It’s been several months since posting an entry to this blog, so I have forced myself to come up with a believable excuse. Why not blame the invasive plants found on Kettle Ridge Farm?
Most days have found me spending a couple of hours or more out in the woods attempting to thin out our non-native invasives: honeysuckle, multi-flora rose, Japanese barberry, oriental bittersweet, and buckthorn. Time I could have spent writing.
The worst invader: Swallowwort. Also known as dog-swallowing vine.
Swallowwort seems to be everywhere on the lightly-shaded portions of our property. Some sections are carpeted with the weed and may have already swallowed a few dogs. This perennial plant grows fast, has deep roots, and is very resilient. Deer do not eat it. Its many seed pods develop in late summer and operate just like milkweed. Each pod opens to release dozens of seeds attached to their own little umbrellas to be carried off by the wind. Swallowwort seeks bushes and small trees: the higher the vine climbs, the further its seeds will travel.
Speaking of milkweed, have you seen any monarch butterflies this year? We’ve spotted very few around Kettle Ridge Farm. The disappearance of the monarch is apparently a nationwide phenomenon. Swallowwort worsens the situation as monarch butterflies are apt to confuse it for a milkweed and lay their eggs on the plant. Larvae on a swallowwort plant will not survive.
I choose not to spray Roundup or other herbicides in an Agent Orange-like attack on our invasive plants. Roundup (glyphosate) will destroy just about any plant it comes in contact with, which means that a foliar spray application will inevitably kill a lot of good plants along with the bad. It probably has other bad effects on the environment too.
Not to mention that the stuff is darn expensive.
The approach I follow is called cut-stump treatment. I will cut the stalk or trunk of the offending plant and paint a little glyphosate on the exposed surface. Desirable plants are spared, and the amount of glyphosate required is miniscule compared to foliar treatments.
Obviously, cutting the stalks of tens of thousands of swallowwort plants takes a considerable amount of time. That is why is makes a good excuse for not doing other things I could be doing, like writing. But here it is in mid-October and the swallowwort have died back for the season.
So I will either have to pick up the pace of my writing, or find another excuse.