Tools & Methods
As a Weed Warrior at JHNWR, most of your work will involve the mechanical removal of invasive plant species and the revegetation of disturbed areas. These are two of the most useful tools we have at our disposal within a wide array of tools outlined by our overall Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan.
IPM strategies are discussed further in the training section entitled Invasives & Beyond.
For the moment, we will focus on some of the “hows.” Many of these techniques are probably familiar to you, but there may be a few tricks you can apply to your own garden.
One note of importance: It is very important to inspect and clean all tools and equipment after finishing up one site, and especially before moving onto another. This will lessens the probability of spreading the weed to other areas of the Refuge.
Pulling or uprooting plants is a very effective method for many invasives, especially annuals and tap-rooted plants. Weed wrenches and other tools described below are very powerful and can allow you to control large saplings and shrubs too big to be pulled by hand.
Care must be taken to remove all or most of the root system to avoid re-sprouting. This can limit the techniques effectiveness against many perennial weeds with deep underground stems and root systems.
Try to minimize disturbances to the soil by pulling out weeds carefully and slowly. Replace soil to disturbed areas where possible as trampled and disturbed areas provide an opportunity for the same or other invasive plants to germinate and re-infest the area.
Minimize trampling by limiting the number of people in the site and the amount of time spent there.
Safety tip: Wear gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Many plants cause moderate to severe skin irritation, especially when their stems and leaves are crushed and broken. Several hours of pulling can easily leave hands raw and bleeding.
In addition to shovels, trowels, hoes and cultivators — the uses of which are common to gardeners — specialized tools are available that are very effective in removing larger specimens of invasive species.
Root talon: The root talon, or cultivator, is a lightweight tool shaped somewhat like a pick-ax or hoe. Its specialized claw and gripping device allows the user to grab the plant stem and provides leverage to pull up and remove the entire plant, root system and all. It's most effective when used for pulling shallow rooted plants.
Root talon, or cultivator
Repeated cutting can reduce seed production and restrict weed growth, especially in annuals cut before they flower and set seed. This can be effective against invasive species with root systems too deep and advanced for effective pulling.
Make sure you know your species however before using this technique as some species spread and re-sprout vigorously when cut, creating a worse infestation than before the cutting.
There are many useful hand tools for cutting:
Pruning shears: Or hand pruners are similar to scissors with thick curved blades that cut branches less than 1-inch thick. The can be used to cut back small shrubs or remove branches that prevent access to the trunk or stem of a large shrub.
Loppers: Loppers are larger than pruning shears with long handles that increase leverage. They can be used to cut branches less than 2 inches in diameter. They can be helpful in cutting back larger vines and shrubs and reaching stems and branches that may be difficult to reach due to the presence of other plants or thorns.
Hand saws: Small hands saws, including bow saws, are also useful in cutting thicker trunks or branches.
Loppers and hand saws are sometimes used with extensions that allow access to taller branches. We use extensions to reach through the thorny branches of multiflora rose and cut the trunks and branches.
Other Useful Tricks and Techniques
If the plant is producing flowers it is better to remove the plant from the area (or at least the flower head). Bag the plants with flowers and leave them on the side of the road or trail near your site. We will gather these bags for composting so please be sure not to include any trash with the plant materials.
If there are no seeds, leave the unearthed plants to decompose away from waterways.
Cutting a window
When you are removing vines, it is better if you don't try to pull them from the trees. Often the branches of the tree are weakened and may break and come down with the vine, further weakening the overall health of the tree and not so great for your health!
The best approach to vines is to “cut a window” or create a gap in the trunk or stem of the vine. A “window” is creating by cutting the stem as high as you can easily reach, then low to the ground, creating a gap that cannot be healed. A single cut in a vine stem can often recombine as the plant attempts to heal itself.
Safety tip: Whatever tools you use as a Weed Warrior, please use extreme care. Many tools are sharp and potentially hazardous. All tools can injure you or those around you when they are swung around, carried carelessly, or laid down where others may inadvertently trip over them or step on them. Throughout the Weed Warrior training, we will place a special emphasis on safety. Stay aware of how you use and carry your tools, where and how you place them when you are not using them.
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