Kudzu — stop it while you still can

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 3, 2009

Let me start this week with an emotional goodbye to one our very own here at the Extension Office.

After years of dedicated service Ms. Geraldine Geyen retired on Thursday as the Adams County 4-H Associate. She has been a loyal advocate of 4-H in Natchez and across the state.

Geraldine’s impact on the thousands of youth she has impacted over the years may never be fully known but the impact she has made on her coworkers across the state through her devotion and compassion will remain in their lives forever. Thank you for your service Geri and from all of us at the office — we wish you a happy retirement.

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Now that spring has kicked in everything is growing whether we like it or not. This is great for vegetable gardens, flower beds, and home lawns but we must accept the fact that the invasive plants also thrive on these conditions. Here are some questions about controlling invasive plants that may be encroaching in your home landscape.

Q: How do you control kudzu?

A: Ever since 1876 when kudzu was brought here from Japan and southeastern China it has amazed people. First as an ornamental masterpiece, then for foraging animals and finally as an erosion control plant. It was not until 1972 when the government finally declared it a weed. It has now claimed more than six million acres in the United States.

The only practical form of natural control is using livestock, primarily goats, to control and eventually eradicate it. For the Miss-Lou, chemical control is probably our best option. If you have a pesticide license there are several options available for forest areas, pasture and crop land and home use. If not products containing 2-4D or glyphosate will achieve control, but it will take several applications and growing seasons for continued effectiveness.

Q: How can I eliminate bamboo from spreading?

A: I have never received bamboo calls before, but over the last few months several have come in. There are two main types of bamboo, creeping and clump root systems. Creeping rhizomes spreads fast and clumps spread slower but thicker. Unfortunately most of what we use for home landscapes is creeping.

Herbicides work very poorly on bamboo, roundup and other nonselective herbicides will tend to kill back some of the leaves but within a few weeks the main shoot is thriving again. The best advice I can give is if you plant bamboo put a barrier down to prevent spreading.

Bamboo roots or rhizomes only go about 18 inches deep so by putting down a 2-foot barrier slanted upward you can help stop spreading. The only real consistent eradication method is physical removal and this will probably have to be done with heavy equipment. Once removed, grass should be planted over the area and mowed regularly. Bamboo will continue to emerge through rhizomes missed during removal but at least now you can maintain it and hopefully your grass can eventually take it over.

The top 10 invasive plants in Mississippi are; kudzu, tropical soda apple, purple loosestrife, water hyacinth, alligator weed, Chinese tallow tree, Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, cogon grass and Johnson grass. I would add horsetail to this list. My advice is unless you have certified help or you know what you are doing, don’t plant any invasive plants!

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extensions Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.