Sunday 25 September 2016

Get to grips with problem issues

Published 17/06/2015 | 02:30

DO: Manual grass cleaning is sometimes a good option, especially for small areas or as demonstrated here where vegetation control was left very late
DO: Manual grass cleaning is sometimes a good option, especially for small areas or as demonstrated here where vegetation control was left very late
Chemical control tends to give the best results if applied correctly.
DON'T: Strim or cut weeds around trees. Too often, trees are cut as well.
Urgent manual grass cleaning is required to prevent this tree from dying.

Now that the weather and grass growth is picking up, it is a good idea to go for a walk through your newly established forest to make sure that the young trees are able to cope with the surrounding vegetation.

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Lack of vegetation control in the early years is the most common cause of poor performance and plantation failure.

Grass and weeds compete very aggressively with young trees for light, water and nutrients - taking these from the young trees for their own use.

Well-weeded trees will grow much more swiftly which will save far more bother and hassle later on. It is worth noting trees grow better in fertile areas but so too will grass and weeds.

There are two main ways to ensure that grass and weeds are under control.

The most effective method in a young forest is using herbicides. The choice of herbicide is influenced by many factors including the type of weeds, the tree species, site type and the time of year.

Keep in mind that broadleaves are more susceptible than conifers to damage from herbicide drift, so careful application is essential.

A positive side effect is that chemical control can lead to a boost in tree growth, especially for species such as ash and sycamore.

Before applying any of them, talk to your local Teagasc forestry adviser as some herbicides may kill trees. In addition, herbicides are expensive and may have detrimental environmental effects. So remember, safety first - always read instructions before use.

If you prefer not to use herbicides or it is a relatively small forest, then regular trampling of grass and weeds around young trees can do the trick.

Trampling three times during the growing season may be sufficient. It involves stamping on weeds around the trees and is very suitable for the control of tall weeds such as nettles, bracken, rush and tall grasses.

However, keep in mind that trampling is often a short term measure.

Trampling before spraying will also be required if you leave vegetation control very late. It is vital not to let the surrounding vegetation get out of hand and smother the young trees. It will not only slow down tree growth but will also make it more difficult to find the trees again.

Avoid cutting grass and weeds because cut weeds use more nutrients and water to regrow, which places trees under additional stress.

Steven Meyen is a Teagasc forestry adviser email: steven.meyen@teagasc.ie.

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