University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article

Think Before you Pitch

By: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont


Yes, this statement "Think Before you Pitch" applies to littering, but it also applies to gardening. How?

Once some formerly desirable perennials start spreading in your garden, killing out other plants and taking over, they become "weeds." In either our general weeding when these invasives get thrown in with the other garden debris, or in our rage to get them out, we don't think where we end up dumping or pitching them. Often this is in a nearby field or woods where the invasive roots and seeds may become established.

Invasive perennials can then take over those natural areas, killing out established and desirable plants there. This is especially true if we dump the debris near waterways, which carry the root pieces and seeds into wetlands.

So how do you control these invasive exotic garden plants, and get rid of them? Begin by learning which species may be invasive. In some cases this may be an entire species, or perhaps only certain strains, varieties or cultivars (cultivated varieties) of a species. A good source of this information in Vermont is from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, 103 South Main St., Building 10 North, Waterbury, VT 05671-0408 (phone 802-241-3777). Ask for their free Fact Sheet Series on Invasive Plants.

Once you learn which species are invasive, don't buy and plant them in the first place. If you already have them in the garden, don't merely pitch them into natural areas with other garden leaves, clippings or debris. Composting may not kill the seeds and roots, and these invasives may even take root in a compost pile! Burning may be the best option, but check your local community for burning ordinances. Contact or systemic herbicides may also be applied to them if desired, but be sure and follow all label directions when using such chemicals. And it may take more than one application.

Other means to prevent invasive plants from entering wetlands include never releasing aquarium plants into natural waterways. Inspect ornamental aquatic plants, such as waterlilies, that you order through the mail. This is especially true if the plants come from the southeastern U.S. states. If you have a boat or canoe, make sure you clean any plant material off before entering waterways. If traveling abroad, make sure and follow all regulations on importing seeds and plants. And minimize disturbing land or exposing bare soil-- practices which invasive plants often take advantage of.

So once you have invasive plants, think before you pitch. And before buying plants, get armed with information on which may become invasive. Your local full-service garden store should be able to help you with this, and with suitable alternatives.

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