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What Is The Best Way To Get Rid Of An Invasive Plant

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  • 20-07-2022
What Is The Best Way To Get Rid Of An Invasive Plant

What is the best way to get rid of an invasive plant? We look at types of invasive non-native plants and the best ways to eliminate them from your garden.

How to Get Rid of Invasive Plants

Dealing with invasive plant species is a time-consuming job; it involves various tasks from searching, treating, and removing non-native plants, to the safe disposal of all plant material. 

Whether you brought invasive plants into your garden and now they've overtaken, or they've appeared on their own, they can cause havoc for natural local wildlife and ecosystems.

Not to mention their robust ability to grow enormous and further spread to other areas external to your garden. The most effective way to treat and remove the invasive plant will depend on the type of plant, its location, proximity to other plant species, personal chemical preferences and growth of the plant. 

Should Invasive Plant Species Be Eliminated?

More and more gardeners are learning about the detrimental effects of spraying harmful chemical herbicides onto plants and surrounding wildlife.

For many people, remaining true to organic landscaping roots in their garden is considerably more valuable than removing invasive plants quicker, as for many people, enjoyment comes from the hard work put into the task and the satisfaction of the self-completed finished product. 

The use of chemical herbicides on invasive plant species can negatively affect closeby water sources, native plants, fruit-bearing plants, animals and ecosystems. So if you're planning on using chemical herbicides, sure, it's the best choice, and that risk is eliminated. 

Although it may take more muscle and a longer time, removing invasive plants by hand, or machine, works just as well as using chemical herbicides, without the damaging effects on plant and animal life.

There are plenty of methods to fight off invasive plant species from your garden or yard space without the use of chemicals; below, we discuss these safer alternatives along with the herbicides available.

The manual or mechanical removal of invasive plants is quite effective, although it is more time-consuming and physically demanding than chemical removal. Various processes are involved in this kind of plant removal, including; cutting, digging, pruning, mowing, hoeing (for roots) and the disposal of the removed plant material.

When extracting invasive plant species by hand, be ready for some hard graft during the removal and the regeneration of the space after removal. When digging out invasive plants, you can unintentionally damage the surrounding plants, so take extra care, especially when they're in close proximity. 

If you prefer organic and natural methods when removing invasive plant species, be ready to take on more arm work. But at the same time, the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a long task is unbeatable. Moreover, if you have outdoor pets, such as cats or rabbits, using organic ingredients rather than toxic herbicides protects their health.

At home, you can create a simple natural herbicide by combining four parts cleaning vinegar, one part water and a dash of washing-up liquid. Put the mix into a spray bottle, and you're ready to go! The best time to spray the mix on the targeted invasive plants is on a calm, dry and sunny day. When you spray the plants, pull the top leaves away so the base is reachable and the roots are more exposed.

Another way to simply and naturally remove invasive plant species is to pour boiling water over them. Smaller, younger and tender plants will easily be affected by the boiling water, but for sturdy wood-like-stemmed plants, it won't work unaided. Another less used organic method is 'Smothering'; this is best for vast areas with no 'good plants' (native plants) needing saving.

Smothering involves covering the area with a UV-stable tarp or heavy plastic sheet. This process is a slow form of removal, taking up to two years for all vegetation below the sheet to die. 

If you decide to use chemicals in your garden to remove invasive plant species, there are two chemicals most often used; Triclopyr and Glyphosate. 

These chemicals are very effective at removing invasive species, but surrounding plants, wildlife and ecosystems will be damaged. Whether minimal or major damage is caused, using toxic chemicals can lead to long-lasting negative effects. Below, the two most-used chemicals for treating invasive plant species are discussed.

Take extra care to read any chemical labels and follow directions and safety advice correctly. Triclopyr (e.g. Brush-B-Gone and Garlon)It works best on woody plants like shrubs and doesn't cause extensive damage to monocots (grass & grass-like flowering plants). Triclopyr is selective, so less damage is caused to neighbouring wildlife/plantlife. 

A non-selective chemical, Glyphosate can and will kill just about anything green it comes into contact with.

Even grass and ornamental landscape plants like hedges can be killed with this chemical.

Whether you treat invasive plant species by manual, organic, or chemical methods, some plant matter will remain. It is important to gather the material and dispose of it in a way that prevents seeds from scattering or roots from reestablishing themselves. Moreover, birds can easily transport seeds or plant material.

Follow the guidelines of your local municipality for the disposal of garden waste. TIP: DON'T burn invasive plant species that may produce toxic smoke (poison ivy).

Types of invasive non-native plants

Invasive plant species can be defined as plants that are NOT indigenous to the environment it was located. Some common ways a plant is introduced are by ship ballast water, dispersion of seeds, underground rhizomes, and of course, by people being careless.

Whether the invasive species was introduced accidentally or purposely, once established, it can grow into a huge problem for local wildlife and ecosystems by creating monocultures, taking all the ground nutrients, and overshadowing native plant species blocking sunlight.

Below we discuss the most common invasive plant species found in the UK and describe their qualities.  

This fast-growing and strong clump-forming deciduous perennial has tall and dense stems, with stem growth regenerating each tear from the stout. Japenese Knotweed has deep-penetrating Rhizomes that are adapted stems, although they look like swollen roots.

Although the non-native plant was originally introduced into the UK as an ornamental garden plant, the fast-growing and adaptable plant quickly became invasive. This is also one of the most economically damaging invasive plants to eradicate, as removal on development sites is mandated by law, and costs can dramatically rise. 

Japenese Knotweed has limited ecological impact, although it can take the spot native plants could have grown. 

Native to Southern Russia, Giant Hogweed is a widespread invasive weed that was first introduced to the UK in the 19th century as an ornamental garden plant. 

Closely related to cow parsley, carrots and parsnips, Giant Hogweed is a member of the Apiaceae family. The plant grows on river banks, waste ground, and roadside verges, with seeds, often travelling by water.

Giant Hogweed has large umbrella-shaped flower heads that create dense clumps and can grow over 3 meters in height, out-competing various native plants. Although it's not illegal to grow in private gardens, it's an offence to wild plant Giant Hogweed or allows it to grow out of your garden space.

This non-native, invasive annual herb came from the Himalayas in 1939 to be used as an ornamental garden plant but quickly became an invasive species spreading throughout the English countryside. 

It has stout, red/translucent coloured stems growing up to 2.5m, with its leaves in whorls of 3 or opposite each other, and flowers in short spurs coloured purplish-pink to white.

Himalayan Balsam is often found near waterways like riverbanks or canal sides, with bees loving the plant and unintentionally spreading it further. The plant produces a surplus of seedpods, with each exploding and dispersing up to 800 seeds each!

Rhododendron ponticum was first introduced into Britain during the early 19th century, often used as cover for game birds. The evergreen invasive plant is native to western and eastern Mediterranean regions (Asia & China). Blooming in spring, it produces large trusses of mauve-coloured flowers.

It's strongly recommended to NOT plant Rhododendron ponticum in particular. However, the Rhododendron family has hundreds of other species you can plant without worrying about invasion or excess spreading into the wild. 

Native to New Zealand, this invasive plant species can reproduce vegetatively in an asexual manner, making it incredibly intrusive. A small piece of plant material can lead to a new sprout growing; these plant fragments are easily carried on equipment (fishing kits, boats, cars etc.), clothing or by animals, especially birds.

It's a perennial with greeny-yellow opposite succulent leaves (<20mm) with small solitary pale pink/white flowers on pedicels (>2mm). New Zealand pygmyweed is damaging the lake district, with professionals worrying about it spreading to all lakes. 

The non-native weed dramatically out-competes all native plant species, creating a monogamous environment and destroying the freshwater equivalent of coral reefs. 

How To Fight Invasive Plants

The invasive plants you come across will vary depending on the region, so having awareness of the key problematic plants ensures minimal spreading and monopolisation of local ecosystems. A quick search on the internet or chat with a local professional will highlight the local common garden weeds you need to find and remove.

Another option is phone apps for plant identification like 'Seek by iNaturalist'. Once aware of the invasive plant species you're looking for, remain vigilant when monitoring the property, and especially the property boundary - to prevent spreading. 

Searching, removing and disposing of invasive plant species in the earlier stages saves a lot of work, time, and money and reduces damage to other native plants.

A quick and unavoidable way invasive plants spread is through seed deposition. The species that produce the most seeds are often biennials and annuals, although most invasive species by nature are egregious seed spreaders. 

Preventing seed production is key to reducing the spread of invasive species; this can be done with simple string-trimming, mowing or deadheading plants before seeds can mature.

Furthermore, be wary of birds around these plants as they can carry seeds long distances. Seed banks can quickly develop in the soil, once this happens, it can take a good few years to control the situation. You can use mulch (e.g., White Clover, Aromatic Herbs, Wood Chips) to cover the topsoil and reduce the number of dormant seeds that can germinate in the soil. 

The plants categorised as underground spreaders are always on the offensive, as their Rhizomes dig under the soil to establish new plant growth. Some examples include Japanese Knotweed, English ivy and even smaller tubers like Ficaria Verna.

Early identification and removal of these underground plants are vital to prevent spreading and reduce the work needed for removal. Ensure all fragments of invasive plant species are disposed of correctly to avoid further treatment being required. 

Some invasive plant species, most often woody plants like 'Burning bush' or 'Japanese barberry', get their seeds spread over long distances by birds. In natural and unmanaged areas, this can be a huge problem compared to a standard private garden.

If you own vast landscapes, be wary of the growth of invasive species; search, destroy and dispose of them as soon as possible to save other plants. 

Do you have a Japanese Knotweed problem? If you require Japanese Knotweed Removal in Essex or throughout the UK, contact our expert today.