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Vermont Garden Journal: Protect Migrating Birds By Getting Rid Of Invasive Shrubs

Japanese barberry is amoung the most invasive shrubs in Vermont.
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Japanese barberry is amoung the most invasive shrubs in Vermont.

I always enjoy watching the birds feast on wild berries this time of year as they head South for winter. While there is an abundance of berry shrubs in the wild, not all of them are good characters. There are a number of invasive shrubs that are spread by birds eating the berries and then pooping out the seeds. These shrubs take over habitats, crowd out natives and make the environment less hospitable for wildlife.

The most invasive shrubs in Vermont include Japanese barberry, burning bush, buckthorn, autumn olive and multiflora rose. Check out the list of invasive plants at vtinvasives.org.

After identifying the shrub, you'll then need to decide if and how to control it. Assess the extent of the infestation. If the shrub is also on adjacent lands, you might want to talk to your neighbors about doing a community-wide control.

Then, get to work! Cut down and dig out the roots of these invasives. Try to get as much of the root system as possible since some, such as Japanese barberry, spread by underground rhizomes. Once dug out, don't move them to a new location since they may still be fruiting. Let them air-dry or chip them onsite and watch for seedlings next spring.

Once destroyed, you'll need to replace this important source of bird food. Invasive shrub berries do have calories birds need to survive the winter. However, research has shown native shrub berries are higher in fat and a better source of energy, especially for migration.

Replace the invasive shrubs with native berry shrubs; such as blueberry, winter berry, chokeberry, dogwood and Arrowwood viburnum. You'll give the birds the food they need, and help recreate a healthy ecosystem. Come hear me speak more about invasive plants at the Vermont Extension Master Gardener Conference on Nov. 2 at Shelburne Museum.

Now for this week's tip: when carving jack-o'-lanterns, seal the cuts with petroleum jelly to prevent the pumpkin from rotting before the big evening.

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