Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to Clear Thickets

Obviously there are dozens of ways to clear thickets, the method usually relates to the type of thicket.  In our case this spring we are dealing with major thickets of honeysuckle and blackberries.  This is nothing new.  Every year one of our main back yard projects includes at least some clearing of honeysuckle, often mixed with blackberry and/or poison ivy.  The difference this year is scale.  Normally we don't get much farther than cleaning the raspberry patch but with so much clean up going on around here we've needed to attack a number of major thickets.

As crazy as it sounds, I actually like clearing brush, especially when the brush includes honeysuckle.  I attribute my enjoyment thereof to my method, which includes a warm up, a full out period, and a cool down.  Well . . . maybe not a cool down, it depends on how you look at it.  At any rate, it's important to find a way of enjoying clearing thickets if you are going to own a piece of land because, if you're not rich enough to pay laborers, you will surely do a lot of it!

O.K. here comes the picture part.

Here's a pretty good example of one of the worst thickets I've worked with this year.
I've been avoiding this one for years because it gave me the feeling that it might take weeks to get the job done.  I was determined to do it this time though so I started where I usually start . . . the trees.  I'm not talking about removing the trees, but getting the honey suckle out of them.  The honeysuckle will twine around a small tree so tightly that it can cause the trunk to become misshapen.

And the honeysuckle foliage in the top of a tree will steal all of the sunshine which will weaken the tree.
So even if I'm not sure which trees I'll ultimately be keeping I will carefully unwind as many vines from the trees as possible
and will often bend the top of slender trees well over to remove all of the unwanted foliage.
This is the happy warm up part.

After the meditative unwinding of vines, comes the part in which you follow the thin vines to the "mother roots" A single mother root may have a dozen small vines coming from it and each of the small vines is rooted into the ground every 4 or 5 inches!  This is not fun.  But, once I've spent all of that time getting the stuff out of my trees, I am inspired!  I can now relentlessly tear out the full mesh of vines covering the ground without a single thought about how I'll fell when I fall out of bed in the morning.  I call Micah any time there is a REAL mother root.

Have I forgotten the blackberries?  Don't forget them.  In Middle Tennessee, at least, they will eat your yard alive if you let them.  The nice thing is that if you get them right at their bases, they are surprisingly easy to pull and they aren't prickery there.

Then, all of a sudden, it's over.  I have a deep rush of satisfaction at conquering yet another patch of invasive plants.  And the best part then (maybe this is the sweet cool down part) is realizing that what I thought would take weeks has only taken a couple of three hour sessions!
 Now we can actually get to the stuff under the thicket and sort it out into keepers and non-keepers.

A special warning:  Do not . . . I repeat DO NOT allow honeysuckle to grow up a fence unless you never want to see that fence again, because un-twining those vines from the thin wires of a fence can be almost impossible.
Sometimes you just have to cut one off from it's roots and leave it there till it dries out and rots off!


  1. Gee, when you get tired of clearing your land - you can go to a nice piece of land close by and work on it. I know, it is the satisfaction of a job well done. I hope ours is as easy?

  2. I don't think yours will be too bad thanks to the recent brush hogging!