Good Oak Blog

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Japanese knotweed season

The long, warm days of summer are my favorite time of year. Plants seem to like it too as every sort of plants from the corn in the fields to the prairie perennials are putting on quite a bit of height this time of year.

But there is one particularly large and fast growing perennial that gets very noticeable this time of year as it reaches up to 12' in height. Unfortunately, it is also an extremely aggressive plant that can crowd out just about any perennial or shrub. This plant's roots are massive and trough, they can tear through asphalt and even building foundations. So this species is not only a threat to natural communities, it can also cause some extensive damage to infrastructure.

I'm speaking of course, of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japoinica, a.k.a. Polygonum cuspidatum).
Athena, who stands 5'8" is dwarfed by this colony of Japanese knotweed.
This species is also extremely difficult to control. Its root system is so massive that its difficult to get enough of any herbicide chemical to translocate down to the root from the relatively small above ground foliage. I said relatively small, yes, the roots are just that big that the 10-12' stalks are only a small portion of the biomass!

Furthermore, any small fragment of root or stem, as small as a pea can take root and form a new plant. So it is often spread readily by mowers along roadsides and by flooding, erosion and ice impacts along stream and lake shorelines. And digging out every little pea sized piece of root is, of course a labor-intensive and tedious process. Its also somewhat resistant to herbicides.

Regular mowing, every two weeks can starve the roots, but this process can take years. Smothering can work as well if you mow it first, but you have to cover the entire colony so no leaves are sending energy to the root mass, including new leaves that will inevitably sprout after the colony is covered.

We like to use the cut, wait, and spray technique described in the below video, but we use Milestone herbicide instead of glyphosate (Round-Up®, etc.) as the glyphosate has proven to be only mildly effective against Japanese knotweed.


Good Oak has our own Weed Identification and Control Sheet about Japanese Knotweed that should help you, well, identify and control this species.

The Wisconsin DNR has listed Japanese knotweed as Restricted, meaning it is illegal to buy, sell, give away, or barter Japanese knotweed in Wisconsin and eradication is encouraged.

Unfortunately, some gardens still share this species, often mistakenly calling it "Mexican bamboo". Some people also try to establish this plant for edible purported medicinal purposes. Though it can help with inflammation, and possible aid in treating Lyme's Disease, most medical applications for this plant have proven to be false when studied rigorously. Really, for those die-hard herbalists, there is really no need to establish it on their own property,  wild populations in our area are frequent enough that they could supply an enormous demand.

Locally, we have a massive infestation of Japanese knotweed along the Southwest Commuter bike path in Madison, some colonies along Starkweather Creek, rural roadsides in Fitchburg, various small patches in the parks of Shorewood Hills (and getting smaller each year due to Good Oak's efforts), along the Military Ridge trail at the McKee Rd./Verona Rd. intersection, between Old Middleton Road and the railroad line immediately west of the underpass/on-ramp onto University Ave... and many, many other places. Still, several dozen colonies is better than several thousand, and aside from along the Southwest Commuter path, these patches are all less than an acre in size.

So be diligent, if you find this massive weed on your property, get it under control! If you find it on public ground contact your city/town officials to report it as many municipalities, including Madison and Shorewood Hills, are making an effort to keep knotweed in check before it can spread further and cause damage to infrastructure.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

We're Hiring: Sustainble Landscaping Manager, Technician and Interns!

UPDATE: We've extended the application deadline for the Sustainable Landscaper and Technician position to March 6th. We've been busy with the Garden Expo and brush clearing, thus haven't found time until late in the process to really get this announcement out 'in the wild' sufficiently.

We're looking to fill a few positions here at Good Oak.

For the Sustainable Landscaping Manager we need someone with a strong background in horticulture and landscaping, knowledge of native plants is less important since existing staff already have that skill... but boy will you be getting a lesson.

Speaking of lessons, our spring and summer internships are open as well, we're looking for college students that want to learn a lot about native plants, ecological restoration and sustainable landscaping. Our spring internship starts in early-March, and applications are due soon, so don't wait!

UPDATE: We're now also looking for an additional Ecological Restoration and Sustainable Landscaping Technician to join our team. And hey, why not, if you've got the skills, please apply for our Ecological Restoration Manager position, but please, only if you meet the minimum requirements.

Find out more at our new Employment page.

Our team after a fall hardscaping and native planting project.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Handouts for Garden Expo Presentations


Here are handouts from Frank's Garden Expo presentation in case you missed them, plus some bonus material. Thanks for attending!

Handouts from Restoring Your Woodland to Health


For more information, see Good Oak's Woodland Restoration page.

Handouts from Save the Monarchs!


For more information, see Good Oak's Save the Monarchs! page.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Come See Us at the Wisconsin Garden Expo!



Good Oak will again be attending the Wisconsin Garden Expo, this weekend, February 13th - 15th. As usual, we'll have a booth where we'll be selling items from our Sustainable Garden Center and talking to folks about our landscaping and ecological restoration services.

Frank will be giving two presentations this year:
  • Bright and early at 9:15 on Saturday he will be speaking about "Restoring Your Woodland to Health" in the Waubesa/Kegonsa room.
  • Sunday afternoon at 2:15 the topic will be "Save the Monarchs!" in the Mendota 4 room.
Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 15, 2014

yams vs sweet potatoes: a local interest story

So, the annual 'yams vs sweet potatoes' issue came up at dinner last night. Turns out there's a local angle to this story!

Sweet potatoes are in the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). In fact, they are are in the same genus (Ipomoea) as these showy ornamental vines. Wild local members of this family include the native hedge bindweed and troublesome, introduced field bindweed. What we at Thanksgiving and Christmas are, in-fact sweet potatoes, even though some people call them yams. I think I got that habit from my grandpa who was an old farm boy.

Hedge bindweed is actually pretty closely related to sweet potato. Who knew?

True yams, are in-fact monocots, making them more closely related to grasses, orchids and lilies than they are to any kind of potato! They have their own yam family (Dioscoreaceae). Most are tropical species, some are commonly used as food in the Caribbean and tropical Africa (available only in specialty stores throughout much of the US). They are represented locally by wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), a charming climbing vine with attractive heart-shaped leaves and three-winged seed pods. The roots of wild yam are small tubers, they are edible, and the plant is preported to have medicinal properties.

Wild yam. Photo courtesy Chris Noll.

True potatoes are in nightshade family (Solanaceae). They are in the genus Solanum along with tomatoes (both from South America) and a few local weeds including black nightshade and deadly nightshade (both from Eurasia). Chili peppers are also a member of often tasty, but sometimes poisonous family and also of American origin.
Deadly nightshade, not actually deadly, but not good for you either.

So there's something to talk about with your fellow plant nerds over the holidays!

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