Removing Ferns
October 8, 2005 5:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get rid of some ugly, dying ferns in my backyard. I'm digging them up the best I can, but should I be worried about the coming back and what hints and tips do you have about removing ferns?
posted by my sock puppet account to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Dig em up and throw some roundup on whatevers left. That'll git em! Even gasoline will kill plants.
posted by Mach5 at 5:27 PM on October 8, 2005

Don't use round-up or gas if you ever want anything to grow there again. I don't know what kind of fern you are trying to kill but in the past when I have had to remove bracken (looked a lot like this), just cropping them at ground level during mid-summer worked well enough.
posted by 517 at 5:48 PM on October 8, 2005

If you're in the northern hemisphere, they're just dying back for the winter. They might look better if you leave them alone and wait for spring.

If you hate them, it shouldn't be too hard to get rid of them, Just put an ad in the local paper next spring saying "Free Ferns, vigourous adult plants, all you can dig" They have shallow roots and move easy.
posted by Ken McE at 7:41 PM on October 8, 2005

Do they look like this?
Sensitive fern, the one in the photo, is very agressive and difficult to remove. Don't give them to anyone you like. Other ferns are easy to get rid of, in general.

As with any weed, removing as much of the root as possible will limit the amount that comes back. The trick is to dig up the roots without breaking them. Just pulling off the leaves won't do much. While holding the top of the plant with one hand use a trowel to dig up the roots, pulling up on the top as you loosen the soil around the roots. You might have to do a second and third weeding next year to get them all. But this will work.

Not much reason to use roundup, unless the area is huge. If it's boggy then definitely don't use roundup (it is very poisonous to other organisms when in water.)

And ignore that gasoline comment.
posted by recurve at 8:07 AM on October 9, 2005

517 writes "Don't use round-up or gas if you ever want anything to grow there again."

Round up won't hurt subsequent growing in regular soil as it's non persistant, it is routinely used to kill everything before planting grass.
posted by Mitheral at 8:50 AM on October 9, 2005

The ferns run the entire length of my house, about 30 feet or so, and they stretch out around 6 feet away from the house. They look somewhat similar to your picture, recurve. I'm trying to dig up the plants and the stump, which goes down about 6 inches but the roots of the ferns are spidery and wrap around in the dirt quite a bit. This leaves a giant patch of dirt behind the house. After digging, I think I'll probably just throw some roundup on it and then next spring I'll plant some grass and landscape.

Thanks for the help!
posted by my sock puppet account at 10:13 AM on October 9, 2005

First, always identify the plant in question if you expect the best results from any procedures. You can do this through a "Master Gardeners" program(google this for your area), a botanical garden, or a good nursery. Taking a leaf to them will usually get you an answer very easily. Most ferns aren't too invasive(depending on your area) so just digging will usually remove them permanently.

Second, Mitheral is correct, Roundup(active ingredient, Glyphosate) is non-persistent(though the other ingredients have been implicated in detrimental human health effects); Generally it breaks down within 3-5 days. It does have a 'spreader-sticker' which is why recurve suggests not using it near water(ponds, high water tables, pouring down drains, etc). A spreader-sticker is something used to help the chemical spread uniformly over the surface of the leaf(reduces surface tension, I believe(?)). The spreader sticker is something I have heard to be a suspected cancer-causing agent. If you are near water, Montsanto used to also sell a product called Rodeo that did not have the spreader-sticker. Around autumn, when the saps are falling to the roots, one can use less of the product by cutting the plant down near the ground(in this case to the crown) and "painting" the roundup onto the surface of the fresh cut.

**It is useless to put roundup on the soil after you dig. Don't do this! It must be put on the leaves or open cuts.***

The most environmentally-friendly way of approaching any invasive/unwanted plant problem is usually good ol' elbow grease. Dig...water...wait...repeat.

Another option if you are planning to replant and want good soil when you do is to try "lasagna" mulching. Clear the plants and lay down cardboard(no tape, staples optional) with a thick(3-6") covering of wood chips over the top. Wood chips are usually available for free from local tree trimming companies when you are in the city. Wait 6 months(or less) watering as needed to keep moist and then plant. You may need to punch through the cardboard a bit, and pull back the mulch to create a basin for the plant to sit closer to the soil. The mulch will sink as it decomposes. It's not the prettiest method(by urban neat-freak standards), but it creates the best soil with the least work of anything I've tried. Just takes time...

Good luck and stay dirty ;)
posted by a_green_man at 1:35 PM on October 9, 2005

oh man... people want those ferns... for shady areas. if you have none dig them up and chuck em in buckets in the alley.

moving ferns isnt really that tough - just get the big ones then do a little follow up next year then the remaining ferns start to pop early in the spring.

skip the chemicals - yuck.
posted by specialk420 at 6:34 PM on October 9, 2005

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