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Interview with Services Manager Brad Vierkant: The Basics of Integrated Plant Management

You might think that here at our native landscaping company that we’re all about installing native landscapes and selling native seeds and plants.  And you may have seen some our videos on prescribed burns and those involving the removal of invasive species like buckthorn.  But a major part of the work we do includes ongoing management of the landscapes we install.  

Plant management is an involved process.  As part of our ongoing series of interviews with our various staff members, we talked recently with Brad Vierkant about what  IPM (integrated plant management) involves.   One of his responsibilities is scheduling and coordinating the crews in the various activities that are part of IPM.

(Brad’s job involves quite a number of tasks in addition to IPM, and you may want to read our earlier interview post to find out exactly what he does for PRI).

 

Interviewer:  Could you talk about what integrated plant management is, in terms that a lay person might understand?  And could you tell us why it is important for native landscaping installations?

Brad: That’s a really good question.  Some think of it as weed control, but it’s much more.  Many of the people we work with have a basic understanding of plants and controlling weeds via spraying.  There’s a lot more to it than that.  

For example, there are times that something other than spraying might be the right way to control undesirable plant species.  But you also have to be able to choose the right herbicide to control the plants you desire to eliminate.  Most people are familiar with an herbicide like Roundup®.  It’s a broad-spectrum weed and grass killer that can get rid of many plants, but there are certain broadleaf weeds that are unaffected by it. You can spray and it appears it’s effective because it’s top-killed the plant, but it doesn’t kill it down to the root.  So it will come back.  Also, timing is very important.  You need to apply the right herbicide at the right time in the plant’s growth cycle for it to be effective.  Proper timing and the right application techniques will also help to minimize collateral damage to the desirable native plants.

Then there are other times that an herbicide is more than what’s needed.  We have clients who indicate they want to take care of plant management themselves, and when we check back with them we find out they’ve been spraying annuals that were going to die at the end of the season anyway.  With annual weeds like common ragweed, simply mowing will control it, and yet they’re out there wasting time and money spraying what doesn’t need to be sprayed.  

At PRI, we only use herbicides when it is necessary – most often on perennial invasive species such as reed canary grass.  These are the types of species where the only way to effectively control them is with herbicide.  For annual and biennial species, we will use other techniques such as mowing, chopping or hand pulling.

 

(To be continued:  In our next interview segment with Brad, we’ll talk more about weed control as well as what PRI hopes to accomplish with our integrated plant management services.)