Ecological restoration and invasive species management
Reid Williamson and her partner Andy Ince started their company — Sustainable Roots Ecological Restoration — in 2020, out of a desire to see a positive change in the way people view urban ecological restoration.
Native plant garden technician and outreach coordinator
During the week, Reid works as a restoration technician, creating native plant gardens and planting native trees for clients.
On weekends, she’s an outreach and education coordinator, hosting workshops to educate people about invasive species and their control and management.
One weekend in early May, we spent the day with Reid to learn more about her work, and in particular about the invasive species garlic mustard.
Nuanced invasive species management
“We started Sustainable Roots because we love plants. We wanted to connect with plants and learn more about invasive species. But we wanted to do it in a way that felt right to us,” said Reid. “The world of restoration can be a little black and white… saying this is a ‘good’ plant and this is a ‘bad’ plant.”
Reid believes there should be more nuance applied to managing invasive species, and that it’s important to apply context-based solutions.
Rather than using herbicides, she suggests learning about the invasive species that’s taken over in an area. Then determining the best way to deal with it in that specific space.
A human-caused problem
“Invasive species are becoming a huge thing because they’re coming in from other spaces, and they’re still sold in some nurseries,” said Reid.
Humans are often responsible for the spread of invasives. Invasive species can spread via seeds carried on boots while hiking into wild spaces, by planting non-natives in gardens, or through habitat disruption.
It’s vital for people to learn why invasive species are a problem and how to manage them. Invasive species damage ecosystems when they move into spaces that can’t control their spread. When a native plant environment can’t withstand an invasion of non-natives, these plants can take over.
This creates a monoculture — in which a single plant takes over an area — taking away space and habitat for native species. And this is when invasives become an issue. “It becomes a problem with biodiversity. Invasives come into an area and take over,” said Reid.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage invasives that don’t involve herbicide.
Four ways to manage invasive species without the use of herbicide
- Mow invasives: Cut plants early in their lifecycle, before flowering, and as close to the ground as possible to limit their ability to proliferate
- Tarping: Cover invasives with black plastic or landscape cloth, which will prevent photosynthesis and essentially starve the plants over time. Here’s an excellent explanation of tarping, from Toronto Master Gardeners.
- Hand-pull invasives: Use a trowel (or not) to remove invasive plants. Take out the entire root of the plant as often as possible. Hand-pulling is easiest in moist soil. Persistence is key.
- Replant native species: Reclaim spaces by planting species native to your area. You could even consider planting more aggressive natives, if you’d like to recapture territory more quickly.
Stay tuned for the next episode of our three-part series with Sustainable Roots! Next up — Reid’s garlic mustard workshop, and, how to make garlic mustard pesto.