View Full Version : Clearing thickets
19-05-2007, 05:22 AM
My partner and I are still looking for land to start up an edible forest garden, and we have visited several plots of land that are covered in very intense thickets of briars and vines (thick enough that it is nearly impossible to walk through them), intermixed with small scrubby trees - the area was obviously clearcut recently. Do any of you know of any economical methods for clearing off briary thickets, short of bringing in a bulldozer? Would plowing them under the soil and then mulching over and plant work, or would it just get overgrown with briars again in a few years? We are wondering if this is a problem that has a simple solution, because compared to plots of similar size and topography in the same area, these parcels have a quite low price. Any suggestions would be helpful...
richard in manoa
19-05-2007, 07:44 AM
Jesse, more information about your location, climate, species etc would help people to make more useful suggestions. Simple solutions to complex problems are as rare as hen's teeth in my experience, but it sounds like your situation might be suited to the judicious use of browsing animals like goats in the initial phases of reclamation, at least... But like I said, more info would be good...
19-05-2007, 07:47 AM
They were near Tenino, WA (SW of Olympia), and the plants are basically just brambles (they look like blackberries to me). So you say goats will eat briary type stuff? I'll look into that. That might be a perfect solution -- my partner has been wanting goats for a long time....
19-05-2007, 09:33 AM
I found the following information on another site:
"A study of bramble-infested areas showed that goats were more effective than sheep or cattle at controlling brambles. The thorny vegetation did not deter goats, which reduced bramble populations after one season and nearly eliminated them after two seasons. In areas grazed by goats, grass, clover, and alfalfa increased, while in areas grazed by cattle and sheep, bull thistle and Canada thistle became more common."
Well, it seems that goats might be the solution...not too bad - I guess for the first few years, we'll have a nice supply of meat and cheese...
Thanks for the advice,
19-05-2007, 10:08 AM
Do you guys have any recommendations for some type of economical, easy to set up, movable fence system for goats, that could be set up in thick brush? And is there a recommendation for a certain type of breed that would be best for clearing brush?
19-05-2007, 10:25 AM
my partner once told me that he cleared up a lot of land covered with blackberries. he used goats. i'll get him to post how he did it on here when he gets home.
i know he used electric fencing to keep his 70 odd goats contained.
he also killed goats for meat and tanned their skins to make clothing and bags.
20-05-2007, 04:34 AM
I was also wondering if you all have had any problems selling the goats back to others when you are done and how you went about it. We were kind of worried about whether after the herd had cleared off the brush, if we would be stuck with a bunch of goats breeding like crazy with nothing to eat left on our land, because nobody wants to buy them...Say it ain't so!
Richard on Maui
21-05-2007, 04:04 AM
Here in Hawaii there is a pretty large demand for goat meat, such that farmers lose their goats to thieves quite a lot. In theory you should have no trouble selling goats for meat but you might want to investigate your local market...
As for the breed, I think the species in general is pretty good at eating most types of vegetation - finding the breed that is best adapted to your local conditions would be the thing.
Cheap and easy and moveable is quite a lot to ask when it comes to fencing. It does sound like electric fencing would be the way to go, but even setting up an electric fence can be a fair bit of work and maintenance.
In the end, you might figure that it would be easier and quicker to just get a machine. Of course, in trying a biological strategy you are valuing other things besides speed and ease, aren't you? Healthier soil for one thing, the yields from the goats for another...
It will take time though, depending on the concentration of goats vs brambles...
I can't remember which book, but somewhere Mollison talks about planting Apple trees in the middle of blackberry, and after so many years letting the cows in who trample the blackberries to get to the apples. Of course, this isn't a prescription; "plant apples in blackberries", but a recommendation to think laterally and come up with solutions based on the natural propensities of things...
Permaculture is pretty Daoist, isn't it?
21-05-2007, 09:24 AM
I've been wondering if you really want to clear all the land at once. I don't know what your land or climate is like, but where I live clearing land is not the best way to establish forest, because you are taking the land back to bareness which is harder to re-establish lots of plants in.
Are you intending to plant, irrigate and mulch the whole block at once?
Blackberries and apples! All that blackberry and apple crumble :P
23-05-2007, 08:49 AM
I wasn't planning to let them graze until the land it stripped bare, just enough that we can walk through it easily enough to plant trees and mulch around them. We weren't going to try to mulch, plant, and irrigate the whole plot at once, but rather to clear out enough briars to enable us to plant the trees, which should shade out the briars (if they don't we'll bring the goats back to clean up what it left). I have indeed considered other things besides speed and ease. The soil improvement was the primary reason for choosing goats over a tractor - the soil is already poor as it is (which is why it is covered in weedy thickets), and could definitely use the manure. Plus we would like to do all of the work without heavy machinery if possible, in order to prevent the soil compaction and general nastiness that comes along with bringing in a bulldozer. As far as the fencing, I realize that there will be a substantial amount of work involved in relocating it, but I'm sure some types are more mobile than others.
As far as breeds of goats, any of you know of a particular breed that is suited to cool, wet climates?
Thanks for the help,
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