OK, so now I have a plan; where do I start? The UNH Coop Extension folks have told me that September is a great time to cut back the invasive plants and that means getting started right away. Matt Tarr gave me the names of three companies that could potentially do the brush clearing with a brontosaurus, so I decided to get going by contacting them to come out and take a look.
I contacted Rick Ambrose, from Dover (603-740-9695), and Jeff Eames of Ft. Mountain Land and Timber (Suncook, NH –(603) 485-4459). Matt also suggested John Brown and Sons, with Mike Snook as the contact (603-533-9885).
In the meantime, I was talking to two landscapers – one who had done some brush cutting for me along the driveway previously, Mike Viera, of Nature’s Edge Landscaping, and one whose son is doing my lawn mowing, Mr. Hull – a long time Durham resident, who, it turns out, did brush cutting a long time ago for the folks I bought the house from. Mr. Hull has lived his whole life in this area, and seems to know everyone. He looked at the list from Matt (given above) and said that John Brown and Sons was a very big outfit, with huge equipment, and my job would likely be way too small for them.
Here is what the meadow and the surrounding invasives look like now:
Here is one edge of the meadow (August 25, 2016), mainly overgrown with autumn olive. The underbrush is full of poison ivy. Behind the autumn olive are some large oak trees and shag bark hickory.
This is the back of the meadow (August 25, 2016) – you can see that behind the brush are some large trees – mainly oak. Just beyond those trees is a tidal marsh with salt grass. Once the brush is removed, I should be able to see the marsh.
Rick came out and spent almost two hours walking around my property. He told me that he has worked a lot with Matt Tarr and understands the goal of controlling the invasive woody shrubs while keeping wildlife in mind. He pointed out that the birds that have been nesting in the shrubs will be finished with their nests in September, so its a good time to cut. He agreed with the UNH Coop Extension recommendations, and said he had the equipment to get it done – a smaller machine that could get into the various areas, and agreed that opening up the periphery of the meadow would really open up my view.
He also warned me that the brontosaurus makes a mess; it leaves big wood chips and tons of litter, and it takes years for it to decompose, and that it would be hard to plant grass on top of it the first year. We talked about how to control the brush from coming back, and he suggested mowing but I think he really meant brush hogging, since the stumps left will be too high for a conventional mower. I was thinking this might have to be once a month, but he was talking about once a year. (The autumn olive can grow waist high in one season. I see it by the pond where I cut it last year.)
We walked the driveway, and he suggested the same thing – get the machine in there an chew up all the invasives, and then brush hog to control re-growth.
Then the practicalities – cost for this project will likely be about $2000, and it should take a couple of days. He was concerned about getting his big truck in -he will have to drive over the lawn to turn it around and off load his equipment. He told me he wouldn’t drive over my paved driveway, as his machinery would tear up the asphalt. Since I just spent a lot of money having a couple of sections of driveway re-paved, this is an important concern of mine.
This all sounded great and was consistent with the Extension folks, so it sounded like I was ready to hire Rick to get this done by the end of September.
A couple of days later, Jeff came out and did the same thing – walked all around the property and looked at the job. He had a very different take on the whole thing. He felt that getting a brontosaurus in was not the right thing to do. His suggestion was to hire someone to come in with a chain saw and a brush hog, and probably a chipper, and do it more as a custom job by hand. He also talked quite a bit about using glyphosate (herbicide) to control the re-growth of the invasive brush and weeds and pointed out that as soon as the brush was cleared, the invasive plants that are just waiting to explode, will take over unless I spray.
He commented that his equipment was too big to work here, and he wouldn’t even attempt it, as the machine would damage the driveway. He also mentioned that the brontosaurus would leave a mess and particularly on the driveway, it might not look how I would like it for a long time. He gave me the name of a fellow from Newton who he said could do the job with a brush hog and clearing more “by hand” – Dave Marden (603-231-7644). He suggested that Dave could cut back the brush with a chain saw or a brush saw, and he would cut it very close to the ground, as he wouldn’t want to risk blowing a tire when he brush hogged the area.
OK, now I am confused. Mike from Nature’s Edge weighed in – he kind of agrees with Jeff; do it more by hand. He suggested pulling the autumn olive trees up with a chain on a tractor as their root systems are shallow, and then taking them to the dump, and then they will not come back as there are no roots to re-grow. (But that doesn’t deal with all the other invasive shrubs… ). He also said that big machinery would make a mess.
Let’s sort this out:
Option 1: Brontosaurus
- Get the whole job done quickly and remove all invasive brush on the driveway and around the meadow
- Machine, not human, labor intensive
- All cut brush pulverized, and providing a lot of litter (wood chips) that will eventually degrade and be good for the soil
- I’ve got a guy that thinks he can do it with his machinery and is ready to roll (Rick)
- Leaves a mess
- Will leave enough chips that it will be hard to plant the recommended conservation mix grass to control re-growth; might have to wait at least a season to do that, or rake the litter (very labor intensive)
- Might be difficult to control re-growth (spraying with glyphosate? brush hogging several times a year)
- Might tear up my driveway
Option 2: “Hand” removal (this could be a combination of pulling up stuff with a tractor, cutting stuff and applying glyphosate on the stumps, cutting stuff and brush hogging)
- No messy wood chips and litter on the ground
- Could potentially plant grass directly
- No risk of ruining the driveway
- Much more labor intensive – not clear how long it would take
- Would likely require more chemical application
- I would need to sort out who does what – who does the pulling (Mike V. proposed this) who does the cutting and chemicals (Dave Marden?) and who does the brush hogging (Christian Hull who mows my lawn says he can do that).
To sort this out, I think I need to talk again to Matt!
Talking to Matt helped think through these options: he is pretty skeptical of the “cutting by hand” option; we agreed that everything needs to be cut down to the ground, and probably the best shot at that is the brontosaurus approach. He agreed that if Rick’s machine leaves bigger wood chips, it would be hard to plant through that litter, and it could be raked with something called a “york rake” which would move the litter into piles, allowing for grass to be planted.
Here are some pictures of the intense brush on either side of my driveway. The left picture is a mess of bittersweet, multiflora rose, and autumn olive.
Then we talked about control – Matt believes that a combination of cutting and herbicide application will be needed. He cautioned that I would need someone with a herbicide applicator license to do that work. He said it will be very important to rake the litter and plant immediately, because once brushy shrubs start coming up in the debris, they will be even harder to control. He suggested talking to Dave Marden, and get his take on the job, as he has a lot of equipment. Matt rejected the idea of just pulling up the autumn olive by the roots, and there is so much other stuff that needs control, and as soon as the autumn olive is out, that stuff will explode in growth due to the sunlight.
It feels like a plan is taking shape… Dave Marden (603231-7644) is coming out tomorrow to take a look. Then I will get a 5th opinion! Its great to have the UNH Coop Extension folks to help me sort through the options.
Opinions on the Opinions
Talked to Rick Ambrose again to follow up on what Matt suggested. I asked him about the wood chips left on the site – would the york rake work? He said he didn’t think so because I was looking to leave some of the pine trees and apple trees in place – it would be hard to rake around them. I asked him what he thought about pulling the big invasive brush out by the roots, and he agreed that would reduce the wood litter, and might be a reasonable approach. We talked about how else I could handle all the wood chips and he suggested some of them could be chipped more with a chipper – but that seems way too labor intensive for the area I am talking about. I asked him about how late he would suggest for planting the grass (conservation mix) and he said that no later than Oct 15 to get it going before a hard frost.
Dave Marden also came out to do a walk about, and he raised a couple of new issues. First – he noticed several small (1-2 ft) white pines in among the brush behind the meadow, and he thought it would be worth keeping those, and working around them. Second, he was skeptical of the planting of grass in September, and maybe even October, as it has been so dry, and unless it was watered (not feasible) it wouldn’t sprout and would be a waste of money. He suggested that instead of planting the conservation mix I should consider planing winter rye – it would serve as green manure, and could be mowed down and then the conservation mix could be planted in the spring.
Here are a couple of views of the driveway edge – its a struggle to maintain the grassy edge as the autumn olive trunks are back from the edge about 6-10 feet, but the branches grow out and over.
Dave was very adamant about pulling the big autumn olives out by their roots; he said the stumps they would leave would be too big and grinding them up would generate too much material. He has a smaller bronto that can get in and be more selective in what he grinds up, and would pull the big stuff, bronto other areas, and be more custom and selective. He will give me a price tomorrow (Aug 29) and we shall see what role the $ will play in my decisions.
About six weeks have passed, during which I left for a long vacation, came back, thought some more, agonized over the cost, and decided that I needed to go with Dave Marden’s suggestions – pull up the autumn olive by the roots, brush hog the rest, leaving the little pines and apple trees, and then plant winter rye. It has been and still is WAY to dry to plan conservation mix grass. The ground is still bone dry in spite of a couple of rain days. Although this alternative is more expensive it has some advantages:
- Pulling those big autumn olives out by their roots gets rid of a bunch of stumps, and avoids all the debris and mess of brontausaurus cutting (sp?).
- Instead of just massive destruction, this will save the little pines that might discourage regrowth of invasives
- Putting the winter rye down now should out compete the brush that will try and come back in the Spring.
Dave said he would be here starting Monday, October 17th so stay tuned for pictures!
Now that I decided how to start, I wanted to get a jump start on the smaller autumn olives that were coming back along the east side of the driveway – these were bigger plants at some point – I can see large stumps on many of them where they were previously cut, but they are coming back and some are head high, although not as dense as around the meadow.
Clearly, just cutting them back is not enough. Rick had told me about a company that sells these nifty little dispensers for glyphosate, and some blue dye, so you can cut a stump, treat it and mark it at the same time. (see details on the resource page). Here is what they look like:
I spent a couple of hours cutting and treating and the edge looks so much better, and I see a little bit of progress:
I’m doing it the low tech way – a hand pruning saw and clippers for the little branches.