Minimizing the use of herbicides in ecological restorations
Well, being hearty veterans of Minnesota’s volatile springs, we just have to laugh at our last April winter blast. Regardless, we are going to say it: Spring is here and our incredible natural areas will soon be turning green and starting to flourish. It goes without saying, our maintenance crews are eager and ready to get out in the elements and start spring cleanups. They will be busy little bees from now until November.
At Natural Shore we maintain several hundred ecological restoration projects, including pond, lake, and river shoreline restorations, prairies, wetlands, rain gardens, and woodlands. Our clients include many individuals around the metro area, cities, counties, the state of Minnesota, churches, watershed districts, and a wide variety of homeowner associations. Although we have an amazing diversity of sites that we manage, they all are similar in that nasty weed species are constantly invading. Left unmanaged, these invasive plants would compromise the quality of the restoration areas.
There are many ways to control invasive weeds, and our philosophy at Natural Shore is to minimize or eliminate the use of herbicides when possible. In addition, to our delight, many of our customers are looking for ways to reduce chemical use in the environment. They tend to apply less fertilizer on their lawns; they use organic detergents and cleaners; and are very pleased to learn that we use less herbicide in our maintenance routines. It’s comforting to know that high quality restorations can be sustained by using a variety of techniques to control invasive weeds.
One herbicide-free maintenance success story highlights a series of homeowners along a pond in Edina. Several years ago, we partnered with two neighbors to create natural shore buffers that served as an amazing demonstration. After seeing how beautiful their restorations have established, their neighbors followed suit, one after another. There are now five properties in a row that have natural buffers on the pond! The native plant community is well established and puts on amazing shows of color during the growing season. At each maintenance visit, we hand pull or weed whip the invasive plants we discover, but we do not need to use herbicides for effective control.
Another success story we have involves a homeowner who commissioned us to establish a high quality prairie for his honeybee hives. It’s been our shared goal with the homeowner to eliminate the use of herbicides in the presence of these bees. Because the owner chooses our Elite maintenance service, we are on site numerous times throughout the growing season to adequately control unwanted weed species without using herbicides.
On this particular site, our main concerns are from buckthorn present in the adjacent woods and turf grass encroaching from the adjacent lawn. For the buckthorn, during each maintenance visit we use a bladed weed whip and mow down this woody invader along the woodland edge, or hand pull small saplings we find in the restoration. For the turf grass, we will either hand pull small patches that are invading or smother larger patches of grass with a fresh layer of mulch. We are very careful so that we don’t cover any prairie plants.
These are just two examples of herbicide-free success stories among many with clients that use our maintenance service. Are you interested in an herbicide-free maintenance program? We can take a look at your restoration and determine ways in which we can either reduce herbicide use or go totally herbicide free.
Our maintenance staff would love to discuss different strategies where invasive species can be effectively controlled to make your restoration exceptional.