t need accesss to cultivate it all pet se, but if I were to leave it be, I’m a afraid the vines would destroy half the trees, or at least render their future products a much reduced quality..

So here’s where I’m confused. There is no doubt that the vine network must be reducing runoff to a fair degree. So while it may be good for the trees, it’s not going to be good for erosion. There are various downed trees and branches all over the slope. I will definitely be laying these on various contours to help the runoff to a degree. But since the vines have been shading out the ground between the trees, I will be left with a lot of now bare ground.

Should I just let nature do it’s thing and add more blackberry and other “weeds,” or would it be wise to introduce several shrub species? If so, any suggestions on what may be good? I can definitely propagate some comfrey here and there, but I’m still pretty new in terms of my familiarity with different permaculture species..

Thanks for any advice!!



Goats, they are the answer, they will eat the honeysuckle but leave the roots intact so erosion is less of a problem.
Once the goats have things under control, you can plant what you want to grow there, if you want fruit trees you will find it advantageous to enclose them in fencing until they are at least 2 years old. (Goats treat everything the same way deer do, but we can control them with collars and tethers)
 
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