By Dorothy Tod
I live on the Mad River and my knotweed education had been fostered by the both the 1998 flood and Irene.
After the 1998 flood, it looked like the flood took my extensive knotweed stand out, but it was only temporally buried under a load of sediment and whole new patches were planted by the little stems caught in the tire treads of the trucks that drove across my land to get gravel from the river. The knotweed contaminated gravel then created whole new stands of knotweed along the roads where the gravel was deposited.
After Irene, with help from Permaculture consultant Mark Krawczyk, we created a berm with the deposited knotweed-infested sediment and planted a riparian buffer, in the midst of my knotweed plantation, with plants from the Intervale Conservation Nursery and the Winooski Natural Resource Conservation District. This included silver maples, black walnut, butternuts, black locust, black cherry, black birch, red maples, dogwood, alders, elders, red oak, service berry and linden.
I bought a scythe from Scythe Supply in Maine that was made to my dimensions (I am 5 foot 1 inch) and I scythe the knotweed growing around the trees and scrubs we planted, four times a season — June, July, August and September after the full moon. I compost it in piles onsite.
I am in my sixth season of this and as I cut into larger swaths of the knotweed, I experiment with more plantings. Last year, I put in a three dozen 2-foot live willow and dogwood stakes from the Intervale Conservation Nursery with about half of the stakes sprouting nicely. This May, I made my own little cuttings of dogwood and willow and stuck them amidst the exposed knotweed roots on the eroding banks nearer the waterline. Last week during my July scything, I was pleased to see these cuttings had rooted and survived the recent high water.
Once I committed to the scything, my mindset changed from “making war on an invasive” to being curious about all the many relationships going on in my little acre and charting the progress of all the trees and scrubs I have planted. The knotweed was supporting bees in August and nests for hummingbirds and red-wing black birds in the early summer and I took care to not be too disruptive.
Scaling up from my property-owner experience to thinking about the responsibilities of larger conservation organizations managing a lot of land, I found the book, Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration by Tao Orion, to be helpful. This book suggests that monoculture agricultural machine and chemical solutions are not the best option for creating a healthy diverse riparian buffer. The toxicity left in the soil from Rodeo is not conducive to willow restoration. So the Rodeo eradicates knotweed, now some worse invasive will arrive that can fill that void and survive in the toxic remains.
Tod lives in Warren.