Thursday, April 09, 2015

Maintenance in the Native Plant Garden: Springtime Editing, Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the tasks that I find needs to be done each spring is editing.   When you invite animals (especially birds) into your gardens, you are going to get quite a few seeds planted, all of which will be encouraged to grow with a nice dollop of fertilizer.  Many of these will not be plants that you want growing, especially not where they've been planted.

Of course, too, native plants are designed to reproduce on their own...and if they are happy where you've planted them, they may well decide to "go forth and multiply".   Some species are notorious for this, while others reseed or spread only when the conditions are particularly perfect.

So, as the native plant gardener, you can keep things looking relatively tidy simply by removing excess plants once a year - and I find that early spring is the best time to transplant.  Why not take advantage of free plants?!

Personally, I fully understand the need to edit plants out...but I have a terribly hard time actually doing it, especially if I have to discard the plants I remove.  To be truthful, I've gone for years without editing, so my beds tend to get somewhat overgrown at times.  Of course, I like the full, cottage garden look, so this doesn't usually bother me too much, but if you like a more controlled look, editing out is a step that you won't want to skip.

So, on to the actual editing that I'm doing this spring.

Once I got the two areas of my front garden bed appropriately and fully cut back this morning, it was much easier to evaluate what needed to be removed or moved.

The Peach Blossom tulips are planted almost on top of a penstemon, which isn't really a problem as the tulips will die back shortly...but there was also a healthy looking young honeysuckle growing up beside them.  You can see it growing from the base of the plant tag in the photo above.  I DO NOT want a 10' honeysuckle shrub in this location, so that seedling had to go.  Given their invasive nature around here, I don't have any qualms about getting rid of honeysuckle seedlings.  For that reason, I don't like to pass along honeysuckles, either. 

For this honeysuckle seedling, a single stab with a dandelion remover to loosen the soil around its roots, followed by a strong yank, removed it, root and all.

In the center of this next photo is an area under the Callery pear that I've not paid much attention to in the past.  If you look carefully, you can see 3 "small," skinny, woody, hackberry saplings.  At the base of the white plant tag there is a clump of green that is actually a cluster of seedlings which includes a honeysuckle and several Callery pears.  There is another biggish honeysuckle seedling to the left of the plant tag, and there are dozens of Callery pear seedlings in the center of this spot, too.  ALL of these baby woody plants had to go, or this will become a thicket in next to no time.

In removing woody seedlings, the sooner you get to them, the better.  That's why an annual sweep is such a good thing.  For the hardy plants that survive on the Plains, the roots will go down deep and strong;  by the time even a year has passed, getting a woody seedling out of the ground is infinitely harder than removing it shortly after it has germinated.  Give one of these plants a couple years' growth and it's going to be hard to remove without utilizing Roundup, probably multiple times.

On the other hand, if you catch a young tree seedling shortly after it has germinated, all you need to do is give a slight tug and it slips out of the ground, root and all.  If you break off the stem at this stage, there's no problem of future growth, because the plant has no reserves yet in its roots.

It's all about the roots, 'bout the roots, no cutting....  (Confession time:  I found myself singing, "It's all about the roots, 'bout the roots, no cutting...." to the tune of "All About the Bass" for way more time than was rational today.  You're welcome for the earworm, by the way.)  Once a native prairie, woody plant is established, if you simply cut it off at ground level, it will just come back, stronger than before.  Prairie plants are like that.

In the spot above, I had to dig down and cut out the hackberry seedlings as far below the soil line as I could manage.  It remains to be seen if that was far enough down to kill the plants.  If not, I'll have to repeat the process or resort to Roundup.  The honeysuckles came out with strong tugs, roots and all.  I must have pulled out 50 pear seedlings - but they were easy, as the soil was moist (I watered) and they had just germinated this spring. 

This little hackberry seedling located right next to the walkway is one that I let get too big shortly after said walkway was put in, then cut out a year or two ago.  Obviously I didn't get down far enough on the roots when I originally tried to remove it, so I had to repeat the process today.  Hopefully today's butchering will do the trick.

I have a LOT of Callery pears germinating in my beds this year.  Callery pear, Prunus calleryana, is the official species of pear that I usually call "Bradford pear."  Bradford pear is actually a cultivar of Callery pear, but there are also many other varieties of Callery pear on the market these days. This is not a native species, but the tree came with the house and I haven't had the temerity to cut it down.  As pretty as it is in the spring, it reseeds ridiculously.  I consider it a real nuisance plant.

I've got more plant editing that I want/need to do in these beds, but I'm waiting for a friend to come over and get some of the plants when I take them out.  Yeah, I'm putting off the next stage of editing again....  I'll show you that stage next time - I promise!


Corner Gardener Sue said...

I'm still trying to figure out what some of my volunteers are. I will be editing soon.

Gaia Gardener: said...

That's always an issue. My husband swears that I should pull out everything I can't recognize, but my tendency is to leave everything until I learn what it is. I have learned a lot by doing it my way! (Including the fact that, sometimes, I should have done it his way....)

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Well, one benefit of being so dry is that I've had fewer things to edit. However, I have plenty of annuals that I pull every year or they'll crowd out something else. Why is it the plants that I want to spread around won't leave their original planting?

Gaia Gardener: said...

GoSS, I wish I knew the answer to that conundrum! Henbit, crabgrass, foxtail - they ALL come up with gusto, no matter how dry and/or hot it's been. The plants that I'm zealously protecting and hoping to have spread - eh, not so much.