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Wild grape in fall color. Photo: <a href="">Leonie di Vienna</a>, CC <a href="">some rights reserved</a>
Wild grape in fall color. Photo: Leonie di Vienna, CC some rights reserved

A good day to stay inside

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With the eastern U.S. anticipating a "superstorm" of high winds and heavy rain, it's not a good day for working in the yard or garden.

In their weekly conversation, horticulturist Amy Ivy and NCPR's Martha Foley talk about what you might do once the weather clears. One annual fall chore: clear out the season's growth of wild grape, Asian bittersweet and other aggressive vines.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Wild grape vines take over areas that don’t get mowed or paid attention to during the summer. Now that most of the leaves have fallen, a huge amount of growth can be seen.

It is a good time of year to take a look and pull any vines down. Ivy says she just grabs the vines and yanks them out, but it can get tiring depending on how many vines you have. If you make this an annual chore, the vines won’t be so “rampant,” however you will find vines can grow a lot in one year. Many people like to make grape vine wreaths for a fall or winter decoration. “You might as well kill two birds with one stone and you can make a lot of wreaths out of those grape vines.”

Make sure to be careful when pulling grape vines down, because they can pull dead branches down with them, Foley added.

Bittersweet can also take over a lot of space. There are two kinds: native, which is rare, and oriental, which is more common. Both kinds tend to wrap themselves around smaller trees and branches. “It wraps right around like a coil, tightly up these young stems, it actually girdles. They can’t grow any bigger than that, and it can kill it from that point on. They really are a pain in the neck,” Ivy said.

Cutting Bittersweet now won’t hurt any of your other plants or trees. However, you are basically pruning, so it will grow back next year. During the growing season is the best time to prune the plant. Then you can “paint” herbicide right on the stem, which will travel down into the root system and kill the vine. It is best to “paint” the herbicide, Ivy says, because it is more effective then spraying, which can allow the chemical to drift.

Winterberry is a plant that is having a good year, and is very beautiful. Ivy says to pick some branches, if you have some on your property or the owner’s permission, and bring them inside for decoration. The berries will eventually drop off, because Winterberry is a deciduous Holly. They look nice if you plant several in mass, but they need a wetter area.

Foley found a bonus from the warmer weather--patches of baby arugula and cilantro--when she was cleaning out her garden. Ivy said other plants of hers were flowering and growing again as well. “Assume nothing anymore, you just got to go out and look and see what’s going on.”

Ivy says wait to plant your garlic until after the storm, and when the cooler weather comes. It has still been too mild to plant it, so wait and try to judge when the cooler weather will be here to stay.

Look for dead limbs on trees to cut off before the storm hits this week, especially in areas where a lot of people are, and any public places. Ivy says dead branches are a huge hazard when a storm hits, because they will break off and come down. It is best to look up at your trees, she said, that way you will see any hazardous branches. Also, be careful if you are out when it’s windy, because you don’t know when branches can fall.

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