clearing overgrown area, woodland paths...

grullablue(5)January 14, 2012

I hate winter, and spend it thinking about what I'm going to do in the here goes.

We live in the country on a small farmette, and behind our house is a woods, and a natural pond behind the house. A couple of years ago, I cut a meandering path through part of the woods, off the yard, that leads me to a partial clearing of sorts. It's like a dip in the treeline, large, and half oval shaped. There are some beautiful rocks there, and a lot of brush.

To anyone who's ever tackled something like this....I have a couple of questions. To keep all the tall weeds from growing up in the spring, should I spray the area? There are some "weedy" trees I want to get rid of as well. But once the weeds are fully grown, they're up to my waist! I want to get a start on it before those weeds come up. I have considered making a small orchard back there...with a nice, fairly short, but meandering path through the woods. I already have that cleared out. Although if not used regularly, that starts growing over too. I'd like to put in some sort of footing...sand, or limestone screenings, mulch...I don't know. The path is pretty short, but long enough that installing a paver type walk way, financially, is out of the question. I am looking for EASY bridge plans as well...something I could do along that path, there's an inlet to the pond, that's been washed away through the years, where the runoff runs into it (or out of it if the pond floods). It's a ditch filled with rocks, and not easy to walk across. So I just want a small bridge over it. I have some beautiful tiger lilies growing in sunnier sections along the path...and will probably add to the plantings this year. Just an idea I've had...I'd like to use some of that space, and it would be perfect, out of the way (as far as the yard goes), and a beautiful short walk to get there. I took some pics at one time...and have them in an album. You can see I have a lot of work ahead of me!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Clickable link to grullablue's photos:

Spraying will help, but won't kill everything. Some plants are more vulnerable to various herbicides, while others have tubers, bulbs, or strong root systems that will keep the plant alive to leaf out again and again. Keep at it, and be prepared to dig when necessary.

If you have poison ivy, oak, or sumac, be sure you know how to deal with them.

For the small trees, try cutting them down and then immediately painting the cut stumps with a concentrated brush-killer. Some trees will die as soon as you do this (box elder, for example); others may need to be torn out (seedling Bradford pear and autumn olive, IIRC). [This needs to be done when temperatures are warm and the plant is actively growing.]

Weeds will grow in your orchard, so you'll need a way to deal with them: most likely, a mower -- which means you need a path the mower can negotiate.

How wide is the stream where you'll put the bridge?

If the full-grown weeds are only up to your waist, you're lucky! I'm currently (well, when it's a bit warmer) clearing out the mess in my creekbed (if it has thorns, it grows there). The Joe Pye-weed, while gorgeous in flower, is about 15' tall....

    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 11:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The herbicides that you would MOST COMMONLY use work in such a way that they are absorbed through the live, green foliage of the plant and translocated internally throughout the plant tissues in order to kill it. It will not do any good for you to spray bark, dead tissues or soil around a plant. So at this time of year, the only thing you can do (and it will be worthwhile) is to manually cut and get rid of the plants that you don't want. In the spring, these plants will all put out a flush of growth that, at some point will slow down. Don't let any of them re-grow higher than your shoulders or they'll be too difficult to spray. Most weeds will be in the 2 to 4'-range when the flush of growth simmers down. This is when you should spray them with herbicide. The slowing growth is the clue that the above-ground foliage is in balance with the below-ground roots (growth energy.) There's sufficient foliage to absorb a lot of spray and do a lot of damage to the plant. After one week you can cut all the dead plants and remove them.

You will see that many, or even most woody plants after a time (some weeks or a few months) will begin to re-grow new foliage. Again, let this foliage grow until there is enough of it to absorb a lot of spray. It's like the "spring flush of growth" but not as much. Then zap it again with the herbicide. Wait one week and cut and remove. There will probably be three of these "spray and cut" sessions during the first growing season. But you will see that by the end of summer you will be well on the way to controlling and eliminating all the undesired growth. There will be a few plants that will continue to battle you into the second growing season, but keep after them and you will win.

When things begin to get under control, you can heavy mulch the ground to keep weed seeds from sprouting. The best source of free mulch (if you can get it) is tree trimming companies who need a place to dump shredded wood.

To cut the unwanted, dead plants you'll need some stout loppers and a little folding pruning saw. Light duty loppers are worthless. Here, I'll go against the overwhelming preponderance of advice in print as I've used these tools for decades for my personal pleasure and professionally for many years and purchased them for maintenance crews. When I say I FAR PREFER I don't mean a little, but A LOT, the ANVIL type cutting heads (on the loppers and hand pruners) as opposed to the "bypass" type. Everything you read will say the opposite, but I can't believe these people are really using these tools all that much. Why? After a few cuts with the "bypass" type cutters, they begin to dull a little. As soon as this happens, the wood of the plant being cut has a tendency to pry and spread the cutting blades apart from each other. The wood (that's half cut) then jams and sticks tight in between the two blades. You have to stop working and clean out the wood. But it will happen on many of the following cuts, too. This can happen with a new tool in heavy use in less than a day. The ANVIL type just don't have this tendency. They cut and keep on cutting. They can be taken apart and the blades can be sharpened, too. It's easier as they're more or less straight. The "bypass" type are curved and more difficult to sharpen. However, the "bypass" type will be really great the day they're brand spanking new!

I would suggest that if you don't already have a 4-gallon back-pack type sprayer, that you get one. The sprayers that you hold in your hand will rip your arm out of your shoulder socket before you get much work done. The back-packs can go all day... as long as YOUR back will hold up.

People have the mistaken idea that Round-up kills everything. It doesn't. The most effective, readily available and cost effective weed killer is a combination of Glysophate (commonly sold as Round-up)... and one of the 2,4-d products (commonly sold as Weed-b-gone.) Either of these chemicals can be sold under various non-brand trade names and are usually cheaper that way. Mixed together at their full, regular strength, they will work well for general killing of most weeds. I use them in combo because otherwise, you find that you have to go back and spray a lot of things over when one herbicide didn't kill or maim it well enough. So it saves much time and effort. A few tips... don't spray when it's windy, but there will almost always be some slow breeze. Spray a swath while you walk backwards so that you're not walking in the spray and it's not blowing back on you. You can spray anything up to about the height of your shoulders (keep the pressure low when doing so) but not higher or you will eat it. So any weed or sapling that's higher must be cut down to that height or lower, first.

In doing this type of work it's a good idea to know what poison ivy looks like. Even in the winter, ALL leafless parts of the plant are just as toxic as the leaves are in summer. (Unfortunately, I know this from personal experience having gotten a horrible case of it in the face in February once.) If you accidentally discover that you've run into it, there's no need to freak out. It takes some time for the offending oil to work its way into the skin. If you take a shower within a half-hour or so, you'll not suffer any ill effects. Of course, I can't say what the outer limit is on this window of time. Keep in mind that the toxic oil can spread from clothing to skin, so don't take a shower and then handle tainted clothing or tools.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 1:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Can I offer an alternative? I wouldn't use herbicides in my woodland at all if I could avoid it. If you use herbicide you kill everything - good and bad. You then leave a clear area for more weed species to come in.

Could you walk the paths with a brush cutter 2 or 3 times a season? That's enough to keep the stinging nettles and brambles in my wood down. Knock them back in the spring first and then as required. Another technique is simply 'bashing'. This involves knocking the weeds down with a bill hook. They don't need to be cut right through just smashed down. This works on brambles, bracken and nettles. For nettles it can be done with a stout stick, you don't even need any tools. Once the big coarse weeds are weakened the smaller, more delicate native plants get a chance to see the light. You might get some pleasant surprises.

For the tree seedlings I'd follow Yardvaark's advice on tools.

I think patience is needed to get the paths into a state of equilibrium and I personally would not attempt a once only massive chemical attack.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 6:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a similar path through the woods behind my house. I initially used a chainsaw and grubbing hoe for clearing the path. I made it wide enough for a riding mower. I also made the bridge over a stream wide enough. I cover the path with heavy layer of mulch. Once a year I have to prune along the path and upon occasion dig roots of suckers growing up in the the path. I have only used herbicides on the poison ivy, And that is because a couple of the family members are extremely allergic to it.
I take the mower out to the clearings once a year to mow down the winter dormant grass and wildflowers. I replace mulch about once every 3 years. This has worked for me for over 30 years.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 7:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do a plan. Then hire a backhoe.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 8:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all of the input! I fully intend to get out there before things start sprouting, to try to clear some of it. It used to be a nice space...when I was a teen, I used to pitch a tent out there. I did plant some wildflowers in one spot last year, and kept a rain barrel out there so I could collect the water for watering the plants. It worked out well. It's just a beautiful space, and I LOVE the only takes a minute to walk it, but I spent one spring creating it, with just some cutters like Yardvaark posted. Took some blood and sweat, and a lot of sore nights, but is so worth it. I have this beautiful space back there and didn't use was nice to have friends swing by, and be able to take them back there to show them my "space". I also made a short path from that space to the edge of the pond...and then a path along the pond back up to the starting point. But....I sure realized I have a LOT of work ahead of me! A lot of the trees are boxelder type trees, some big thorn bushes (with the red berries on them) It' sjust a nice, serene spot back there, and I want to make use of it. After I created the path, my son and a friend of his used to hang out back there all the time. My son called it "the secret garden," because no one would know it's there. Even the path opening is disguised until you're right there. There's a weeping willow in the yard that kind of hides it. There are a few places like this on our farm. Beyond the pasture, theres another spot that is lined with trees, has some HUGE boulders (one is as flat as a table top, and about that's awesome!). There are grape vines growing up there, and an old merry-go-round set up that my grandfather used to play on in his school yard as a kid. Since we live on a fairly busy county road, it's nice to go back to these places and just reflect on life....

Thank you for the input! I was not sure where to post I appreciate the feedback! Will check into all of it!


    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 9:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you use herbicide you kill everything... Only if you spray it which, of course, is pretty much the goal in the beginning. It's not as though one shuts their eyes and spins wildly out of control while spraying. Herbicides are broken down in relatively short order by sunlight and weathering. I think the decision to use or not use will depend a great deal on (besides politics and philosophy) one's overall goals and what mechanized equipment a person has at their disposal for ongoing maintenance. In my case, I've needed land cleared and cleaned in order to plant other things. There's no more difficult situation than good plants entangled with bad. Cutting, in most cases, does not kill, so one ends up with an interminable and frequent battle to fight. My preference is to just get it over with. Even if one chooses to use herbicide, the nice thing is that subsequent maintenance after the initial control is accomplished, requires but a mere fraction of the amount it took originally. A heavy mulch can do a lot of the work. If you're not planting other plants, then maybe the periodic cutting will work fine for you.

I neglected to mention a couple of things. Most sprayers come with round spray tips. They're OK for general weed killing & clearing. But after distinct lines of maintenance are determined (such as in a yard where "good" plants grow) round spray tips are not precise enough. I would change over to a flat fan tip and then you can control, with great precision, where spray goes and where it doesn't (assuming you heed the common sense precautions, of course.) Another thing to watch when spraying is that you only WET the foliage... not spray to the point of run-off. That's just wasting material.

I forgot about your bridge needs. Why couldn't you create a bridge out of medium, smallish (8" +/-) trees that are close by... using the trunks for beams and branches for "flooring"? With a width of 3' or so, it doesn't seem as though this would be too difficult. The primitive look would fit the situation. You could cut the whole business with the folding saw I mentioned (a 10" blade would work.) It will not last a long time, but would be easy enough to replace when the time came. If the span of the bridge is such that you need heftier beams, you might need to cut by chain saw and use a come-a-long in order to move them into position. Or use more beams.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Many years ago we developed raw land up on the heavily wooded Pacific north coast.
We used a bulldozer to do much of the clearing but when it came to cutting threw the thick brush to create paths and clean out the woods I used a brush cutter , which is basically a highly powerfull professional weed eater with a blade (much like a skill saw blade) on the end. It cut down shrubby manzanita, small redwood sprouting trees, thickets of torny black berries and stands of woodwardia ferns.
I used round -up the first year. Using what I had learned from the viticulture department I tied a rag ( old t-shirt ) around the end of the sprayer and brushed the newly ermerging sprouts in the spring time with the cloth soaked herbicide .
After the first year I never resumed using the round up for environmental reasons. From there on afterward I kept up with the weeds with a combination of string weed wacker and the brush cutter.

In regards to a bridge for your stream. Lots of kits out there to choose from or a simple well engineered ( research your supporting joist spans ) bridge is a project for someone with modest to very experienced wood working skills.

A project up on the coast over looking the ocean.
From California Gardening

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 2:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For the bridge you may want to talk to some log cabin people. A lot of the log have been treated for rot prevention. Let it weather and it will look like it belong there. You could also use some of the native rock you have for supports.
My paths meander with no strait lines. Some of the are only a few feet apart but the brush hide them from one another.
I have a bench (fallen log) in a clearing where I will sit just to quietly watch what is going on with the nature I have not touched (other than the path and bridge).
Just a note about herbicides. Once brush has been cut the root system is still alive but the quantity of leaf is gone. Therefore it become hard to kill with there is very little left to carry it down to the roots. I have used a product called remedy. It is diluted with diesel. 1 part remedy to 4 parts diesel. I cut the tree/brush and immediately paint the cut stump with the solution. It will only work on a fresh cut. It is effective on most brushy plants. I got rid of some trash tree by just painting the lowere 6" of bark. They died and fell to the ground over time.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 6:04AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Trying to design a border in front of elevated deck
I want to plant several shrubs in front of my elevated...
Help with small retaining wall
I am starting to landscape my yard and am having trouble...
Raised Garden Bed Construction Help
Hello Everyone! What wonderful help! I've built about...
Garden Chickee
Overwhelmed by new homes
I bought a new home just over a year ago in Northwest...
New construction landscaping
I am looking for any suggestions for low maintenance...
Sponsored Products
ELK Lighting Confections 31130 Pendant - 10W in. - 31130/3FDG
$324.00 | Hayneedle
Cambria 19" High Post Light
Lamps Plus
Night and Day 19 1/2" Wide Smoke Grey Pendant
Lamps Plus
Cove Transparent Clear Modern Lucite Dining Chair (Set of 2)
Eurostyle Trave-B 36 Inch Round Glass Bar Table in Chrome & Black
Beyond Stores
The "Berlin Jade" Mini Pendant Light
| Dot & Bo
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™