Written by Meg Turner
Invasive plants can wreak havoc in your garden, and can also do damage in your neighbors’ yards and beyond, aggressively spreading by runners and by seed disbursal through air or wildlife. As the James River Park System Invasive Plant Task Force works to eradicate invasive species from the James River Park System, you can take these 5 steps to eradicate invasive plants in your own yard, creating a garden that is more beautiful and that provides pollen, nectar, food and shelter for wildlife.
- Do no harm. When planting your garden, refer to the list of the most threatening invasive plant species in Virginia, and do not purchase or plant those plants. The list can be found on the Virginia Department of Conservation Resources website.
- Remove any invasive plants living in your garden. Some of the most frequent invaders in Virginia home gardens are privet, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese wisteria, garlic mustard, ground ivy and English ivy. When removing invasive plants, it is important to remove the entire plant, and, when possible, to remove the plant before it flowers or sets seed. For more information on removal techniques, visit this website.
- Plant native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, ferns and groundcovers in the places where you remove invasives. Invasive plants love a vacuum, and will fill it, so plant soon after invasive removal. Many nurseries now identify plants that are native, and some even have native plant sections. Planting natives in conditions where they will thrive will add a natural beauty to your landscape, help inhibit invasive plant growth, and increase wildlife habitat.
- Remove English ivy growing in trees. If English ivy is left to grow into a tree’s canopy, it can eventually kill the tree. To save the tree, first use garden clippers to cut the vines around the base of the tree. If the vines are too thick to cut with clippers, you may need to use a saw, being careful not to harm the trunk. Leave the severed vines on the trunk, as removing them may harm the tree’s bark. Second, manually remove any ivy growing on the ground within two feet of the tree. This is easiest to do when the ground is moist. Periodically check your trees, and remove any ivy that reappears.
- Spread the word! Ask your local nursery to stop selling plants that are on the DCR’s invasive plant list (bring a copy of the list to share with them). Host a neighborhood invasives workday, educating the neighbors about the dangers of invasive plants. Check the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force schedule for volunteer opportunities to remove invasives in our beloved James River Park System.