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Hoping for ideas- super invasive canary reed grass control?

 
                          
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Canary reed grass was nearly the sole pasture species when I bought my land 5 years ago- it is incredibly invasive -both roots choking everything out as well the 6-7' tall stems shade out any under growth. It is similar to bamboo just finer.

I'm struggling with economical ways to push it out in just certain areas that it would negatively effect food plants. The cows love it.

I have found that both mowing/grazing hard, then replanting better pasture (grasses/clover/chicory etc )species helps to broaden forage options for the critters, but if you quit mowing the canary reed would squeeze it out again in short order.

I don't want to use herbicides.
Mulching does not work, 3' (yes feet)of mulch will invigorate it.
The root system is similar or worse than horsetail/equisetum, it always comes back and roots deep. Plowing is of no help.

-The biodegradable corn plastic(double layered) worked for a little while but it did poke through.
-Pigs don't like the roots! They helped but it isn't a cure all.
-Solarizing didn't go deep enough to kill it fully.
My best luck was with going to the recycling centre and bringing home truckloads of cardboard which I layed down, then created an entire veggie garden on top of (hay, manure, leaves/grass clippings/ and some purchased topsoil. It still pokes through but I think I won that battle- however it was worthwhile, it was not increduibly cost effective and I just hate the idea of buying and trucking in dirt to my farm!!!
The grass is nearly choking young fruit trees and is surely stealing energy, I've been scalping it with the weed wacker but that is damaging mint/comfrey/garlic underplanted there, of course.

Any other ideas? I'm putting in about 1/4 acre of berry vines/shrubs in spring and would love to try something different!

Thanks if you can help at all.
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 409
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I do a lot of volunteer work at a wildlife refuge near where I live.  Much of the refuge is covered with reed canarygrass (RCG). 

One day I was on the refuge doing some GPS mapping through a mix of RCG, Himalayan blackberry, & stinging nettle.  I came to a sort of "clearing" where the stinging nettle was fairly thick, the blackberry was absent, and the RCG was much, much less dense than everywhere else.  I'm not sure what to make of that, but I want to see if the refuge manager will let me try an experiment, planting stinging nettle in the middle of RCG and see what happens.

Now stinging nettle may seem like a worse "cure" than the "disease" of RCG.  But I would guess that it is a lot easier to kill off stinging nettle using one of the methods you described, than it is to kill off RCG.  Plus the nettle does have many redeeming qualities (good to eat, very important butterfly/insect plant, etc.).

So the idea is to plant nettle in the RCG, hopefully the nettle will weaken the RCG to a point that you can mow, sheet mulch or whatever and have a clean slate, without using chemicals. 

But this is all theoretical at this point.  I am just saying I have observed some kind of battle between nettle and RCG, and they seem to be worthy foes, and nettle may even have a slight power over RCG.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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I've never heard of anyone successfully removing it.

Paul will delete this comment I'm sure, but roundup maybe?

A more permaculture friendly solution might be to try and grow some smothering tree cover, plant lots of willows perhaps.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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The only economically feasible way to deal with it might be to build a walmart.
 
                          
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Thanks for the replies!
While most people would think using nettles was a crazy idea, I think it is a worthwhile option. While it is native in this area I haven't found even a sprig on my farm. I decided not to plant it here though due to it's invasiveness and fact it is so easily found here but I think I will do a test plot, further from the veggies. Why not?? It surely won't spread underground too far with all RCG roots.

EW, it is true that big trees shade it out- I see it is weakening under cedar trees planted 5 years ago, and wasn't established under aspen groves. Of course the growves as too far from the house to begin cultivation due to the wildlife factor, shading IS a cure as well.

A couple other semi "success" notes...
-I planted a comfrey patch about 40' x 10' and while it is encroaching it is holding it's own after 2 full years.
-There are two 30' x 30' jerusalem artichoke patches in the middle of 'RCG central' that are not choked out. Fact is the RCG is completely established within the planting, by mid summer the JA's overtake the grass and survive just fine. However the JA's do not spread out of their plots! That is how tough this stuff is!
I mention JA's because I thought they'd have no issue pushing RCG out- but in fact I gather the JA's remain only because their grouping is so large- single JA's planted sporadically in the pasture have succumed after a year or less elsewhere.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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I did some reading on this, and it's said that goats and sheep will eat reed canary grass, though you may need to take care with sheep because of potential toxins like DMT in the grass. However, some varieties of sheep may be more or less resistant to it. (Perhaps the same is said for some kinds of goats. I don't think Boer goats would be effective, either, as they are used to conventional feeds.) Heavy, heavy stocking with goats and cattle could perhaps slow it down, and then you could follow up on the mowed areas by building hugelkulture beds thick with logs, branches, leaves, etc. and use the soil (hopefully free of this) from your farm to top the piles to smother the grass. The hugelkultur beds should provide nice planting areas for your vines and shrubs unless too much water is a problem. Between the raised beds, then you'd have the grass and I assume that would be easier to deal with. As strong as reed canary is, I think it's unlikely to punch holes in thick hugelkultur beds. You did say you had success with the vegetable bed method, so this is similar to that.

One last thought, following Emerson's shade suggestion. You could turn the pasture into a walnut grove by planting black walnut since it has a reputation for killing off nearby plants with juglone. Some native USA and European plants are adapted to or tolerant of the juglone and aren't affected, and if the grass is non-native as Wiki suggests, perhaps it will not be adapted to deal with the heavy shade and juglone the black walnut would pump out.

http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/hortcult/fruits/blkwalnt.htm

I noted in the list of tolerant or non-sensitive plants that many are common or good fodder species.

white clover; red top grass; orchard grass; soybean; timothy; wheat


Near relatives of these may be good candidates and resistant too. A combined agroforestry system perhaps with hugelkultur beds for your berries so they can avoid the juglone? If nothing else, at least you can pound it with heavy grazing and keep it in check while it's slowed down by the shade.
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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Sadly juglone only affects dicots, no grasses are susceptible.
 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Congratulations you just became a grass farmer! It is time to take a serious look into pastured grass fed beef my friend.   


So based on the following description:
Phytoremediation and biomass

Reed canary grass grows well on poor soils and contaminated industrial sites, and researchers at Teesside University's Contaminated Land & Water Centre have suggested it as the ideal candidate for phytoremediation in improving soil quality and biodiversity at brownfield sites. The grass can also easily be turned into bricks or pellets for burning in biomass power stations.[1] from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_canary_grass

Plus your own experience with comfrey and your willingness to try different things I would suggest working on building the best soil possible. My thought is the canary reed grass is working to bring back the soil (pioneer species like). Your experience with comfrey and the observations adunca has made regarding nettle plus knowing that both nettle and comfrey are great accumulators seems to me to be worth exploring.

A soil test would be high on my list to get started. It would be interesting to see if there is anything obviously out of whack (from the link below I would guess you have a high nitrogen load), it would also serve as a base line to measure against as you try different things moving forward.
This was an interesting read: www.botany.wisc.edu/zedler/images/Leaflet_5_nov_05.pdf and may change the below list up some depending on your conditions.

A few additional ideas for soil building and potential eradication:

1. Heavy mob graze the areas. The cattle love it and will help fertilize building soil fertility.
2. Run chickens through the area, would be good if they could follow the cattle. Chickens will scratch up just about anything given enough time. They would also be upping the fertility naturally for you. I am suggesting really pushing it here to near bare earth conditions with the chickens. If you do have a high nitrogen load make sure you have a lot of carbon in there with the chickens.
3. Mow the hell out of it. You might have to abandon your previous plantings until it is under control. I know it is tough but it is just a plant. Starve it enough and it will give up eventually. Mow before seed ever sets, mow on the hottest days. What you want to do is stress the plant into using the reserves to put out new grow and then mow that off too. Then if you can, run chickens in there after.
4. Brush piles and controlled burning in small veggie sized areas. A nice hot burn pile will heat the earth up pretty deep and should kill off the seeds and rhizomes beneath it.
5. Dewater the area! Willows would take time but should help.
6. Carbon material, wood chips, saw dust etc. Guessing on this again but a soil test will tell you yes or no here.

Good Luck and if you can/feel inclined post any results I would be interested anyway to see the out come either success or failure. Also if you get or have a soil test put that up too as well as your location/growing conditions etc. The more info we have the better especially in your case dealing with an invasive.

Jeff
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Emerson White wrote:
Sadly juglone only affects dicots, no grasses are susceptible.


Walnut grove...
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 409
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Here is one of the spots on the refuge where the stinging nettle vs. reed canarygrass battle is taking place.

Moving from the foreground to the background, we have 1) RCG 2) stinging nettle; 3) RCG; 4) Himalayan blackberry; 5) more RCG; 6) big field of other grasses; 7) mixed oak/fir forest (Quercus garryana & Pseudotsuga menziesii).



I would have to say that the nettle seems to be winning in this particular spot.
 
                    
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great thread going here. note to add to the 'observations' and maybe a decent hypothesis about the nettle/RCG interface.


just saw picture, above. And retracted thoughts on nettle and saturated soil. pic doesnt indicate what I was expressing.

: rcg is not fire adapted and is controlled on public land historic preservation prairies of western washington as a by product of broom burns.  death by fire. thats the thinks. 

If you'd like connects with burn people drop a line. I know a few pros.

D

 
Troy Rhodes
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Try a test patch with two layers of carpet.  you can often get free cast offs from a carpet store when they remove somebody's old carpet.

Wicked stuff that canary grass.

troy
 
                                      
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Fire, if possible, heavy heavy grazing early and often, if it is rancid or over mature then mowing, and pound the ever loving crap out of it.

i have heard of some research from the port Louisa National wild life refuge suggests that prairie cord grass could out compete reed canary grass. I am not sure if cord grass is any easier to lay a garden bed over though.

What ever you do do not turn the soil over. you will just get new seed. Unless your striping it with a bulldozer and bringing in new soil.

it is a 5 to 10 year project, that stuff is not fun to deal with at least via natural means.
 
William Works
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Location: SW Washington
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I have a 10 acre property with about a 3rd plus of it in low land area near the Columbia river... the road in-fact acts as a dike to the river/bay. There is a small cabin on the piece and I have been dealing with reed canary grass. I bought the property 8 years back. I managed to keep those 3 to 4 acres under control through brush hogging, heavy weed eating and mowing... I bulldozed a fair amount of the lower land in the summer months and got regular grass growing back until I let it go around 4 years ago... I am trying to get the ground back under control this summer. The RCG has typically grown from 6 to 8 ft high and as it died and folded over it has virtually made a carpet 2 to 3 ft thick underneath the current growth this year... (This is hell to weed eat through) I can do very little to reduce the water saturation in the soil and I'm not wanting to use any chemicals if I can help it... I've allowed the Willow to come back in, near tide gate drainage ditches, and have tried to introduce small stock bamboo to an area perhaps 1/2 acre that I wont be using (I have had no noticeable success at this point)... I want to keep most of the low area shade free minus the existing Alder trees...

After all this being said and reading through the previous posting in this thread I have a couple of questions... I noticed one post mentioned that RCG could be used as "Hog Fuel" Would this be something marketable similar to chipping logs etc (such as salable to a mill)? (Although I doubt this would be economical due to my minimal acreage) I like the idea of Thistle taking over and am going to try this in a small area on my property but I am wondering if anyone has attempted big stock Bamboo 2 to 6 in stock thickness in a heavy RCG area (This I'm wanting for maybe a half acre or a little more of near the willow)... 3rd question is how well would goats work on this type of grass? I can switch them to high ground/different vegatation to offset their diet but I'm wondering if it is healthy for goats to eat much of this grass? Does anyone have experience with this?... Lastly I have thought about burning with a large propane torch but I am nervous on using this method due to the cabin being in the center of it all... Even with it being pretty wet land and cutting fire breaks I've never seen how volatile RCG is with the 2-3 ft of dead grass underneath and fresh growth up as high as it is... Suggestions I apologize for this bombardment of questions but any extra info would be greatly appreciated! I will post back on the outcome of these attempts... Lastly I just want to say that I'm surprised Reed Canary Grass is not mentioned in the book of Revelations!!! Thanks for your time.
 
Eric Thompson
Posts: 369
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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duck food preservation solar trees
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Hi William, I'm behind a dike on the other side of that river, so we probably have pretty similar conditions. The place I have most RCG is in seasonal flooding areas - places where water is at or above the soil surface for more than a week in some years. That flooding seems to discourage other surface grasses while encouraging the RCG, and then it can really hang on to that territory.
It's a good grass for cows, and I try to run them on it often. I avoid cutting most of it for hay because the thick stuff really bogs down my smallfarm equipment.
I don't have good answers for your questions. I think the bamboo would work well, but I haven't tried it yet.
If occasional flooding is the main cause like mine, you need to consider that in choosing what to use. Willow or hawthorn may survive, along with alder and green ash.

I've never heard of RCG hogfuel, but you may be able to mow for mulch - RCG really doesn't spread by seed so easily, so even mulching areas is probably fine.

Good luck!
 
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