Farm Progress

This winter I have been waging a war against buckthorn.

March 6, 2017

2 Min Read
INVASIVE SHRUB: Buckthorn forms a dense thicket.

I am waging war on buckthorn — or at least that’s what it feels like.

The invasive shrub has overrun the shelterbelt on our acreage. Since there hasn’t been much snow in the southern Red River Valley this winter, I have been grubbing out the buckthorn with an ax.

It’s a crude but, I think, effective way of going about battling buckthorn. Several times a day, I leave my desk and spend an hour swinging an ax. This buckthorn is in an area I will be able to mow, so I will be able to prevent it from regrowing from the stumps. If I couldn’t mow, I’d have to spray herbicide on the regrowth to kill the roots.

Winter seems to be a pretty good time of year to go after buckthorn. When the ground is frozen, it seems easier to chop off the saplings just below the soil surface. When the ground thaws, as it did during the 50 degree F days we had in February, it takes longer to chop through the trunks because the soft ground absorbs some of the force of the ax. In another month or so, I’ll have to change tactics and start using the tractor loader to pull the smaller buckthorns out. I’ve seen a couple of attachments I can buy that will do the job, but I think I will try a simple iron pipe and log chain method that I saw in a “made-it-myself” section of a farm magazine.

I have a lot of buckthorn to remove, though. There’s 9 acres surrounded by a shelterbelt that needs renovating. And some of the buckthorn has gotten big. This summer I am going to have to rent a skid steer or maybe even a backhoe if I hope to make any significant progress.

In the meantime, know that the stories you see from me on this website and in the pages of the Dakota Farmer magazine were probably written between periods of savagely hacking away at buckthorn until I am too exhausted to lift the ax one more time.

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