Knotweed round one

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In Mexican Bamboo, I wrote about my preparations for eliminating the swale of Japanese knotweed in our front yard.

Now that it’s early June, it’s had 3-4 weeks to grow. Left alone, most of what is currently there would not grow much more. For the rest of the growing season, it would invest its growing energy in extending its territory. My main goal for this year is to prevent that.

The initial growth period uses up quite a bit of the energy & nutrients stored in the root network. So, I intentionally waited until it had grown to full size to maximize the resource drain before starting at it.

The backhoe is saving me lots of time pulling the stumps and breaking up the root system.
The backhoe is saving me lots of time pulling the stumps and breaking up the root system.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll rip out all the large stumps and any large roots I can find in the process. This accomplishes 5 things:

  • It removes another chunk of the resources stored in the root network. This swale is well established so I’m estimating that the combined loss is going to be about 20% of the stored resources.
  • Although breaking up the root network means there are lots of pieces of root to grow over time, each piece has limited resources to grow a new plant making it easier to exhaust.
  • A secondary benefit of breaking up the root system is that the size of the shoot is an indicator of the size of the root. This makes it fairly easy to identify larger roots.
  • An established stump can replace a large stock in a few days but smaller shoots growing from buried roots can be cut off every couple weeks with a grass trimmer. The time involved in keeping it cut back is substantially less.
  • The knotweed invests its resources into regaining the “lost” territory instead of trying to extend it.
Current progress
Progress on the de-stumping as of yesterday. Tractor for scale.

Cleaning up from Arthur

Front view at time of purchase

Tropical storm Arthur came through New Brunswick and downed so many trees that we were 8 days without power. The longest power outage I had experienced prior to that was under 36 hours.

Our new property had 10 trees blown over. I expect that all of them were taken down by Arthur. While the trees don’t need to be cleaned up right away, the longer they sit there the more work it takes to clean them up. It’s also more work once the snow gets so deep. Since we aren’t trying to move in as soon as possible, cleaning them up sooner is better.

I grew up around chainsaws. We had a woodlot and had heated our place in Wirral with wood so I’ve spent a few hundred hours working with chain saws. Over the last 10 years I’ve had hardly any reason to use one so running one started out as both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

Almost 30 years ago, I took a job doing pre-commercial thinning which I did for 3 years. The weapon of choice for forestry thinning is a bush saw that hangs from a harness that you wear.

If I remember correctly, my brush saw weighed 25 lbs, my safety gear weigh another 10, thinning an acre required walking an average of 17 miles, and your goal was to thin an acre a day. Running a brush saw could wear you out.

The trick to running a brush saw for 6-8 hours a day was developing a rhythm and letting the saw do the work. You job is to keep track of your footing, where trees, obstacles, etc. are, and guide the saw.

While I was cutting up the tree on the front lawn I realized that I also had a rhythm with the chainsaw. It had probably taken about a half hour for me to get it back. The rhythm isn’t the same as a brush saw because they are different equipment doing different jobs. But, the rhythm is based on the same things: footing, obstacles, what’s next & letting the saw do the work.

It’s safe to say I sleep well after an afternoon on the business end of a chainsaw but I find it relaxing. Given I spend Monday to Friday sitting in front of a computer there are definitely benefits to keeping my heart rate up for most of an afternoon.

Front view after cutting up the downed tree
This was taken from approximately the same place as the front view on purchase picture

Mexican Bamboo

Japanese Knotwood

Both the property in Miramichi and the one in Lakeville had a colony of Mexican Bamboo (or Japanese Knotweed). It’s a fast growing invasive species that is capable of killing off most vegetation that does not grow taller than it does.

I succeeded in killing it off on both properties. In both cases, it took 5 years. When I looked out of the window on our second viewing and saw it in front of the house, I chuckled. Having done it twice before I knew I could do it again & how long it was going to take.

When I was working away at it in Miramichi I did some Internet research. I found a site that explained why it was so difficult to kill off. The roots are brittle and are prone to breaking. The root system of the growing plants emit a chemical into the soil. So long as the chemical balance of the soil contains a certain level of the chemical, the broken off pieces of root remain dormant.

My guess is that the broken off roots only have a shelf life of a few years. If they don’t grow within 2-4 years they die. That means that if you can keep it from extending it’s root system for 3-4 years, the remaining roots in the soil die.

Even though the growing season is over, I got a head start on next year. The old stocks get in the way of cutting it back the next year’s growth. It doesn’t hurt that it improves the street view of the house.

After the Japanese Knotwood was cut back
View from the front after the Japanese Knotwood was cut back.