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Remove Invasive Plants as part of your Fall Clean-Up Plan This year

Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A

Fall is the ideal time to ‘clean’ up your yard. The weather is great, the soil conditions are predictable and you have a head start in Spring to enjoy your yard rather than labour over it.

“Weed is an every day term used in a variety of senses, usually to describe a plant considered undesirable within a certain context. The word—commonly applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, such as farm fields, gardens, lawns, and parks—carries no botanical classification value, since a plant that is a weed in one context is not a weed when growing where it is wanted. Indeed, a number of plants that many consider weeds are often intentionally grown in gardens and other cultivated settings.” (Source: wikipedia)

In Alberta, there is a list of invasive plants that are classified as either prohibited or noxious. Do your part to keep these plants out of the environment. You may love the function a plant plays in your landscape but there are better, easier to maintain options. (The Alberta Invasive Plant Council has compiled a list of great on-line resource with Fact sheets, photographs, management tools and more. Click on the link to get to their home page.)

Before – 100’s of baby trees

Plants that spread readily can be invasive or ‘weedy’ if left untended. Trees can also fall into this category. I spend numerous hours ending ‘unplanned propagation’ for clients. They seem to magically appear overnight when in reality they have been growing there for several years. In many cases, I hand dig the entire plant since a brown treated dead baby tree still has to be removed to clean up the yard. Simply cutting them off will only result in several more stems growing from the root system. It gets more challenging and more costly when trees are left until they are several feet tall and wedged beside a fence or building or growing up in the middle of your juniper of favourite perennial. Stump grinding is often not an option – so many people resort to chemical treatments to discard the plant altogether.


I also invest the time and effort to manually dig most undesirable herbaceous plants. I know my clients appreciate that I take the time to remove them rather than spray them and leave them to look at a brown weed instead of a green one.

To prevent ‘undesirable vegetation’ from becoming invasive is to deal with them when they are small or to prevent seed dispersal. I have even gone so far as to prune off seeds from our green ash while still on the tree. I don’t eliminate them all but it sure cuts down on fall clean-up and the number of volunteers I need to contend with next season.


All plants will reproduce. Some produce seeds, some multiple from the roots and some both. Understanding this will help you develop a management system.

After – Reclaimed Pathway


To keep ahead of garden plants, prune off blooms as they wilt before ripe seeds can be dispersed. Removing all or part of a perennial routinely will keep it compact, forces more blooms and a delight in your landscape.

‘Weeding’ out plants as they appear makes for light work throughout the growing season. Most importantly, don’t let them go to seed or you will have hundreds more to content with.

They find ingenious locations (usually behind or under other plants) so be thorough when hunting for them. Get up close and personal by lifting leaves, checking under shrubs and check likely locations along fence lines, etc.

Work when the soil is moist so that you can get the entire root. Too wet or too dry you are likely to have roots break.

Say “out with the annoying” so you can plant something great next season.

Afterwards lay down a good layer of compost, soil pep or mulch. This will not only provide a barrier for winter they amend the soil. Pine needles and shredded leaves also work great. Eliminate exposed soil.

Some weeds thrive in deficient soils – so beat them at their own game by creating organically rich, healthy soil with lots of microbial activity.

If you find a plant to be problem – think twice about giving it to a friend.


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