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invasives in hugelbeets

 
Matu Collins
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I am working on a hugelbeet in a spot where there had been quite a few invasive plants growing. There was a dead tree there for years and it got mowed around. I have grown concerned that if I put the bed there without removing the roots of these aggressive plants that I will be stuck with a bed of thriving invasives that will choke the plants I want. As I dig them out I feel like I need to make the bed bigger and bigger to remove the roots. Where will it end?! The main ones I am concerned about are asian bittersweet, asian honeysuckle and bindweed.

If it was a big space and I had lots of money, I know I could get pigs to root things out but fencing and cost is prohibitive.
 
Matu Collins
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Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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So what can I do to discourage any surrounding invasive roots from invading my hugel?
 
christy nieto bellingham
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Hi Matu, I saw your post and created an account so that I could reply to it. I just returned from the Montana sepp holzer workshop and I asked him a very similar question in regards to invasive weeds. When he heard the word "weeds" he answered that there was no such thing as a weed and that these so called weeds are doing their job and that the answer is to change the environment where those plants thrive so that you can grow your food plants. He said that planting jerusalem artichokes or other tall fast growing food plants will shade out many "weeds". I have to say that while this is a wise answer the truth is that the three plants you mention - asian honeysuckle, bittersweet and bindweed - are very invasive and can shade out and kill trees and smother food plants! They would love to climb a jerusalem artichoke. You already know this. I suggest either building your hugel bed to an area that is free of these plants or deal with them before building your bed because if you don't you will create a new unpaid full time job for yourself. All of these plants are runners and so you can deal with them by covering the ground with a heavy mulching of cardboard (or set some plywood down) and then wait a couple of months (at least). Make sure you do this during the growing season... remove the mulch or plywood and you can access and remove the vines asthey will rise to the surface. You will never get all of them so I recommend doing this several times over the span of at least a year to get it all out. If anyone has less time consuming recommendations I would love to hear them.
 
Mary Saunders
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Isn't the tilth over a hugel pretty good, which would mean scraping or pulling "weeds" for compost would not be so hard? Hardpan is hard to pull weeds out of, but damp soil with good tilth is easy to harvest from. Anyway, that is how I look at it, but then, I live in Oregon, and I do not have much sun in my yard.
 
Matu Collins
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Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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Thanks, I agree in principle sort of with the permaculture ideal of no plant as a weed, but in practice these plants are real stinkers. Something they all have in common is that they can grow entire plants from any bit of root left. I am not concerned with weeds growing from seed, these can be shaded/outcompeted, but if there are roots left deep in the bed it will be extremely hard to get them out.

I meant to build the bed soon, but I wonder if I should just do invasive abatement this year and plant next year. I think the plywood plan might work, if I don't ignore it for too long. Also, a tarp might work. I am wondering about barriers, like maybe lining the hole under the hugel with something down about a foot and a half where most of the roots are. As I make the hole bigger and bigger, this seems more outlandish.

One reason to use this space is that I want it in my zone 1 and up until now it has been de facto zone 5 even though it is quite close to the house. Another is that it is hilly and bumpy, thus has escaped the mower and if I don't do something about it will continue to be a place whence invasives launch their forays into my food forest.

I will attempt to take photos and post them here soon, maybe that will help. I haven't done that before, but it's time for me to release the last of my technophobia.
 
duane hennon
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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asian bittersweet, asian honeysuckle and bindweed.

well, you picked three good ones

I had a similar problem in an area of my property. the area had been a brush pile with sassafras and sumac volunteers growing out of it
the birds perched in the trees deposited the seeds and the entire place was overgrown with those three


instead of trying to pull them out or cutting them all down, (some cutting was needed just to get at things), I started wrapping and braiding the vines around each other
I heard cutting them or trying to pull them out encouraged more shoots, but with the vines still attached the roots didn't try as much
these "ropes" were collected together as best i could and i covered them with some old carpet
the following year i removed the carpet and the plants were dead
i still get some small ones popping up but these are easily removed

old carpet cut in manageable strips is a good smother crop
stays put, easy to handle, good coverage (no sunshine), reusable, cheap
 
Matu Collins
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Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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I love the carpet idea. I have used tarps and plywood for similar purposes in the past but tarps degrade in the weather and blow away and plywood is too rigid for a bumpy area.

Both tarps and plywood end up being good habitat for meadow voles and I don't see why carpet would be different, but I imagine they are moving soil around and adding their own nutrients with their poop and pee, so I don't mind them too much during the winter and fall. As long as they leave my fruit trees alone. my one big concern about voles and other rodents in the garden during the growing is deer ticks. We live in a hot zone for Lyme disease, which is no fun. Each member if my family had had it at least once and those of us who have chronic cases suffer.
 
shannon stoney
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Voles are a terrible nuisance here. They have become so numerous that it is difficult to harvest certain root crops like sweet potatoes, because the voles eat them all! They also devour pea and bean and corn seeds. I think it's a good idea to discourage them as much as possible. I am thinking of getting a Jack Russell terrier specifically for the purpose of getting rid of some of the voles!
 
Matu Collins
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Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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Yeah, I am just not going to use roundup.

For the time being I am letting the 2 year old twin boys help me observe the excavated area from which I have removed all the roots I could find. They enjoy a big patch of bare soil/mud and are happy to report an sprouts coming up. One of the major reasons that I wanted to use this space despite the invasives issue is that it is close to the house and visible from the window.

On the side that is most invaded I have excavated an 18 inch "cliff" which I will use boards I have handy to put up against and we will walk along that side as a path. If the invasives and weeds get too crazy I will do the carpet idea and pull it up on occasion to see how things are coming along, but for now the kids are enjoying it.

We have begun a hugelbeet in a different spot for now, to use the materials I had planned on using in this one. That area is free from the troublesome plants except for bindweed, and I am exploring both ways to discourage it and ways to lessen my annoyance with it
 
Jo LaMore
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I also have experience with not only bindweed, but Russian thistle (tumbleweeds), goatheads (puncturevine) and sandburs. I have tried manually removing bindweed in moist soil, but it really does kind of go on forever.

Last year I got a big delivery of compost and made piles here and there to save long treks. The bindweed would grow around the outside edges of the compost, but never came up within the pile.

I'm guessing that you might have to fight the fight of pulling invaders for awhile, but once the decomp/humus-building begins it might take care of itself. I can only hope.

I am a bit worried about 4-legged invaders though. I have kangaroo rats and rabbits (cottontail and jack) in my area. I'm wondering if I'll have to worry about them invading for food or shelter?

It's always something. - Roseanne Rosannadanna's father.
 
Matu Collins
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Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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I have decided to try an experiment in my new hugelbeet and instead of pulling bindweed, I am rolling int up and tucking it under rocks or tucking it back under the soil as far as I can poke it. I have read that breaking it stimulates hormones that spur growth! So... no breaking. It goes against my inclinations to leave it in, but I'm not going to be able to dig out all the roots without taking apart the hugel, so it's worth a try
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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