Sunday, June 8, 2014

Reed canary grass invading our native bed

"Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative's latest example of unreasonableness."
~Christopher Lloyd

Reed canary grass forms dense, persistent monospecific stands in wetlands, moist meadows, and riparian areas that outcompete desirable native plants. It dominates a significant number of wetlands in the Midwest. Reed canary grass is one of the first grasses to sprout in the spring.  It grows 2-9 foot tall. The stem is hairless and stands erect. The leaf blades are flat and have a rough texture on both surfaces, gradually tapering from the base to the tip. They 4-8 inches long and about ½ inch wide. The transparent ligule is unusually large—up to ½ inch long. Top leaves are horizontal. Densely clustered single florets that are green to purple when in bloom (May to mid-June) and turn golden tan as seeds form. The flower branches spread during bloom but draw close to the stem at maturity. Seeds ripen in late June.  Seeds are dispersed via waterways, animals, humans, and machines and can germinate immediately at maturation. Rhizomes with large numbers of dormant buds create a thick fibrous mat at or just below the soil surface.

To control, small patches may be hand pulled, dug or covered with black plastic for a minimum of one growing season. Close mowing 3 times per year can be effective to retard growth and prevent seed set. Late spring or late fall burns for 5 to 6 years may be effective. Soil can also be tilled repeatedly for at least one growing season or the sod can be removed by bulldozer or bobcat making sure to go 8-18” down. A combination of these methods over a couple of years may be necessary to fully eliminate a stand.
If resorting to chemical methods of control, small scattered clones can be controlled by tying stems together just before flowering, cutting off and bagging stems, and applying glyphosate (Round-up) to the cut stems as was being done at Wild Ones large prairie plantings. A foliar spray with solution of glyphosate is formulated for use over water. Grass specific herbicides, like sethoxydim and fluazifop-p-butyl, can be used in non-aquatic environments. The herbicide imazapic has been shown to be effective for long-term control.

Today focus was on pulling patches of reed canary grass in the native bed and then digging holes to transplant alternative native plants, including joe pye weed and pink turtlehead.

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