Well, here we are in late summer noticing all that we’ve accomplished but lamenting the fact that we simply did not get certain areas completely swept clean. Do we give up on those places, run away? No, I say there is still time. But while one of my chief goals each year is to break seed formation, we have to figure out how to deal with those plants now carrying viable seed. Think wild parsnip – the seed heads are just standing there (actually they don’t care if they’re standing upright, they’ll still get along just fine when mashed to the ground) waiting for dry days and a good wind to scatter them about.
Why would we let this happen? I mean, they’re right there in front of us. Would it not be wise to carefully scout the site and consolidate the outlier plants, those way out by themselves, into concentrated piles? When seeds hit the ground on a new site, we instantly have a five-year project. That’s the lifespan for many invasive species, give or take a year. So unless we come along with a vacuum cleaner, we’ve allowed a long-enduring problem to commence.
So a Hotspot is an offshoot of the Weed Drying Station. All summer long, I pull invasive plants and kill them with sunlight before they can seed up. They go on a pile if need be, usually begun as a couple pallets on a chosen section of the property. Or with Japanese knotweed, there may be several drying stations along a linear infestation. Even if some of these plants carry viable seed, no worries, I’ve got them all in one tidy little place. No need to burn (although it’s an option), no bagging, no trips to the dump. I’ve piled my drying stations eight feet high. The sun does pretty amazing work. A hotspot is essentially a drying station we build toward the end of the season. We know we’ve missed the boat for intercepting seed formation, but at least we can pile everything in one place. No need to mess around with it any further, get as many piles pulled together as possible. Next year we’ll just park a round bale (hay, you know, those big marshmallows) on top of the spot. Nothing comes up through those. Or we do a pass with the flamer torch. Or we put down a small sheet of plastic. No worries, we have five concentrated locations instead of five runaway, insanely uncontrollable acres. Brilliant.
There is nuance to the world of Hotspots. I personally always cut Japanese knotweed flush to the ground, but occasionally I’ll pull the root nodes or rhizomes where there’s no risk of erosion. So then I have my knotweed cane hotspot, and my pile of rhizomes or root nodes in a hotspot. The root material is a huge risk for survival and spread, even on a pallet, so it’s treated with much more attention. I have to go out tomorrow and fix a hotspot location that kind of got away from me. Many students involved, all very excited to be outdoors, and perhaps not fully grasping that bio-security aspect regarding the roots (and I think they just loved pulling up knotweed clumps). But now……. I suspect one of the pallets is in danger of becoming a knotweed mountain! I really don’t want that…. So yes, much nuance involved in Hotspotting, but that’s another blog for another day.