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Control buckthorn before it controls you

Buckthorn is an invasive woody plant. The Department of Agriculture lists it as a restricted noxious weed, which makes it illegal to sell, propagate or plant buckthorn.

It does not, however, require removal of existing buckthorn, so any effort by homeowners to remove it is voluntary.

Buckthorn control

Late fall and winter is a great time to control buckthorn for anyone who chooses to do so.

First, buckthorn is easy to identify in late fall since it holds its leaves later than native trees and shrubs. This gives homeowners less chance of inadvertently damaging desirable woody plants if applying herbicides.

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Treat the stump

The most common method of buckthorn control for homeowners who choose to do the work themselves is to cut the buckthorn off and treat the stump with a product containing Triclopyr Amine, which is available in small container sizes from local garden centers.

Wet the surface of the cut stump immediately with the herbicide as directed on the label.

Commercial companies and those that have larger properties can use Triclopyr Ester formulas which offer an option of cut-stump or low-volume basal applications.

In a low-volume basal application, the chemical is mixed with a diluent which penetrates the bark. The mixture is simply sprayed on the lower 12 to 16 inches of the standing buckthorn stem.

The dead plant can be left standing or removed at a later date. This approach is efficient on large sites where cutting and dragging large quantities of brush is cost prohibitive.

Pull it up

Small plants may also be pulled by hand, which is a viable option to control new seedlings after the initial control of the larger plants with herbicides. This is most easily done when the soil is moist.

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Controlling buckthorn usually requires three to four years of fairly intensive management and then periodic control of new plants thereafter. The rate at which it re-invades will be dependent on the number of fruiting plants that are on adjacent properties.

Q&A

I thought you might give me some ideas on problems I am having with getting grass to grow on my lawn.

The first area is right in front of some evergreen shrubs and trees. I have tried unsuccessfully for years to get grass to grow in that area without success. It starts well and looks good but then always dies out.

I think it might be because the evergreen shrubs and trees might have made the soil to acidic.

The other area is shaded by a Crimsom King maple.

The problem under the maple tree is that the tree captures most of the available light. Without light or the proper quality grass, it will not perform well.

Seed in a mixture of fescues, irrigate periodically, limit fertilizer applications to no more than one per year and mow at a high height. Mulch and a shade-tolerant ground cover will yield more success.

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As for the area around the evergreen I doubt acidic soils are the problem. Most soils around here are alkaline and have high buffering capacities that maintain the alkalinity.

I suspect that competition for light and moisture may be the reason that you have difficulty with grass in those areas.

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