So - if you don't use herbicide - how Do you manage?

One person's weed, another's wild plant! A place for discussing their management
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So - if you don't use herbicide - how Do you manage?

Post by Amy »

In an ideal world, I'd never use spray. I can just about manage in the garden. Field scale - how do you do it?

I've noticed the disapproval of spraying on here.

Do you just live with certain things, is it a matter of personal preferences and time?

I've walked across an organic farm over run with docks. The owner trusts to the dock beetle. I've seen on my own land the shocking extent to which docks can shade out surrounding vegetation. I don't want that.

With the best will in the world - there are not enough hours to dig out thugs, and from mid May to mid Sept, the clay bakes impenetrably, roots break off, the back makes urgent protest and gives ominous warnings.

What do you do with dug out dock roots? It goes against the grain to put that huge volume of plant matter and some earth into the black bin or to burn them. I've read that docks contain tannins, to protect against rotting. There's far too great a volume to stick the roots into a water tub and test this out. Ditto deadheaded thistle heads - leave them for a day and they seem to accelerate into seed. Is it a choice between bagging up into the black bin or fire?

I've tried digging out timber-hard high purple moor grass tumps and huge clumps of docks with a mini digger. This leaves huge craters needing fresh soil.. No good.

We try to do the right thing- brash piles for wildlife - which produce yet more nettles and brambles which then spread.

I've noticed wet thugs - purple moor grass, marsh ragwort, pendulous sedge, spanish bluebell hybrids, hemlock water dropwort, to name just a few, spreading from adjoining woodland with open newly planted conifer plantations.

4 years of non management led to the drier areas being over run by large cocksfoot tussocks with a massive seed burden. Cocksfoot is now in fields where it never was before. Sure, I can dig out a few, cut, graze, - it doesn't seem enough to keep pace with the spread.

A professional suggested I don't fight nature and let part of the land revert to a sort of culm. The land over the last 30 years never used to be like this. Wetter weather, more springs, seeds from next door, is changing it.

But- I don't want to have the wetter parts of the land over run with purple moor grass, the drier parts over run with docks, thistles, nettles, etc etc. I also want to look back when I'm finally decrepit on a life well lived, not a pathetic little life spent toiling for hours every day on a tiny patch of land -- which the next person may well drain, spray off, reseed and return to horse pasture! I don't want the thugs to spread with every year as old age limits me. I don't want the land looking like the nearby boggy culm nature reserves with a mass of all-swamping moor grass litter, and devalued for when I eventually sell.

So - please tell me - how do you manage without spraying. I don't believe it can be done. Please - convince me.
Last edited by Amy on Sun Jun 13, 2021 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jane W
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Re: So - if you don't use herbicide - how Do you manage?

Post by Jane W »

Hi Amy
First of all I'm a relative beginner at all this and don't have the you, I really really urge the more experienced members on this forum to come on and share their experiences, in detail, of how they manage. I want to know too and have had all the same thoughts as you about how much time I want to spend pulling out brambles.

At the moment I'm living in faith that as I scythe and move away ( to field edges) vegetation,year on year I will decrease the soil fertility and eventually end up with about the kind of meadow I want.
I refuse to use herbicides...what's the point of us doing this if were just ending up covering the place with poisonous chemicals? I'll give up and sell the land to a farmer if it comes to that.

Only one thing I would ask Amy? Do you have a scythe? A good sized patch of dock/nettles/etc scythed down in its prime and vegetation raked away would surely wear them down after a couple of years? We did this with bracken and it worked fairly well.
It would be so quick to do, as dock at least has soft stems.
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Re: So - if you don't use herbicide - how Do you manage?

Post by Amy »

Yay - there's someone out there.. Thank You, Jane! I bet there are many more like us out there - dead keen, but (I am) beginning to struggle. We're not farmers, we don't have the machinery, the grazing animals, or the knowledge, and our land is larger than a garden, but not big enough to farm. We'd like detailed stories of their own experiences from the experienced and from the professionals please.

For the haycut, I have just bought some appropriate machinery and I have a battery strimmer. For me it was the very tiring and time consuming raking up that convinced me to invest, so a scythe wouldn't help me particularly, though thank you, Jane, for the suggestion, and I gather that they are an MM speciality. That side should be sorted for this summer - if, if machinery can replace grazing animals.

For me at the stage I am at now, it's the physical digging out that is the issue. I can't keep up with the particular perennials that I want to control.. For me, it boils down a choice between the extent of time and manual labour I can tolerate, plus a bit of cautious targeted spot spraying, - vis a vis reverting to letting the grass all year round and not doing anything to encourage wild flowers, and even that is only if I can find any stock owners interested (and no one wants to put cattle on due to the TB testing requirements) and then probably still some spot spraying..

I'm thinking - if I can get all the roots out, then that particular perennial weed won't trouble me in future, especially if I can sow phacelia or something in the resulting disturbed earth - rather than having to strim it repeatedly through each year, year after year, to weaken it. So I dig out what I can, and deadhead the rest, or at least those I can reach.. And that is many many hours of work. ..Not something I want to be doing in 10 or even 5 years time.

Am I wrong? Should I just be spot cutting the leaves off the docks, and other problem species, through out each year, - or - cutting sections of the field in rotation- and isn't that latter action just as much work with the added risk that I miss the seed heads in the non cut sections and meanwhile the clumps continue to clump up further?

And I've read from multiple Natural England docs that cutting and or grazing doesn't hinder moor grass at all, the only thing to control moor grass is preventing seeding and extermination by herbicide.

(To clarify, my land is not a "special meadow" but it does have a lot more flowers and wildlife than the nearby culm moors managed by DWT, and I fear their loss if the moor grass and other thugs mentioned in my first post, take over.)

And- do we not all see multiple sources of online advice, (MM excepted), even on wildlife trust websites, that to create a meadow, one should spray off the rye grass and all the "weeds" first to create a barren space before seeding with the wanted "weeds". So is it a choice between (a) spray everything thoroughly at the start - or (b) spot spray a little but in every future year - or - (c) go without spraying - but how??

The reason behind this advice to start with a clean sprayed slate is really coming home to me - if you start with natural regeneration, you also start with all the problem species and have to tackle them in every future year. if you start with a clean sprayed slate, then it must be so much easier.

Of course, of course, spot spraying is not ideal. Do we all have electric cars, eat absolutely everything organic, wear non plastic clothes, live in super eco houses, don't use up electricity for our emails.... use non-diesel/non petrol tractors ( I don't think there are such things or is that a human wielding a scythe :) ?)

I think not. We all do our best according to our personal circumstances.

I'd like to do better.

It would be nice to have some advice from experienced people on here.

Please - If you don't use herbicide - how do you manage?

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