Yard work can be very rewarding, especially in these summer months when plants grow like crazy. One thing we all need to be aware of, though, is what and how we recycle and dispose of certain types of plants. Sophia Bennett did a great job of showing us how to recycle a lot of “yard work” bi-products, which you can find below:
However, invasive plants can be a bit trickier. Invasive plants are defined as “an organism (plant, animal, fungus or bacterium) that is not native and has negative effects on our economy, our environment or our health”. Some states have lists of invasive plants that you can find online. The University of Connecticut has a searchable database located here. Whether or not you have invasive plants on your property, it is important to check. Knowing what plants you have around is imperative to having a healthy yard. For starters, just knowing what you have in your yard will help you be more comfortable in managing it. Additionally, if invasive plants do come creeping in eventually, or something else unexpectedly show up, you’ll know that you need to check out what it is. Some people may try to use invasive plants as part of a compost or some other recycling operation. This isn’t necessarily done intentionally nor is it wrong per se – you may see what appears to be an annoying vine in your backyard and throw it right in with the other weeds you’ve pulled. A lot of times this is OK. As long as the plant is dried out and is fully dead or hasn’t flowered yet, it’s fine to compost or send off to be mulched. If you compost or mulch before that time, however, these plants can spread in any number of potentially harmful ways. Birds, ants and wind can transport seeds, for example. Some plants can even find ways to root themselves and start to grow again. The implications of not doing this can be far-reaching. One example of invasive plants going on right now in the southeastern United States is an invasive plant called Kudzo. The problem has gotten so bad that it has caused up to $500 million dollars per year in losses to the agricultural industry. This plant creates problems for other plants, as well as pollutes the air around it. This type of incident is so problematic that it threatens to destroy entire ecosystems, endanger animals and even put humans at risk. So what can you do? Well, for starters, take a look at the following guides for how to properly dispose of invasive plants. The guide from Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) and the University of Connecticut (UConn) is a bit more thorough in terms of your options for disposing of the invasive plants. The second guide is from Door County Invasive Species Team is a little bit more concise if you’re printing and sharing it. Once you go through these guides, review how you’re currently disposing of your plants and compare it to the guides’ suggestions. Some of you may be doing things spot on, but others of you might realize, “Oh wow. I should totally have been doing that differently,” I know I learned a couple things about my new home while looking through this guide. If you’re unsure about a plant, err on the side of caution. It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with invasive plants. The term “spread like wildfire” can apply here when you’re talking about things like Mile-A-Minute Weed. This invasive plant can grow up to 25 feet in one season alone. That’s almost 10 feet a month, which is a pretty serious amount of growth. Incinerating or bagging and disposing of your plants is your safest bet if you’re worried about what will happen when you dispose of them. If you take care of your invasive plants early on in the season, you’ll be a happier gardener. Even if you don’t get to them early on, just getting to them in general is what is important. Your yard will need to be looked after and tended to regularly no matter what, so it’s better to know what’s there than to keep guessing. Being more comfortable about what you’re doing is very important when it comes to gardening. When dealing with invasive plants, taking care of your own property may actually be helping your neighbors, your community and even the other plants and animals around you. If you’re ever unsure of a plant and what it may be: Google is your friend. There are many different websites that will help you identify your plant, including this one from Go Botany. Your best bet, though, may be to talk to your neighbors or your local plant or gardening store. When dealing with local plants, the community around you is going to be the most familiar with the types of plants and animals that reside there. And last but not least, you can always contact your local nature center or your state’s department of environmental protection. There are plenty of people around you that are eager to look after the environment.