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New Website with New Products including the Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser

We launched our new website: Green Shoots.  We have several new products on the website: our Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser; Foaming Agent; and Aquatic herbicide.  If you are a professional or have a large piece of property with invasive weeds, you may be especially interested in our Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser.

We will also be adding a resource center in the near future.  This will give you a link to our videos and other postings.

New Products and Website Changes Coming!

In about two weeks we hope to have our new website up!  We will offer several new products including the Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser.  This product will be especially useful for the professional or non-professional who has a big invasive weed project.

We will also be offering an aquatic herbicide and a foaming agent.  The aquatic herbicide will not have manufacturer-added surfactants.  This will allow the user to add a surfactant of their choosing – for example, our foaming agent which will be a mild, non-ionic surfactant made from plant-based materials that are readily biodegradable.

Killing a Weed Tree without Herbicide

As someone working for company that sells herbicide for killing invasive plants, I get push-back from people who don’t like to use herbicides. This is understandable. When herbicides are used almost indiscriminately – killing both weeds and desirable plants, that is a huge problem. Researchers have, for example, found a loss of milkweed in agricultural fields due to increased herbicide use. Lower milkweed populations means declines in monarch butterfly populations. Pleasants et al. 2012.

If herbicides are used with precision, however, I find they can be enormously useful. For quickly eliminating harmful invasive weed trees such as buckthorn, they are indispensable, especially if you are working on a large scale. After reading numerous scientific articles over the years, I feel comfortable using them. But, I certainly respect the decision of those who choose not to use herbicides.

If you decide not to use herbicides, what is the best way to kill a weed tree? It will be tougher, and it will take at least a couple years to accomplish, but it can be done if you have patience and the number of weed trees is limited.

Here are some tips. First, don’t concoct homemade herbicides. Many people think, for example, that pouring salt on a plant is better than using a commercial herbicide. From an environmental perspective, however, you are doing much more harm than good. Herbicides like glyphosate bind tightly to soils and break down relatively rapidly. Salt, on the other hand, is very persistent in soils, and most plants do poorly in soils with high salinity. Read this article from the University of Illinois about homemade herbicides if you are tempted.

Second, be careful if you decide to pull weeds, especially large weed trees. Not only can you strain your back, you can also hurt nearby desirable plants by uprooting them. Also, freshly disturbed soils invite weed seeds. Try to minimize disturbance of soils.

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weed trees that have been cut to form “tall stumps”

Especially with weed trees, one technique I have used is repeated cuttings to weaken a plant. Timing is critical.  The weed trees shown in the photo above – common buckthorn, for example, were trimmed back to what I call “tall stumps,” i.e., stumps that are above waist height or even taller if possible. I did this in the spring after they had fully leafed out. This is the time of year when the tree has sent energy from the roots to the foliage for leafing out and flowering. It’s also a time when plants are normally vigorously photosynthesizing. By trimming off all the foliage you have not only robbed a tree of much of its stored reserves, you have also harmed the tree’s ability to photosynthesize during a critical time.  (You have also prevented the plant from flowering and creating seeds, which is why I trimmed these trees.)

Tall stump with re-sprouts

Tall stump with re-sprouts

Most invasive trees will recover. For example, buckthorn will regrow branches after a cut as shown in the photo above. The reason for cutting the tree high is two-fold. First the tree will generally grow new branches as high on the stem as possible. To weaken the tree still further, you should do another cut just below that new growth. Ideally that cut should be made in the same year – after the tree has expended energy in forming new branches. Second, another reason for cutting high and creating a tall stump is to avoid creating a bush. If you cut a stem close to the ground, multiple stems will grow from the stump. You now will have to cut multiple stems rather than just one.

It is surprising how much a well-timed trim will weaken a weed tree. I have noticed that if I top a seed-producing buckthorn it may take several years before that tree produces seeds again. In addition, I often find the sapwood of these topped trees to be discolored. This indicates to me that the tree has been stressed.

The above technique also works well even if you decide ultimately to use an herbicide.  Applying an herbicide in the spring when sap is rising is generally a bad idea.  By trimming and forming a tall stump in the Spring, you have eliminated at least one year of seed production.  You have also weakened a tree ahead of the herbicide application and made the success of that application more likely.

Weed Trees and How to Kill by the Roots using Foam Herbicide

We posted an animated video on YouTube showing how to kill a weed tree using foam herbicide.  The video also explains why foam herbicide works better than liquid herbicide for cut stump applications.

Illustration Showing Foam Herbicide Applied to Inner Bark of Stump

Illustration Showing Foam Herbicide Applied to Inner Bark of Stump

Killing Invasive Vines such as Kudzu, Oriental Bittersweet, Mile-a-Minute

Invasive vines can really take over. They primarily crowd out desirable species by shading them, but they can also girdle stems of desirable plants and cut off the free flow of plant sugars to the canopy.

To control them with herbicide, there are several things to keep in mind. First, a foliar application to vine foliage is almost always a bad idea. Usually the foliage of the vine is too intermingled with the foliage of desirable plants. Even if you can segregate the foliage of the invasive from the desirable, spraying upward where vines grow is inadvisable. You will likely end up with more spray mist on yourself than on the target vine.

Second, don’t pull the vine down from the canopy. If you do, you may do more damage to the desirable plant by breaking branches and tearing into live plant tissue (if the vine has adhesive pads that attach to stems). Focus your efforts instead on killing the vine and leaving it in place. If you want to speed its decay and to lessen strangulation of a desirable plant, cut notches into the vine stem. Again, avoid cutting the desirable plant.

Third, you will probably have better luck killing the vine if you apply the herbicide in late summer, fall, or even winter. Those are the times when the plant is translocating sugars to the roots which is also where you want the herbicide to flow.

If you want to prevent the vine from producing seeds, here is a trick that I use. After the vine has leafed out but well before it has produced fruit or seeds, cut the vine as high as you can from where it is rooted. Then allow the vine to regrow. It probably will do so vigorously with multiple new sprouts from near the cut. The trick is that you will do your treatment below this cut and new sprouts. This not only should prevent the vine from flowering and producing seeds, it will also sap the roots of energy and make the herbicide application more effective.

Applying Foam Herbicide to Cut Stump

Applying Foam Herbicide to Cut Stump

One way to apply herbicide is to use what is called a cut stump method (shown above). With this method, you cut the stem of the vine close to the ground – generally two to four inches above the ground from where the vine is rooted. (if the vine is rooted in multiple locations, you will need to cut and treat near each root clump.) Don’t cut so close to the ground that dirt gets on the cut face of the stump (dirt neutralizes herbicides such as glyphosate). But don’t cut too high because the treatment will be less effective. Then immediately treat the stump face with a concentrated foam herbicide.  Apply the foam herbicide in a ring near the outer perimeter.    You want to make sure the herbicide contacts the living plant tissue called the cambium which is just inside the outer bark. Green Shoots Foam Herbicide works great for this because you can precisely stack the foam right on the cambium and it will slowly soak in.  If you wait more than about 10 to 15 minutes after cutting the stump, I would recommend re-cutting before applying the herbicide. Plants seal off wounds surprisingly quickly and this reduces the effectiveness of the herbicide. Follow the instructions on the label for the herbicide and the dispenser.

Exposed inner bark on vine

Exposed inner bark on vine

Foam herbicide applied to exposed inner bark

Foam herbicide applied to exposed inner bark

Another method is a frill treatment. With this method, you scrape or cut away some of the outer bark to expose live, inner bark as shown in the photos above. This method work especially well if the vine stem is horizontal because it provides a better surface on which to apply the herbicide. If you can try to remove bark from around the perimeter of the stem.  Again, Green Shoots Foam Herbicide works great for this because the foam will cling to the frilled tissue.  (Liquid herbicides on the other hand will drip right off.)

Be sure not to get herbicide on desirable plants. I even avoid getting herbicide on the outer bark of desirable plants. Although you may read that water-based herbicides won’t penetrate the protective, waxy layers of cork, it makes sense not to risk harm.

Killing Invasive Thistles and Other Weeds using Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser

This YouTube video shows how to use the new Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser from Green Shoots for spot treatments of non-woody weeds like thistles. Last month we introduced a YouTube video showing how to do spot treatments  of cut stumps to kill invasive trees or shrubs.  In both videos, we have attached the extension nozzle.  The extension nozzle enables

Extension nozzle used to apply foam herbicide to invasive thistle

Extension nozzle used to apply foam herbicide to invasive thistle

precision herbicide applications thereby reducing off-target harm and herbicide waste.  One added benefit of the extension nozzle: the extra reach means a lot less stooping or bending. The Large Foam Herbicide Dispenser will be offered for sale starting in the Spring of 2014.