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Native Prairie Communities

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While native plant communities are lower maintenance than traditional landscaping, they do require monitoring and maintenance, particularly during the establishment period. Control of invasive plants is one of the most important steps for maintaining the integrity of a native plant community. Herbicide application is among the most effective ways to control invasive species. Herbicide application should always be performed by trained and licensed professionals. Always follow label direction and wear appropriate protective clothing.
 
Weeds in the daisy family such as Canada Thistle may be controlled through the use of selective herbicides such as stinger. Its active ingredient, Clorpyralid may be utilized to remove Canada Thistle and ragweed from native plantings. This herbicide is harmless to grasses, sedges, and certain wildflowers including members of the mint family. It does kill wildflowers in the composite family such as coneflowers, blazing stars, sunflowers, asters and goldenrods as well as members of the legume family.
 
Weeds that grow taller than the desired vegetation may be eliminated with a wiper bar. The bar consists of a plastic tube wrapped in a cloth wick. The tube has a slit or opening that allows the herbicide to saturate of cloth. Herbicide is applied to the tall weeds by pulling the bar across the top 1/3 of the weeds, being careful to stay well above the desired vegetation. This technique is useful during the early developmental stage of native plant communities when native seedlings are often over topped by aggressive annual weeds. It is also useful in low stature vegetated swales or other Best Management Practices utilizing shorter sedges and wildflowers.
 
The wicking bar should be filled with a mixture of about 1/3 glyphosate concentrate which can be easily made by diluting 1 cup of Glyphosate herbicide with 2 cups of water.
Wicking bars are available in various shapes and sizes. Smaller bars shaped like a hockey stick are useful for wicking large individual weeds in planting beds.
 
Herbaceous communities such as prairie and sedge meadow utilized in storm water best management prairie are often invaded by unwanted woody plants. Further, all native communities may be invaded by invasive woody plants that may replace the desired plant community if left unchecked. Control of these unwanted woody plants may be accomplished through the use of several herbicide techniques including foliar application, cut stump treatment, or basal bark treatment.
 
Foliar application is most effective with a triclopyr-based herbicide such as Garlon-3. This herbicide is formulated for elimination of broad leave woody species. It will also kill broad leaf herbaceous species, so be careful to avoid overspray onto desirable vegetation.
 
Spray as much of the foliage as possible, avoiding excessive quantities that may drip onto the vegetation below. This treatment will be most effective when plenty of mature foliage is available for application, usually from mid summer to early fall.
 
Cut stump treatment involves cutting the stems of the woody vegetation with a saw, loppers or other implement as close to the ground as possible. A concentrated herbicide must immediately be applied to the cut stump. A 50 percent solution of glyphosate concentrate is effective in most cases.  Do not wait more that a few minutes after cutting to apply the herbicide as the sap may quickly close the wound.
 
Basal bark treatment is done with an oil based herbicide such as Garlon 4. The herbicide is applied to the lower foot of the trunk utilizing a low pressure application from a backpack sprayer. There is no need to cut or injure the trunk as the oil based herbicide soaks right through the bark. This may be done effectively during the growing season or the dormant season if temperatures are mild.  Any of these methods can be quite effective for control of Cottonwoods, willows, and silver maples, all of which frequently invade damp areas around ponds and storm water BMPs. If working around water, make sure that you are utilizing an herbicide approved for use in wetland environments.
 
Cattails are aggressive competitors in wetland plantings. They may be easily hand wiped with a glyphosate herbicide before they have established large monocultures. This involves utilizing the same 1/3 glyphosate concentration as the wicking bars. The applicator wears a heavy leather glove under a clover glove. The rubber glove prevents herbicide from contacting the skin. The cloth glove is dipped in the herbicide and rubbed up the upper half of the cattail foliage. Care must be taken not to drip on the desirable vegetation around the cattails. This method may be used on any tall perennial weeds.
 
Biennial weeds such as sweet clover or Queen Anne’s Lace may be pulled when in flower. These taprooted species are best pulled after a substantial rain or irrigation has softened the ground. If seed has started to mature, be certain to remove the plants from the site.
 

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