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Controlling Quaking Aspen clones in interior Alaska

 
Posts: 3
Location: Fairbanks, AK
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Hi there, Permaculture newcomer here looking for wisdom and suggestions regarding quacking aspen clones that have overtaken our lot.

I have an acre of land in Fairbanks, Alaska. We live in the hills, so we’re in a solid Zone 3 facing south east, no permafrost. Most of the lot has good sun and drainage, but much of it is heavily treed with big quacking Aspen as well as lots of aspen suckers that have popped up over the years. I’ve only lived here a couple of years and have no idea how old the fully grown trees are.
I discovered permaculture about 2 months ago and just learned about Aspen clones and how easily they propagate through their roots whenever they’re disturbed. I was originally planning to wood chip the small trees, cover the cleared ground in cardboard, straw, newspaper, etc to help rot out the roots/kill weeds, and then plant companion plants next summer. Knowing what I know now about aspens…this doesn’t appear to be the right way to go.

So what are my options here? If I decide to start thinning them out, am I destined to years of continuous mowing down of suckers in hopes that they’ll eventually give up? Would planting over them with a fast growing ground cover help or hinder them from coming back? Should I girdle some of them this spring and wait a few years for them to die before cutting down? Should I leave them be and just plant whatever companions I can around them? I don’t wish to clear cut all of the grown aspens, but would love to be able to utilize the land!


 
gardener
Posts: 448
Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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Girdling, mulching, and thinning aren't going to get you much of anywhere on an established Aspen grove. The roots will keep spreading and the suckers will keep popping up. All of the trees share a single root system, so no matter how hard you try, the grove will use energy from its full grown trees and just keep on trucking. You need to pull out the root systems and install an underground barrier (like a concrete wall) to stop aspens from spreading. The only other way of control I know of that works is overshadowing the grove with a faster growing species like lodgepole pine, which would make the plot fairly useless for growing anything else.

When people ask me for advice with aspens, I tell them not to plant them near any kind of structure or land I wish to use. Best of luck!
 
gardener
Posts: 5822
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I know only one person that ever got rid of quaking aspen completely and it took him about 4 years to do it.

You would have to cut all quaking aspens for the start, then you have to use cable and chains to pull the roots out of the ground.
You will need either a 4 wheel drive vehicle or bull dozer to do this with.
Next year you should only have to use the cables and chains to pull out more roots that have shown where they are by sending up water sprouts.
Repeat until there are no more water sprouts coming up from the left behind roots.

Optionally you could use the cable and chain to pull all the little ones out by the roots and leave the big ones for fire wood cutting as needed.

 
Mary Beth
Posts: 3
Location: Fairbanks, AK
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This is what I was afraid of…thank you very much for the input!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 5822
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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You can always try to exhaust the trees by constantly cutting down anything that sprouts up.
I'm in the third year of doing this with wild blackberry canes and so far, I appear to be winning the battle, even if it is slow going.
(I succeeded with doing this with the sumacs, but I also ripped out a few dozen, roots and all with my Jeep and a cable.)

Redhawk
 
Mary Beth
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Location: Fairbanks, AK
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Yes, I think I'll be attemping that and just start much smaller than planned this summer; cutting the small ones that have sprouted nearest to the house and try keeping them at bay. In the meantime we can at least remove the dead trees from the rest of the land. Not sure that we'll be on this property long enough to attempt an all out clear cut. They really are beautiful trees and I imagine the majority of buyers would prefer a forest of aspen over an empty lot :)   Thanks Redhawk
 
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Maybe this is a case where raised beds with a bottom barrier might work out?  They might also heat up earlier to extend your growing season.  
 
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