"Natural" weed management - lessons learned

Over the past three years, I opened up a few different areas of my property to plant fruit trees and have been dealing with the challenge of managing all the other vegetation that wants to take advantage of the newly available sunlight. I started out with some general goals and principles for how to manage my fruit growing spaces and have learned some hard lessons along the way. Maybe somebody else will find these useful.

Initial goals

  • Use no herbicide
  • Avoid causing erosion or instability on slopes
  • Encourage a native plant community and get rid of invasive plants
  • Leave some habitat and native food sources for birds and other animals
  • Build topsoil, or at least avoid degrading it

As the first paragraph hints, barely anything went according to plan. Here are some key things I learned from what did not work:

  1. Opening up space for fruit trees also opens up space for invasive plants. Seems obvious in retrospect. I removed several large conifers that were providing dense, year-round shade, and the result was an immediate flood of invasive weeds. I tried not to disturb the soil, but it didn’t really help. The native understory plants couldn’t compete in full sunlight.
  2. Shade is only part of the picture. I tried to shade out weeds in some areas by leaving in leafy native shrubs like snowberry. Unfortunately, these leave a lot of open soil underneath. Certain other aggressive plants, especially vines, have no problem filling in those spaces. Also, shade timing matters. Leafy trees and shrubs might not fill in until May, by which time the fastest growing weeds are already well established.
  3. The best answer might be grass. I watched a couple videos by the YouTube channel “Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t” and was convinced I wasn’t going to plant grass. But at a certain point it became clear that the alternative was endlessly removing invasive weeds, only to create space for more invasive weeds the following year. Our native shrubs were not able to suppress the most aggressive invasive plants, but grass was. And it’s also pretty good at controlling erosion.
  4. Native plants can be more trouble than they’re worth. The two best examples for me are chokecherry and blackcap raspberry. Both quite desirable to have around as great pioneer species and providers of food for pollinators, birds, and other animals. But chokecherry suckers like crazy and quickly takes over an area, while providing a reservoir for multiple fruit tree diseases. Blackcap raspberry also spreads like wildfire, and grows in a dense spiny mass that shelter aggressive vines like nightshade and virginia creeper and make them very difficult to remove. (Actually, I might let a couple blackcap raspberry bushes grow again, with the expectation that they will need to be pruned constantly).
  5. Native wildlife vector undesirable plants. It’s great to have birds and deer around, but they don’t discriminate between “good” native plants and bad invasives. I’m pretty sure that the deer living on my property are one of the main reasons the invasive weeds have spread so easily.

I also had a few successes, or at least, things that went according to plan:

  1. A trimmer is a great tool, especially with a brush blade attachment
  2. Wood chips are very helpful, both around trees and in general
  3. Mulching with cut or pulled vegetation returns organic matter to the soil and suppresses further weed growth.

Finally, some photos of my fruit growing spaces this summer, after a few years of work. Plenty of improvement needed, but I think things are getting better over time. The dense shrubs and weeds in the background are what things would look like after a couple years without any intervention.

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I hate spraying herbicide and have experimented with different ground covers and mulch under trees. None of them are really viable with high vole pressure and a lot of trees. Landscape fabric covered by mulch would be my preference if I had less tress to manage and vole pressure was lower

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@39thparallel

I want my cake and to eat it too. Removing trees is hard and so is managing voles but i want the different flavors and ripening times.

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One of the most important things I have learned about land management is that once you remove the things you do not want growing, you have to immediately plant the things you do want. It sounds like you might have better success with pulling and planting the same day. It may seem inefficient at the time but overall it will probably save you time to not have to manage weeds once they establish themselves.

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This. You need to pre identify aggressive native plants based on that exact location, soil type, and sunlight and need to sow/plant vast quantities as soon as it’s bare soil. And you’ll still probably have to remove invasives and plant more seeds every year for 5 years
Try groundcovers touted as being lawn replacements in your area, that would be a good place to start

I am trying to clean out three areas where I had already planted fruit trees and berries. I did not want a green surface, just wood chips. My lessons learned:

  1. A deep (6-8") layer of wood chips can kill most annual weeds and grasses, but it helps a lot to cover the ground with cardboard before adding the wood chips. Clear plastic sheeting kept on the ground for 2-3 sunny days will kill most plants too.

  2. The ground is full of weed seeds. As the wood chips compost and/or traffic disturbs the chips, the ground will be exposed. Annual weeds will sprout wherever the ground is exposed. So ideally the chips need to be replenished.

  3. Perennial weeds are the real enemy. Bindweed is the paradigmatic case. It put out both seeds and long deep roots. Both are a threat but the roots are worse. If you pull a plant, the root breaks leaving pieces in the ground. The pieces sprout. In summer and fall, the plant send out long runners that also root. The ONLY solution is to dig out the plants individually and remove all the roots. Inevitably some pieces of root are missed. It can take a half dozen passes or more through an area to clean it out. And then vigilance against sprout and seedlings after.

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This has been my experience as well, except with nightshade vine and Virginia creeper. They’re like the mythical hydra, cut off one head and two more sprout. Both almost always leave rootlets that come back the following year. Those two take so much time that I don’t even bother trying to manage most annual weeds, except the ones I really hate like knapweed.

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As already mentioned a layer of cardboard and a thick covering of wood chips is the best suppressant IMO.

Regarding grass cover/lawn. It is by no means a great solution. If your only intent is to keep the area mowed and prevent new taller growth then it will accomplish that. Unfortunately, what I’ve found is you spend a lot of money seeding a new area with grass and the grass cover looks/works well at first. However, over time the invasives such as dandelions, thistle, and 100 other noxious weeds out compete the grass in the dry summer weather and eventually your nice looking lawn is more weed than grass. Preventing this is managable on a small city lot, but on an acre/acres of grass it’s a losing battle without using herbicides, (which I will not use).

You might want to consider planting clover rather than grass. It looks nice, is good ground cover, and has the added bonus of attracting pollinizers to your field where your fruit trees are located.

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Since no one has mentioned the chink in the armor of cardboard and woodchips, I will: Bermuda grass (and other rhizome grasses). Bermuda LOVES running rhizomes through wood chips and other mulch. It can pop up all of a sudden a dozen feet away. I’m fighting a battle keeping it out of my garden and berry terraces. I’m winning, but if I wasn’t able to get out there and spot check it for an entire summer, it would be rough getting it out again.

In my larger orchard areas I’m sowing pasture grasses. I’m mulching a small area around the planted trees to give them a bit of room to breathe from competing with the grasses while getting really established.

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Clover also fixes nitrogen! I tried planting some a couple years ago in a shady spot, but it was immediately smothered by more quickly growing weeds. But where it has managed to get established, it seems to compete against weeds quite effectively.

I really don’t care if my fruit areas look like a lawn. At this point the goal is a reasonably diverse and stable plant community that I can manage with a trimmer and some targeted removal to keep the most aggressive species from choking everything else.

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I clear it and then get it to the point that it is mowable (bushhog or mower)… plant and keep my fruit trees wood chipped well… like these.


Novamac and Silk Hope.
We dont have voles here. Must be too hot for them. We have field mice but never had a fruit tree damaged by them.

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I also use cool season pasture grasses and clover for most of my ground cover, and some chips and cardboard under my orchard trees when needed. If it’s bare dirt, it WILL be weeds, so the goal is to get something desirable growing on the bare dirt. I let the grass/clover mix get 3’+ tall, and mow it down once or twice a year. The tall grass seems to help with water retention in the soil (keeping it shaded), and it’s done an excellent job of keeping the weeds in check. Once it’s mowed, I rake the hay under the trees = more free mulch.
This works well in my climate, but I could imagine in other areas woody plants returning could be a bigger problem.

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Strawberries that make runners are a great groundcover if you help them establish… So are lingonberries and arctic raspberries.

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I’ll add bindweed to that list. Once bindweed is established on a property you just have to live with it. There’s no amount of mulch, or tillage, or any chemical that kills it. Single season control is the best you can hope for.

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It’s truly a scourge. I remember one time weeding the garden as a kid I came back to where I had pulled some out the day before (without getting the root) and it was 6" long again

After a quick Google there are bindweed gall mites that are host specific. Anyone every use these? Even a moderate reduction in vigor would be worth it

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I use weed barrier and rock under my fruit trees. Creeping woodsorrel is my biggest problem growing in the rocks.

Anyone else using river rock as ground cover?

I’d say this is doable in pretty much any climate. There is a huge caveat though: it is labor-intensive, and will continue to be labor-intensive until either you die or give up. Your climate and site will determine how labor-intensive it is, and your free time and willingness to work hard will determine how much land you can actually keep in this artificial state.

A broad point I’d like to make is: anything other than a climax ecosystem will be an endless battle to maintain. Whether that ecosystem is scrubby chaparral, thorn scrub, tallgrass prairie, old-growth conifers, mixed hardwood forests, or something else is to a certain extent immaterial, but I’ll stick to humid temperate (forest dominated) just since that’s where most folks live anyway. To keep things in a manmade park-like state of groundcover and solitary trees and patches of brambles will be a constant battle. The difficulty of that battle depends on your climate and preferences, the easier the battle, the more land you can reasonably keep that way. It’s all context and trade-offs. There is no equilibrium point that preserves a manmade ecosystem (ie a garden) without human input.

And native or not makes little difference for that dynamic–it’s the plant’s size and role that matter. In humid temperate zones, shrubs, regardless of where they came from, are either pioneer species or understory species. Neither will be able to smother out or out-compete all other species. Pioneer species can have a degree of dominance but typically only manage one generation of plants living to maturity before later-climax species like trees and canopy-reaching vines take over (even a lot of tree species follow this rule, though the age of maturity is so long most people don’t notice or don’t live long enough to see the transition). Understory species can reach a stable state, but only if growing as an understory–out in the open, they’re never going to outcompete everything without lots of human help.

I do realize that a lot of invasive species, which are almost always pioneer species, seem to be able to break this rule and prevent later-climax species from taking hold, but I’ve found that is rarely actually true. Pioneer species thrive on disturbance, and without it, they will eventually succumb. I’ve never seen a giant patch of kudzu that wasn’t on at least one side surrounded by an area of human disturbance that prevents the surrounding forest from slowly shading out the kudzu and closing up the patch. The areas with the most invasive kudzu, privet, chinaberry, honeysuckle, bradford pear, etc, are field margins, along highways, and the suburbs, which is to say the places with the most manmade disturbance. I almost never find invasives growing in old swamps, in national parks, or in managed longleaf pine savannahs (I’ll admit arid and semi-arid climates are a bit different, though I’d also say don’t discount the effects of unseen human disturbance like wildfire suppression and lack of large mammal herbivory).

Of course, me saying “take away the manmade disturbance, and the invasives will go away on their own eventually” is not much consolation to you, since you don’t want to wait a half century (or longer since you’re in the slow-growing PNW) for the invasives to go away, and moreover you intend on keep up the manmade disturbance (the garden–and artificially planted or sited natives, regardless of how untrimmed and “naturalized” are just as much a garden as vegetables or ornamental plants are; they are plants selected by a human, cared for and weeded and mulched by a human) as long as physically possible.

I also wouldn’t automatically discount non-natives for their wildlife benefits. We’ve had a series of extremely destructive extinction events and disturbances (ice age extinctions and glacial disturbance, extinction of megafauna, the significant warming from inter-glacial climate change, modern day extinctions and climate change, the list goes on) to the point that just about every ecosystem on earth is a mere shadow of what it was up until the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene when these massive extinctions started happening. From an ecosystem standpoint, we are living in a post-apocalyptic world. In many cases, the best native plant for a particular ecosystem role went extinct a million years ago.

For supporting wildlife, find out which plants are the most bang for your physical-labor bucks. Where I am, for example, that means planting native milkweed in damper areas where it is aggressive and grows easy, growing native viburnums and calycanthus in shady wooded edges, and favoring native bunchgrasses in my backyard. But that also means planting butterflybush and lantana in dry sunny areas, and letting honeysuckle run amok along fencelines–because there simply is no native flower that supports pollinators and hummingbirds as well as butterflybush and lantana do during the peak of summer, and, according to a recent study in New England, there are actually very few, if any, natives that support as many bugs as invasive honeysuckle does (it is also a favorite browse of deer, by the way). Similarly, I’ve found Mexican thithonia to be far more effective at supporting bees and seed-eating birds than any native asteraceae I’ve tried. So while I reserve plenty of hate and genocidal tendencies towards invasive monkeygrass and Mahonia (which from what I’ve read are pretty mediocre for supporting wildlife) I’m much more welcoming of other invasives that many people automatically hate. I even am neutral to lukewarm towards bradford pear which is probably the single most hated plant on the east coast. Like, find me another member of the rose family that provides winter food for birds, early flowers for native pollinators that are active in late winter and the start of spring, that has non-waxy, deciduous leaves that support insects, and that will survive in the South… Until then, I’ll be ok with bradford pear. I try to just focus on what works, what is actually growing and effectively supporting wildlife in this post-apocalyptic environment we’re stuck with. I’ll leave the bickering over what plants belong where to the people who prefer preserving a narrow slice of history over having a balanced and rich ecosystem.

Circling back to earlier with respect to effectiveness, I’d recommend maximizing the impact of your physical labor. Use whatever tools are at your disposal as best you can. All tools, of course, cause both harm and benefit, there’s no getting around that. Even something that should be just good all around like mulching can cause issues. Mulch helps with drought–until it doesn’t, for example. During dry weather, a thick layer of mulch will absorb all but the heaviest rain, and since mulch has very high air exposure and low thermal mass, and wicks water very well, that water will then just evaporate away. So in climates where summer rain is mostly from short afternoon thunderstorms, a thick layer of mulch often makes drought worse, not better. And mulch, no matter how thick, cannot hold dirt in place if the mulch washes or slides off–which will happen on slopes. And by suppressing new growth and small weedy annuals, mulch also prevents fast growing plants from anchoring the soil. Mulch also provides cover for a lot of pests such as small mammals, certain bugs, slugs, and a lot of mold spores especially, in my experience, fig rust and rose black spot. In short, mulch is a tool. Used well, it’s amazing, used poorly, it’s terrible. Same with tilling, plowing, hoeing, or otherwise cultivating the soil. Done well, it’s great, done badly, it’ll destroy the soil.

Some tools I suggest you consider with the same pro/con framework are select herbicides. Most herbicides I’d simply stay away from completely: pre-emergents for example. I just don’t see any environmentally sound use for preemergent herbicides for anything outside of row crops, and even there I’m skeptical. And I’d avoid herbicides that have drift issues, dicamba in particular. But judicial and limited use of certain well-tested herbicides with short soil half-lives and well-understood health risks is a powerful tool in helping the environment. Don’t take my word for it–look at what National Parks Service, Ducks Unlimited, the USDA, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the BLM, and state Wildlife Resources Commissions all recommend: using herbicides as a highly effective tool for wildlife and plant conservation and restoration. In all cases, herbicides will be doing the exact same thing as if you physically managed weeds instead. The difference is, herbicides are often the lowest impact tool. Mechanical weed management is more damaging to the soil, can cause erosion, and is often ineffective unless performed multiple times, or is simply completely ineffective at controlling most spreading weeds in the case of mowing/bushwhacking. Glufosinate, a contact herbicide, and the much-maligned glyphosate, a systemtic, both break down quick quickly in warm, moist soil, can be applied to even single plants, act within a few days, and have very low heath or environmental effects if used correctly. There are very simple guidelines to follow that drastically minimize any negative effects: do not spray near water or before rain so fish and aquatic life don’t get exposed, do not drink the herbicides, do not massively over-apply in seasonally dry climates with high soilborne heavy metal concentrations and then drink the runoff from that soil (the only proven case of glyphosate causing mortality, in this case by chelating heavy metals in the soil and then being consumed by chronically dehydrated subsistence farm workers, leading to kidney disease. It’s worth pointing out that vitamin C, or most any chelating agent, would’ve done the exact same thing and caused the same epidemic of kidney disease under those conditions. “RoundUp is as dangerous as Vitamin C” is surprisingly accurate, or was since Bayer stopped using glyphosate in RoundUp and switched to a cocktail of much more dangerous chemicals thanks to all the glyphosate lawsuits…). Again, there are real harms that can be caused by herbicides. Be cognizant of them, but remember there are real benefits as well. Herbicides can often be the least ecologically harmful method of weed management. And compared to mechanical weed control, might also be physically safer as well. They are a tool, use them to a good end. And then enjoy the extra time you freed up by using them for ten minutes and leaving the soil intact instead of spending hours or days painstakingly hand-pulling weeds and ripping up the soil trying to get every last root and throwing your back as a result. Enjoy that extra time, or use it to do more gardening or ecosystem restoration. Again, there’s a reason all those organizations use herbicides, and that reason, ultimately, is because those organizations are interested in preserving and restoring the most land possible, and limited and careful use of herbicides is a critical tool in maximizing efforts while mitigating harm.

I love that channel, but I do think he’s going overboard. Grass has a role, I agree 100%. I spend most of my gardening time killing grass and fighting grass and swearing at grass, yes, but that’s only because the land I have started out as 99% grass and I’m trying to get it down to more like 50% grass. If I started with a forest, I’d be planting grass, not killing it.

The fact that most Americans have too much grass does not mean that you have too much grass. Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t would be doing a lot more good if he wasn’t telling people to kill their lawns but was telling people to shrink their lawns by 30-50% and plant trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials in that freed space. He’d convince more people (only a tiny fraction of people are weird enough to agree to killing their whole lawn, but almost everyone could be convinced to add some trees and shrubs to their lawn), and honestly he’d be doing more good in the long run since the biggest environmental problem with American lawns isn’t even the grass–it’s the constant broadcasting of pre-emergent herbicides and broad-spectrum insecticides that most people use to keep their laws as pristine monocultures that’s the real problem. Don’t tell people to kill their lawns, tell them to diversify their lawns. Persuade people to boast about how many dandelions and how much clover their lawn has and how many different kinds of bee species they counted flying between the lawn and the flowering hedgerow they planted. Have them take pride in the spiranthes orchids and the diminutive vincas popping up in their grass, amuse themselves watching toddlers chase grasshoppers, and just mow their grass an inch or so higher so they get several kinds of grass growing that will naturally fill in any bare spots and so that the random mole tunnel that shows up is not really visible anyway. It’s a home lawn, not a golf course, it doesn’t have to be lifeless acres of 1/4 inch tall monoculture, nor should it be.

Agreed. Woodchip mulch is my mainstay. It stops most weeds, and the weeds it doesn’t, I can either mechanically control (most creeping grasses, prickly lettuce, pine tree and juniper seedlings) or chemically control (bermuda grass, hardwood seedlings, poison ivy–I know the trimmer could control that one, but I’m not about to fill the air with flying bits of that plant, much less hand pull it, no thank you). For my one acre of still-mostly-grass, I use a minimum of 5 or 6 tons every year. Since the speed of breakdown here in the hot and humid South is so fast, I have to reapply that every year. Despite that, and despite adding compost, my soil organic matter doesn’t get much above 10%. The microbial activity is high enough that most anything above that just gets broken down and turned into CO2. Without the woodchip mulch, the level of organic matter would be half that or less. That is also why there’s little benefit for me in leaving pulled or cut weeds as mulch–they’re broken down and turned back into CO2 faster than I can say “dang, I need to mulch that bed again.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t, because clearly your climate is extremely different from mine, I’m just trying to illustrate how carbon cycling works out since here that cycling is on fastforward compared to most of the rest of the US and Canada and thus the weeds start punching through real quick.

Mowing, weedwhacking/trimming, and some use of glyphosate or glufosinate (depending on if I want a systemic or not and on what I’m trying to manage) is for whatever the woodchip mulch doesn’t control. I do consider mowing a form of weed management since unwanted trees and woody plants are, after all, also weeds. And while I want tall grasses in a lot of my backyard, in my front yard those grasses are weeds, and frequent mowing is a tool for controlling them and favoring non-native turf grasses. Those non-native turf grasses are just superior for places I want to be able to walk around like my front yard and near my fruiting plants. And they protect the soil better than native grasses or woody plants would in those high-traffic areas and provide less cover for snakes and ticks. I’m ok with snakes and ticks in places I mostly avoid anyway. I’m not ok with snakes and ticks in places where I, and other people including children, frequently go to enjoy the literal fruits of my labor. I’m not going to spray my entire yard with chemicals to prevent any snakes or ticks from ever being there, but I’m also not going to give up managing all my land by giving up the safe and effective use of tools that would me to provide a maximum amount of good, both to wildlife and to humanlife.

There’s also something of a long-game to be played. Right now, my yard is very sunny and mostly open. That determines what kinds of weeds I have and what plants grow in my yard–and from there, into my beds. And my beds are mostly empty space. As the years go by, that will all change. The trees and shrubs will grow and will require less and less management from me, so I’ll be able to spend more time planting and protecting annual and herbaceous plants (and so I’ll be able to plant more annuals and herbaceous plants, ironically since I’ll also just have more trees and shrubs as well at that point). I won’t need to mulch as much around those trees and shrubs, but my mulch needs will remain high as I expand the beds and shrink my lawn–not to zero, of course, I still want a lawn, but I only need a lawn big enough to look nice and provide a bit of space. I’ll be happy once my lawn is small enough to easily mow with a push mower. And as more and more of the lawn is shady, I’ll start spreading lime on it to encourage clover and discourage those spreading warm-season grasses that invade my beds so much.

As the trees, shrubs, and perennials I have planted mature, and as the patterns of annuals shift around, my weed pressure will change and lessen. Long-term, even the plants I’m putting into the ground are themselves going to be part of my weed management. They are tools, with pros and cons, just like the mulch, an old garden hoe, a sprayer and some bottles of herbicides, my trimmer, and my garden gloves which cost me precision but which let me hand pull horsenettle and the likes when they grow up through my blackberries.

For my climate, winter is the season when the grass goes brown and dormant and all the annual weeds like dandelion, ryegrass, lettuce-family plants, henbit, thistles, alliums, violas, etc take over. I honestly don’t really mind though. I can have that cool looking flat, uniformly green space for most of the summer (minus the ever expanding patches of Bahia grass that would have to be mowed daily to keep sightly… sigh) and get my fill of it then. The off season I can more than live with a bit of an unkept looking lawn, especially since I realize that most everything else is dormant that time of year so what little bit of life is going strong in my lawn is helping a lot of pollinizers, insects, and other wildlife. Sure, I have to mow my yard pretty much year-round, but I’m ok with that too.

Amen!

Milkweed and passionflower are even crazier in how far away they’ll randomly pop up, but they’re also way easier to control. Bermuda grass is a tough SOB.

I have some of it around my foundation. It is on top of landscape fabric and was put down by the previous owner. It’s pretty terrible here. Windblown seed comes up just fine in it, and the random grass clippings and leaves that land in it are impossible to get out and eventually break down and together with dust settling from the air and dirt carried over by water or thrown over by the mower/trimmer form a soil layer in between the rocks on top of the landscape fabric. What weeds to establish are impossible to remove because the roots penetrate the fabric and anchor themselves with it. Pulling those, and doing any kind of work around the foundation, means the rocks inevitably get mixed into the soil, leaving a weedy mess of soil, torn landscape fabric, and rocks.

If I lived somewhere really hot and dry where most plant matter undergoes oxidative decomposition rather than microbial, I could see small rocks being a good ground cover.

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In my home orchard I use landscape fabric around each tree long enough to kill the surface stuff (a full year minimum) and then remove that and put down cardboard and a thick layer of wood chips instead. Like 4+ inches. And then refresh them every year with at least another inch.

Speaking as a green industry worker in a natives-focused company, I’m all for piling on the native species and eliminating the invasives… But it’s really, really hard work. There’s a reason why we’re even in business. Have you looked at the information available through Spriggly’s Beescaping? They’re a very solid resource and I believe they’re happy to advise about techniques if you shoot them an email.

Also speaking as someone in the natives ‘sector’, I don’t plant a lot of the native fruit trees/shrubs. Any disease that can spread to them tends to do so, and there just aren’t a lot of named varieties of them yet anyway. A few exist, and I’ll swear by my Bob Gordon elderberries, but for the most part I can’t be sure of getting usable fruit off those plants, so I’m not devoting the space they need.

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Here’s a question you might know about - what kind of places would sell seeds for native grasses or other native ground cover? I’m in BC, Canada, so will likely need to find a more local supplier than what you would use, but at this point I’m wondering just about what type of business to look for. The local feed&seed store only has stuff for cultivated lawns and pastures. I did a little further research, but it doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing that’s commonly sold.

My experience is much like Pine’s. Nothing is really The Answer. I thought the extra-heavy mulch unnecessarily inhibited spring warm-up in my coolish region (although I’ve come to appreciate what it did for soil structure.)

Keep your expectations in check and plan on plugging away at it to keep things together.

To this end, I’ve come to like my battery-powered 56V string trimmer. The one I bought (Shindaiwa—no longer sold in North America,) had a clever winding device that practically guaranteed no tangles. I imagine several, or all of them have this feature now.

Press the button and 25-30 minutes of uninterrupted weed-whacking fury. 56v is pretty good clout. I’ve now accumulated three batteries.

So I can lay waste to a lot of weeds with nothing more than long pants, eye protection and a shower afterwards.

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