How I got started

I spend most of the summers with my kids on my dad’s Cayuga Lakefront property.  He has about 250′ of waterfront, and owns about 100′ back, about half at lake level and half woods on top of a 30′ steep bank.  The 250′ is much more than we need, so most of the south half is unused, but it has been abused just enough over the last nearly 40 years that we have been here, that invasive plants had taken over.  It used to be a diverse mix, though heavy on the grapevine, but the end section was clearcut about 20 years ago, and was never the same again, and also holds a community gravel pile, and then the rest of the “unused” section was either filled in with gravel for parking or turned into lawn.  I have not quite forgiven my dad for paving over black raspberries and chopping down a prolific mulberry to make way for extra parking.

Black Swallowwort*


It was a very sad sight by 2013, with your choice of lawn, gravel or Swallowwort.  I couldn’t do much about the gravel, but my dad agreed to let me have a free hand in the Swallowwort section, and I gained enthusiastic permission from the next two neighbors, elderly or absentee, to eradicate it from their beaches as well.  It was all one mass of this alien plant, a 30′ by 50′ area, and I knew it all needed to go or it would be a constant battle.
I had been ripping up the Swallowwort for the past few years; I didn’t know anything about it except that it was new and pushy.  I had noticed that the first time, there was nothing else growing there, but subsequent ripups would reveal other plants trying to make a comeback.  This was encouraging.

So I ripped up the neighbors’ Swallowwort, finding absolutely nothing else growing under it, as expected.  I had gotten permission to do whatever I wanted, so I have done three things: 1. on our property, where the weed was already weakened (much less dense), I ripped it up again and then covered it with about 18″ of last fall’s leaves, a dense mat to smother it, carefully going around anything that wasn’t Black Swallowwort.  2. Our immediate neighbor’s property is only about 12′ wide, and mostly flat enough to mow, so when it started to come back from the rip-up, I mowed it, because there was almost no other plant to avoid, and I didn’t want to crud up her property with piles of leaves.  3. The last section of weed is filled with old tires, dock sections, corrugated metal, and piles of dead branches, so I just kept coming back to see what I had missed ripping up, what seed-heads were still on live plants.  Beyond this section the beach is mostly bare stones or lawn for a long way.
There are a few spots of Swallowwort on the bank and up in the woods, and a dense stand on the creekbank on the north end of our property, which I had been ripping up for years and now had many other plants growing.

Then on August 10th, when there was no wind and no rain forecast for several days, and there was about 6″ of regrowth, including a little in the area smothered with dead leaves, I spot sprayed with Roundup.  I was advised by a NYS website to allow 2 weeks for this to take effect, and that’s what I’m doing now.  This treatment was somewhat in contradiction to advice from NYS, which said not to spray in spring when there would be too few leaves to take up enough poison, but on lakeside property I just didn’t want to put more spray on a taller mass.  I have the time and interest to work on it more if necessary, and would rather minimize use of this very toxic chemical.

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One Response to How I got started

  1. Pingback: A tour of the property | Upstate NY Plants

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