Sunday, 1 September 2013

Time is of the essence of balsam

Himalayan balsam is a remarkable plant. During the hot spell earlier in the summer, acres of this plant were wilting almost to the point of saving us from having to treat it, However, and inevitably, the rains did come and the plants have not just bolted, but bolted into flower too. This puts us into the difficult management period of Himalayan balsam control. There is no rule of thumb here, we pull until there is more green than pink. That is when the pink flowers have turned to seed pods. When these pods are young and small, the seeds inside are white small and not viable.

Later on these pods swell, the pods ripen to a black hard shell and them they explode sending the seeds over 5m away. Pulling balsam by hand into massive piles appears to be a great method of control, if you have a load of people. We are now at the point where smashing them down will do less harm than good.....unless we have an Indian summer. Last year, Himalayan balsam plants were still in flower in October, when adjacent plants had already shed all of their seeds. A plant with a smashed stem, this late in the normal season may have time to regrow new flower heads from any left over node, if the weather is on the plant's side.

Some signs of larger green seed pods. The seeds inside were mainly white with some small brown patches
We have started now doing mixtures of pulling by hand and blitzing with a new Tidy Towns funded brushcutter.
Nicola and Tricia out on a Balsam pull
balsam in bramble

balsam with minimum bramble clearance, brushcutter then pull by hand
What we really need is a small army of people to get down as much balsam as possible in the last couple of weeks. This could be tricky and also unlikely, the schools start up again this coming week, so they'll be really busy and the transition is a tough time for the scouts. Still, we can't complain as we have achieved so much this year compared to previous years and it has all been down to forging new partnerships.

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