Buckthorn Removal and Neighbors Property

John Witte (Zone 5B Illinois)

I am in the process of removing large tracts of buckthorn from along the borders of our 1.5 acre property that we moved into last year. I am hoping to create a butterfly garden in it's place. It is an area that runs along our driveway about 15 feet by 175 feet.

I get the feeling that all will be for naught when the neighbors buckthorn, which probably got ours started years ago, continues to drop berries.

Any suggestions for dealing with the neighbors buckthorn that goes right up to the fence?

I was thinking that some sort of shield or tarp to redirect falling berries could work but that would be almost as hideous as the buckthorn.




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docmom_gw(5)

Do the Buckthorn berries drop during one specific season? Or can they be falling any time between ripening and the next flower bloom? I was thinking that a temporary barrier might not be too bad, but if it is needed most of the year, that would make it a serious eyesore.

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John Witte (Zone 5B Illinois)

I believe the berries are an issue from late summer and possibly into winter. So, kind of a long time.

I am also planning to compost the buckthorn after chipping and shredding it.

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docmom_gw(5)

What are you planning as far as the style of your butterfly garden? If I could suggest large, well-defined clumps or drifts of insect-friendly plants with some sort of mulch or shredded leaves between them, that would be most attractive to pollinators, and would make pulling out buckthorn seedlings as easy as possible. They would be easy to spot at an early stage, as well. You can still take advantage of reseeding of your butterfly plants by pulling back the mulch in areas you hope will get volunteers. Or, even better, collect seeds from plants you want more of and pull the mulch back and directly sow those seeds.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

John, regardless what you do or try to do, birds will still continue to drop seeds hither and yon, including all over your property. I commiserate with you as we have done much buckthorn removal and it is indeed frustrating to see the plant still alive and well all around our work area. All a guy can do really is set up for the long haul; There is simply no one way to forever be rid of this plant.

So, assuming you're using the cut/stump treatment on these things, one additional practice that is often recommended is to go back with a sprayer full of normal dilution-foliar spray strength glyphosate (or triclopyr or whatever herbicide you happen to be using) and foliar-spray any new buckthorns or any that got missed. this of course, is highly dependent on what else is growing in the area. So, if "good" plants are growing in close proximity to the stuff you're trying to get rid of, foliar spraying may not be an option. It just depends on whether or not you can hit the bad stuff without hitting the good stuff.

+oM

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texasranger2

I feel for you too, I've got same problem, just a different tree and its been an ongoing battle for years. I spend many hours each spring weeding out tree seedlings, don't know any other way than just bite the bullet and do it. Seeds start sprouting in early spring and it finally lets up in July, wish I had a nickel for each one I've pulled, I'd be very rich.

Theres not much I can do about the shade and tree roots from the neighbors property affecting mine to the west but it adds to the problem in what I can get to grow successfully.

I'm wondering if anyone has used this tool or something like it? I've been using a shovel sometimes and other times I cut and paint with herbicide the new trees along the border on his side (I call it the buffer zone). I ran across this the other night looking for solutions to my problem and it looks much easier. It might make maintenance easier for you since like me you will always have new trees unless your neighbor pitches in.



weed wench

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

The problem with that and similar tools is, if you've ever seen a patch of woods overtaken by buckthorn, that tool will make you either laugh or cry. It's ok for someone who really does not have a serious problem-one or two plants-but that's not what buckthorn does. If your woods has one specimen, it has a thousand. Finally, the seeds of buckthorn remain viable in the soil for years. Each time the soil is disturbed, like when using a tool of this sort to pull a plant out of the ground, numerous new plants get their start.

In truth-or at least, in my version of it-there is no reasonable way to get rid of such rampant invasive shrubs as buckthorn other than the cut/treat method using strong concentrate of proper herbicide-usually either glyphosate (Roundup) or triclopyr (Garlon). I really wish this weren't so, but I'm pretty sure it is. Then, new seedlings can be gotten with a regular foliar spray (at normal rate of dilution, not the heavier rate used for cut/treat) where desirable plants are not in the way. And yes, young buckthorn seedlings do pull out of the ground easily. But after the first 800 or so, it gets old!

+oM

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texasranger2

Is this thing a shrub? Would a low retaining wall prevent a significant % of seeds from rolling downhill to your side or at least keep the numbers of volunteers down some? That seems more sane than laying down a tarp each year onto established plants. Dealing with zillions of seeds dropping down from on high due to aggressive trees onto my native plant area, I don't see the tarp idea as workable.

All it takes is money. I'm checking into a retaining wall but........cash is not quite in abundance here. On the other hand, seeds are.

About the wench, would it make a good maintenance tool for dealing with new trees right along property line and for maintenance in the area thats been cleared? True, I'm not dealing with buckthorn, just nuisance hackberry trees but weeding out thousands of seedlings each year feels like an endlessly loosing battle with no end in sight.

If this is a shrub, seems like there would not be the over-hanging canopy problem like you'd have with trees. Would it help if the shrubs were kept trimmed back to prevent overhanging branches dropping seeds onto your side? The area would still have to be weeded (or treated) regularly but would it + a wall make the numbers of volunteers less? I hope I'm not coming off badly here since I've never dealt with buckthorn but a shrub sounds easier to deal with than tall fast growing trees (I bet you guys are rolling the eyes at that). Of course, the worst offender is always the one we each personally deal with so its not really accomplishing much to compare aggressors. Reality is, as long as the offending plants are growing thickly next door, aggressive maintenance is what you are stuck with. Its either that or throw in the towel and let nature win the battle.

I just hope no one is sanctimoniously educating you about it being a wildlife sanctuary. That really helps a lot.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Too bad we can't do spring burns!

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Yeah, the birds are going to circumvent any and all attempts to somehow not have these fruits ending up where you don't want them. Common buckthorn is not only edible for birds, it is also somewhat of a laxative. The birds will continue to poop these viable seeds out. I'd strongly recommend you acquire and become familiar with a pump-up backpack sprayer. If you do, and if you give it a good-faith shot, I predict you'll wonder how you lived without it before. Now, this will not and cannot be the whole answer. Some plants just can't be sprayed, growing as they do amongst your desirable stuff. But for those in the clear, so to speak, you just need to get rid of it on a recurring basis.

+oM

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texasranger2

tom that sounds like a good idea. The part I don't get is how do you keep from killing or spraying perennial wildflowers, shrubs and grasses? My area is about the same width as John Witte's but only half as long. The unwanted tree seedlings come up thickly right in the middle of grasses, native perennials and shrubs that are greening up. I also have several cactus which are a challenge to 'de-tree' so I wear dishwashing gloves & carefully pull those (with tweezers in my pocket). A clump of cut back grass usually has 10 to 25 trees that have germinated within the middle of the clump with seedlings coming up thick around the circumference ----and a bit less thickly in the surrounding soil --which I could spray. Still, what about the ones coming up within the plants? Each plant has them coming up very close and within the plant because seeds get trapped there. I do a lot of mental grumbling and starting at one end I begin pulling them while young by the handful.

If I wait too long, I will need a pair of pliers to pull them out. They come up in stages, new ones will keep sprouting with each rainfall until July when it finally stops. Any trees I miss, and there are always some, I dig out once I notice them when they get taller than the plant. Those are the ones I thought the wench might be a good tool for because digging is disruptive to the invaded plant.

I finally decided to view the job more positively as an exercise to relieve stress, I clear it by sections on my breaks and it finally gets done each year. Inevitably I always end up counting like a knee jerk mental dull-out thing because its very monotonous but kind of addictive too once I start.

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John Witte (Zone 5B Illinois)

Thanks for all the responses. I think it would be a wasted effort to try to minimize seed dropping into the area. I like your suggestions, docmom, for the well defined separate clumps and then to heavily mulch.

I am hoping I can get by without the use of a spray-on herbicide. we will see how bad the growth is in the area I cleared come spring.

The property is actually surrounded on three sides by dense buckthorn so I just fear it is something of a lost cause. If I remove it all, I suspect I would not be able to keep up with pulling the new growth.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

TR, there's no single answer. So, weeds, whether tree seedlings or other, do constantly come up right within your landscape plants. Ugh...I know. I became extremely handy with the sprayer wand after a while, doing things like flipping a portion of a "good" plant out of the way with one foot, while spraying the weed with the wand, or bending stuff over and pinning it down quickly with whatever was at hand, spraying it then moving on. But some stuff, you just can't get with the sprayer. That's why the "wet glove" technique came to be. Basically, one would place a Nitrile or other suitable chemically resistant glove on one hand, over which would be worn a larger cotton work glove. Then, herbicide is sprayed or dribbled onto the cotton glove and this is then used to wipe or swipe material onto the weed. Then too, regular hand pulling is always going to be necessary. Back when I actually used to do a ton of landscape maintenance, I'd have my hand-weeding crew prep an area for spraying beforehand. It's a battle, and one which, unfortunately, never really ends.

+oM

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Nettie

Interesting read for me as last month I dealt with a similar issue with my neighbor. In this case it's the fenceline between our property and his side had all the mature berry producing buckthorn in a twenty to thirty foot section edging his field. I called him to ask if he minded me taking down the berry producers. He came and walked the line with me and we now have a written encroachment agreement that allows me to remove them. Now the last thing I need is more buckthorn to remove but like you I thought that the further the berry producers can be kept from my property, the better. I know Tom is right about the birds spreading it but I whenever I come across a thick carpet of seedlings I don't even need to look up to know that there is a berry producer in the near vicinity.

I have the weed wrench but seldom use it for reasons mentioned above- the small seedlings pull easy by hand but they slip through the weed wrench. The big ones pull with a big root ball of dirt and you have to reposition it in different directions to get it all and then are left with a gaping hole. I prefer my milk stool and my folding handsaw....cut, pile the slash in one direction, paint the stump- look around and handpull seedlings in reach.

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