Spring Invasive Species Management
Taylor Wilson, Urban Conservation Technician
"With the coming of spring comes warmer temperatures and the opportunity to begin yard work and land management. For many, this is an exciting time of year where people can finally begin all the gardening, beatification, and invasive species management plans they’ve been sitting on all winter.
With that in mind, spring can be one of the most overwhelming seasons when it comes to land management. There are so many things that could be done, and most of them are time sensitive. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. Below are some things that can help you get started.
The key to good invasive management is having a good strategic plan. Why? For a few reasons. 1. It’s easier to take a large issue and cut it down into steps. Starting to manage invasives without a plan can quickly become frustrating and feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. 2. You can save yourself time and resources by having a good plan in place. You can think of your strategy in two parts: Short term and long term.
A short term plan is a plan that focuses on just this year. What species will you work on in each season? This largely depends on when that species can be controlled and when it produces seeds. Some species are controlled best during certain seasons. This is especially the case if you are using herbicides. For information on this, check out the SICIM Calendar of Control.
In addition to seasonality, it is best if you can treat invasives before they produce seeds. When you remove a plant before it goes to seed, you’re preventing fresh seed from being distributed on your property or elsewhere via wind, pollinators etc. For example, just one garlic mustard plant can produce as many as 7,900 seeds! For more information on this, read What to Treat below.
When creating a long-term plan, there are a few things to consider. Will you focus on a specific area? A specific species? That depends. If you have a particularly aggressive species that spreads quickly, or requires a few years of management to eradicate, you’ll want to start there. If you’re considering focusing on a specific area, you may want to select a place that has very few invasives present and clear that area first to stop it from spreading. These are the basics, and for more information check out the two links below.
If you need help prioritizing, please reach out to our office with questions.
What to ID
Gardening and landscaping require a lot of focus in spring. If you don’t have time to treat your invasives during this time, it’s a great time to identify and mark the invasives you’re going to treat in the summer and fall. Spring can be a great time to ID some of the most common species.
Additionally, in early spring you can still identify some evergreen species as listed in our Winter Invasive Management article.
There are many more invasive species than the ones listed here. If you aren’t sure what plants you have, consider conferring with neighbors or downloading a plant identification app to get you started.
What to Treat
Luckily, there are few very time sensitive species to manage in spring. See them below
Garlic Mustard: This species goes to seed as early as May. This species is very easy to remove by hand. Once seed heads appear it’s suggested to not manage it, as you run the risk of spreading it to other areas. Do NOT mow once it has gone to seed. If you don’t have this on your property, consider participating in a weed wrangle where this is the target species.
Canada thistle: This species is an aggressive weed that starts to produce seed around mid July. Manually pulling this species can worsen the problem and spread more thistles. More information about control here.
Summer and Beyond:
Other species can be treated later into summer, or even over the winter. If you have an invasive not listed here, search for the month that it starts to produce seed and treat it before then. If you can’t find that information, consider searching for the time it blooms and using that month as a deadline.
The key to widespread invasive management is education and awareness. As you strategize and manage your property, I encourage you to reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors and explain what you’re doing. It only takes one person in a family, group, or neighborhood to start making an impact. We do best when we learn and work together.
If you have questions, please reach out to us for more information. Hamilton County SWCD is now offering invasive plant surveys where a member of our staff can visit your property and help you identify species and start to making a management plan. Large properties (acreage) and woodlands are prioritized for this service. A good way to learn more about invasive species is to join the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP). The HIP website has a variety of resources related to management and native plants.
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