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Continuing the Conversation: Brad Vierkant on Weed Control

Editor’s note:  In an earlier post last week we talked with our Princeton Services Manager, Brad Vierkant, about integrated plant management (IPM).  An important facet of that process is weed control, and in this post Brad gets into detail on what’s involved.


Interviewer:  Can you talk a bit more about weed control?  It seems that this is an important part of maintaining a native landscape installation.

Brad:  You’re quite right.  With some of our clients, we have an IPM contract in place where we handle things. Others take care of it themselves.  Whether it’s the client or PRI, often there is some type of spraying.  

Another approach to weed control that we’ve seen some of our clients use is to hand pull weeds.  This may be the right choice with a small prairie garden where there may be just a few undesirable plants.  In that case, hand pulling can be more appropriate than spraying.  

But the thing about pulling weeds is that, depending on the species, you may not necessarily kill the plant.  Often a bit of root fragment is left behind in the ground, and the plant will re-grow from that fragment.  So you’re spending time doing an activity that doesn’t fully accomplish your goals. This is most often the case with perennial weeds such as quack grass.

In addition to knowing the right tools to use, integrated plant management also involves knowing when to attack. For example, thistle is easily controlled by a broadleaf herbicide that is applied when the plant is still in bud form, right before it blooms. That’s when the herbicide does the most damage to the plant and creates the most impact.  If you spray at other times, it’s a wasted effort.  So it’s using the right weed control method at the right time for the type of weed species.  

Interviewer:  Can you explain to us in layman’s terms just what PRI is trying to accomplish with IMP? What are your goals?

Brad:  What we’re trying to accomplish with our restoration projects is to make sure that we keep the population of invasive plants to a minimum.  Total eradication is ideal, but that’s not always possible.  Sometimes that is due to the size of the project; in other cases it’s because of budget limitations.  But basically the goal for each project is to have the native plants dominate the site. 

We always work with the client’s budget in mind.  We’re very aware of the fact that people are on budgets and only can spend a certain amount on these things.  So we work to control what would potentially cause the most problems, both in the short and long term. 

Interviewer:  I realize there are many different kinds of weeds, so is your approach different depending on what weeds are present?

Brad:  On any site, there are usually two types of weeds – annual, low-density weeds and perennial, high density weeds.  Some of these – like reed canary grass or Canada thistle – are very invasive.  So if we come to a site and there is an invasive perennial, we would concentrate our efforts on those rather than the annuals, because the annuals will die back at the end of the season.

The perennial, high-density weeds are the ones that would be more problematic down the road.  If we had the time or enough money in the budget, if it were warranted we would go after other weeds as well. But first we go after the more harmful invasive weed species first.  The goal is to keep that population down to zero if at all possible.  But of course it depends on budget.  


To learn more about the weed control and other plant and land management services our Prairie Restorations, Inc. has to offer, call us at 1-800-837-5986.