Peaceful winter work

By Bryon Walters

Winter has always been my favorite time of the year to do woodland ecological restoration work. 

It’s peaceful, comfortable and non hazardous. There are no insects, Herps or bird nests to accidentally spray on.

Basal spraying with 20% Triclopyr Ester, called by various trade names such as Garlon 4, Element 4 and others, mixed with a good quality basal oil with dye, is my choice for the entire Winter. If done properly there is minimal off target plant damage. 

I usually scrape some bark off every fifth tree or so, or any tree that I’m not sure of being dead or alive. The scrape mark also acts as a flag that I can see from a distance, indicating I’ve been in that area.

Winter brings snow, yet there is an effective tactic to use. There may be snow on one or all sides of the trunk. The label instructs to spray trunks clear of snow or ice. Recently, all the snow has been just on the east side of the trunks. No problem here.

Just use your foot as a shovel and push down on the snow. Usually takes a couple of swipes to clear most of it off. 

I usually “step down” any fluffy white stuff on all sides of the trunk. Times a couple hundred trees a day, this takes some time to do, but at least you’re out there doing restoration work when others are saying, “there’s too much snow out there to work!” 

Next, under LOW pressure, careful spray a stream of herbicide around the entire circumstance of the trunk about 6 inches high.  I spray a complete band around the lowest part of the trunk of a tree or branches of shrubs. I’m concentrating on anything exotic, plus mesophytics less than 6” DBH. (Diameter at Breast Height.)  

You will have to walk around each tree to cover it properly and avoid overspray. If you are careful, there will be no dye stained herbicide splattered all about. This can greatly reduce the “ring of death” around the base of the tree that will likely be evident the next growing season.

Trees with smooth bark will allow for clean spraying.

Rough barked trees, like Black Cherry, Hackberry and some Elms, need to be sprayed even slower and from a higher angle than smooth barked trees. You will get the hang of it if you pay close attention.

Enjoy your peaceful Winter work!

About Grassland Restoration Network blog

Bill Kleiman publishes this blog. Bill's daytime job is manager of Nachusa Grasslands. We are looking for guest authors on various topics of grassland habitat restoration. Contact me with your ideas or drafts.
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3 Responses to Peaceful winter work

  1. Marc Stadler says:

    Byron, thank you for another excellent article. Your previous articles inspired me to improve the quality of my basal bark/stump treatments. I’ve gone green (or blue, maybe) in a way, thanks to this blog. At least for an experimental period I have moved from Crossbow in diesel to 20% Allegare Triclopyr 4 in Allegare blue oil. This new mix is more than four times the price of my diesel mix, but it certainly does not stink as much, and I am glad to not have the diesel in the ground.

    I read this article and immediately when to work with 1.25 gallons of my new mix against honeysuckle to see how it would work in my backpack sprayer. In about 45 minutes I treated a heavily infested 50’x50′ area. Some stems had been mowed a month ago. Other standing stems were 1/4″ to 2″, mostly multi-stems. The new mix was easy to spray and see on the stems.

    The spraying did make me wish I had mowed more with my skid-steer mounted mower, but this was in a grove of black walnuts that was not open enough to mow.

    You are spraying the bottom six inches of stems over snow-covered ground. This is interesting, as usually I see “12”-18″ of bottom stem when it is not frozen or wet” as the directed treatment. Do you find this mix to not be temperature sensitive? What was the temperature when you were spraying? How is your kill rate with this treatment?

    Many thanks and keep the info coming!

  2. Bryon Walters says:

    Hello Marc, thank you for reading our blog. We are glad that it is useful to you. Basal spraying is a dormant season technique that could be used to supplement other management practices. Temps don’t matter as long as it’s below 80F. A 6” high band around the trunk is all that is needed for 100% kill rate. Additional amounts would be a waste of herbicide and increases the likely hood of collateral damage to surrounding veg. Good luck with your efforts.

  3. James McGee says:

    Last year, I treated 60+ shrubs with triclopyr in oil on a nice winter day that was just above freezing. At the time of the application, there was snow cover a few inches deep. I only treated the portions of the stem above the snow. The temperature made things wet, but the stems above the snow were not saturated with water. I use a mini-paint roller to apply herbicide to the stems.

    Since what I was treating was mostly thin stemmed sprouting grubs, I covered from less than 8 inches to up to 12 inches of stem length with herbicide depending on the size of the shrub. When there are a lot of thin stems from a thick crown, more length often has to be covered to end up applying the amount of herbicide that would be used to treat a shrub not cut, or top-killed by fire, of the same basal diameter. The next year, the leaves of the shrubs showed a significant effect from the herbicide application and the shrubs all died by autumn. This year, I am applying the herbicide to a shorter length of stem. I think less than half as much herbicide should be enough if applied proportionally to basal diameter.

    After the aforementioned application, I had minimal off target damage. However, I was working in a low-quality area. I think the off-target damage I observed was from a few drops of herbicide that dripped off my paint roller onto snow surrounding the target plants. Consequently, I am now more careful about letting the mini-paint roller stop dripping in the bucket before I start rolling it along stems.

    During other applications, I have observed damage to adjacent off target vegetation. I think the most important factor is to only apply triclopyr in oil when no precipitation is forecasted for at least 6 hours and ideally a day or longer. As second factor that is likely important is to not apply the herbicide all the way down to the snow or wet ground. This second factor is one I first learn about from watching Pete Jackson apply herbicide at Deer Grove.

    I have not tried applying triclopyr in oil to stems when snow cover is present in high-quality areas to see if damage can be avoided by using the above. Since the amount of treatment needed in high-quality areas is small compared to the work disturbed areas need, I would only apply herbicide in high-quality areas on the best days for avoiding off-target damage. Those are days when the ground is dry, and no precipitation is forecasted for at least a few days. Preferably, in high-quality areas I would use a different technique and/or chemical if possible.

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