Depending on the size of your property, there may be quite a number of gardening projects you can tackle in the winter. One of these projects could be invasive plant removal. Invasive plants are foreign plants that can overrun an area, choke out other plants and limit diversity. One of the reasons that winter is a great time to tackle these projects, is that leaves have fallen, making access to certain “wild” areas easier, and making the plants themselves easier to handle. At the top of the invasive list on my property are Multiflora Rose, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Pachysandra, and English Ivy. These foreign sounding names give perceptive gardeners a warning that these plants could become problematic in our area.
Multiflora Rose is easy to identify at this time of year with its distinctive green, thorny stems and arching branches. A thick pair of gloves and some loppers are all you need to tackle very large areas of rose. I like to cut into a thicket, until I can get to the base of a shrub, and then pull it out by the roots. All but the very largest shrubs pull out fairly easily, and these can be removed later with a shovel and hand saw. I tend to cut the roses into large pieces, and pile them up in one area. They break down fairly quickly, and within several months, the pile will be much smaller.
Oriental Bittersweet can be managed in a similar way. We like to cut unwanted vines close to the base, and pull out the root to ensure the plant doesn’t grow back. Sections of hanging vine that are within reach can be removed. The remaining vines, that are out of reach will dry out and fall from the trees over time. Oriental bittersweet can be identified in the winter by its red fruit surrounded by yellow capsules.
For chemical free removal of groundcovers such as Japanese Pachysandra, and English Ivy, winter is also a good time. Both of these plants remain evergreen, so they are easy to spot when most other plants have gone dormant. A sturdy shovel and a strong back will be necessary to rid your yard of these plants, as they will need to be dug out by the roots. I like to start at one end and methodically shave off the top few inches of soil containing the roots, and roll the vine mat like you would a carpet. Shake out the soil as you go to minimize weight.
Keep in mind that all of these areas will need to be policed in the spring, to jump on any re-sprouting that is certain to occur. Additional invasive removal will need to be done routinely, with each subsequent time becoming easier to manage.
Also, it is important to fill these newly cleared spots on your property with desirable plants in order to keep the invaders from moving back in. We recommend a selection of native plants, to provide beauty, health, and habitat. Depending on the size of the area, plants can be chosen in larger numbers and smaller sizes, or larger sizes for immediate visual impact.
My property has a wooded streamside area which is filled with numerous invaders. I plan on seeding the area in a mix of woodland grasses and wildflowers, and planting some native woodland trees and shrubs in several different locations.
We also have a steep hillside that is covered in English Ivy. Because of concerns of erosion, and because this area is along a neighbor’s property, I don’t think I will ever be able to completely eradicate the ivy, so reclaiming smaller areas and planting with upland shrubs will be my plan of attack there.
Consider the site when choosing your replacements, and pick plants that would be found in a similar site in nature, as the right plant in the right place will provide you with years of enjoyment.