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Getting rid of unwanted tree seedlings and sprouts?

 
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What is an accepted, effective and efficient way of getting rid of unwanted tree seedlings and sprouts in the garden?

We have several ash, alder and oak trees on our property and every year there are hundreds of new seedlings all around. The oaks usually don't grow again after being pinched, but the alder and ash trees tend to sprout out again (and again), if not pulled out completely (which, in our case is rather often as our soil is rocky and not easy to loosen up).
 
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hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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Maybe try a scuffle hoe. It glides under the surface of the soil and, either, pulls the plant by the root, or cuts it off at root level.
It takes very little effort and time to clear an area, and I use it to clear the thousands of elm & oak seedlings that come up in my gardens every year.
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Miroslav Chodak
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Thank you for your reply! I'm afraid, the soil is too rocky and compact for anything to glide under it. Plus, it won't solve the ash/alder issue as they sprout again.

Is chemical a way to go?
 
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Is chemical a way to go?




Discussion here at permies is all about organic methods and beyond

We have a lot of maple sprouts all over and they are easy to just either cut or pull by hand...they don't grow back though.

Do you think a thick mulch would help at all or would they just sprout in the mulch?




 
Miroslav Chodak
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Yes, that's what I assumed about chemical (and a reason I posted in permies and not elsewhere).

We have some maple, too, but the seedlings are easier to pull out when young. Haven't tried mulch, but I'm not very hopeful. Especially ash is very resistant. Once it's a couple of years old, it's almost impossible to kill.
 
steward
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Miroslav Chodak wrote:Especially ash is very resistant. Once it's a couple of years old, it's almost impossible to kill.



Perhaps weed more often, when the plants are smaller. Then you'd be dealing with seedlings, and not shrubbery.
 
Miroslav Chodak
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I weed every year. But occasionally I miss some seedlings. Or they break during weeding. Especially when wedged between the rocks
 
gardener
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I would recommend weeding more often than just once per year, especially in the spring when I would guess you see new seedlings coming up the most. I would do a walk through every 2-3 weeks with a bucket, plucking out the seedlings you don't want when they are tiny. My experience has been that's it's quicker per walk-through, and I tend to see things I missed on the first pass and they aren't too big yet on pass 2 when caught.
 
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I've been hearing about 30% vinegar as a defoliant being the main organic herbicide. Would probably work on trees sprouting from seed, but not sure about tree shoots coming up from an established root system.

Perhaps pruning back the main tree would force it to put its energy into regrowing itself instead of spreading.  
 
Kc Simmons
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I definitely agree with weeding more frequently.
Think of a root system as a battery, and the sun as the charger. A seed is a fully charged battery and, as the tree grows, it's continuously being "charged" by the sunlight, with the excess energy being stored in the root system (the goal is to grow quickly while still storing enough energy to make it through the dormant season).  
When you weed and break the stem, the tree is no longer getting charged by the sun via photosynthesis, so it relies on the stored power in the roots/battery to push new growth. Once the leaves are hit by the sunlight, it begins using that energy to continue growing while storing any excess in the roots to make up for what was used to re-grow from the broken stem.
What you want to do is, essentially, drain the root/battery of the stored energy. This is accomplished by pulling/breaking the stem, again, before it has a chance to produce enough leaves to fully recharge the root system. Eventually, the "battery" will run out of power and shut down, causing the plant to die.

When I weed oak & elm seedlings every spring, I've found it works best if I go through, at least, once a week and clear the area. This allows me to get any new things that have sprouted since the last time, find the ones I previously missed, as well as pull/clip the ones that re-sprouted due to broken stems. It seems that after the second attempt to grow is usually enough to drain the stored energy and keep it from trying it for a third time. If I wait more than 2 weeks, or it's a bigger seedling, it seems to allow them to store enough energy to go through more cycles of regrowth. A smaller battery may charge faster, but it doesn't store as much power; while a larger battery takes longer to charge, but can store more energy.
Of course it varies depending on the type of tree. Rhizomes *may* have more energy stored & require more chops to drain it. Crepe myrtles & chinaberries are small seeds that quickly build a bigger root system to store more energy, yet a pecan has a bigger seed/battery, but spends time/energy on a big taproot while depending on the stored energy before putting out a lot of feeder roots. Regardless, the principle is the same- drain the stored energy before it has a chance to power up again.
 
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