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Experiment in Competitive Exclusion

 
Joe Hoffman
Posts: 16
Location: Shenandoah Co., VA USA
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Before I got started on my forest garden patch, I read Jacke and Toensmeier's book. Sat down to do the design, and found that, due to my bounty of invasive weeds, the preponderance of the recommendations were "Place garden elsewhere." Well, that's no fun, so I decided to try competitive exclusion instead. My problems are with burdock, Japanese hops, poison hemlock, and Johnson grass. My soil is calcareous, high in organic matter, low in potassium, and pH 7.6. The garden is a hole in a forest where a couple of big trees were cut down and carted off. Steep east-facing slope.

(For those who are lucky enough not to know about it, Japanese hops is a vine that grows almost an inch per hour. In May, it's little seedlings you can pluck with your fingers. In June, you can mow it or pull it up if you're wearing gloves. In July, it's tough enough to stop a lawnmower. The only thing that kills it is frost.)

In March, I planted crown vetch to steal root space from the vines. I planted Siberian kale to shade the ground. I scattered clover seeds to try and out-grass the grass. And currant bushes because I like currants. I dealt with the pH by digging little holes, filling them with compost, and planting in pure compost. The acids leaching out of the compost neutralize the soil, and the interface between compost and soil seems to have a lot of available calcium.

Results so far: the kale is a smashing success. It's all over the place now. The hemlock didn't stand a chance. A few scrawny seedlings managed to sprout. The Japanese hops, ditto. The other parts didn't work out so well. The clover grew too slowly to stop grass, and the vetch is slower than that. Johnson grass is perfectly happy growing as single, tall plants. I pull them out when I find them, but I'm not winning the race. Burdock just doesn't care. It stomps on anything in its path. (I know lots of people think burdock is a vegetable, but to me it's the reason carrots were invented.)

Conclusion: Dave and Eric were right. I think I've made the site a bit better, but it ain't no forest garden yet. There may be a lot of black plastic in its future.
 
Adrien Lapointe
steward
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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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That sounds really cool. Do you have any pictures?
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Joe...I am so glad you are trying this...I think it does work, especially over a period of years. I think with some mindful scything, sickling and seeding you can change an areas vegetation over time...and to speed it up maybe throw some critters into the mix...but my perspective comes from having more space to 'play' than many and that patience that comes after you turn sixty
 
Joe Hoffman
Posts: 16
Location: Shenandoah Co., VA USA
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I wish I'd taken some pictures in mid-Spring. Place looks like a disaster area now. I'm not that far behind you in age, Judith, so I appreciate the encouragement. I'll be keeping it up, but I'm more likely to use a mattock than a sickle with these plants.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Crawling vines are your friends! Sweet potato, squashes and melons will cover up areas quickly.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I wonder if there is something you could plant that would give pigs and other critters cause to uproot everything in sight. If they don't like the vines that you have, perhaps beans or another vining edible could be grown amongst the undesirable plants.
 
Clara Florence
Posts: 47
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We have a weed here thats also rampant and kills trees by overtaking their canopy. At first we thought eradication was the aim but that failed miserably as poison doesn't work well and it drops tonnes of root nodules everywhere whenever it is touched. Once we decided to not eradicate, but to merely manage the weed, it suddenly disappeared from the plot. We decided that rather than trying to kill the vine which has overtaken the neighbours garden and constantly climbs the fence, we would simply manage it at ground level. The aerial nodules are the only way it can propagate as they sprout when they fall on the ground but only older vines develop them. We just started pulling the young vine tendrils out and lopping the vine off at ground level anywhere we found it. Only a few months down the track and this vine is nowhere in our garden now. We pick up the fallen nodules wherever we find them but they just don't seem to be taking root anymore. where it had invaded the canopy of our trees we simply cut the vine off from it's source and let it die in the canopy. The trees were pruned and the dead vine removed with the pruning. Quite honestly, we had not a lot of hope that we would achieve anything more than a new job of lopping this vine off at the ground wherever we found it. We were amazed that we've actually eliminated the pest from the yard. Every invasive has it's weakness, it's only a matter of finding out what it is and then exploiting that. The weakness of our weed is that it cannot set seed in this climate and is infertile aside from the aerial roots. Once starved of the parent plant by us cutting the vine, the aerial roots died and so did the plant.
 
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