permaculture of the ditch

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Thu Aug 12 09:05:16 EDT 2010


On 8/11/10 2:58 PM, Christopher Healy wrote:
> Hiya:  Used to work for DOT several years ago.  Generally herbicides are
> rarely used anymore.  It got to be too expensive.

I'd heard that, and haven't seen many signs of their use lately, except 
for some fields of Japanese Knotweed that faded suddenly (but returned 
anyway).  I'm not sure who did that, but it was along multiple properties.

> Of course every county is a resident engineer's war lord district.

Indeed, though I've had pretty good luck talking with road crews and the 
folks I've worked with for Adopt-A-Highway.

> But things are
> slowly changing.  The last time I saw one of the workers use an
> herbicide was around 15 years ago when he tried to apply roundup to an
> elm sapling stump.  I managed to stop him.  I also used to live near
> Lake George on a county road.  We had a drainage ditch in front too.
> Sometimes it would flood out.  I don't know if you can stop the mowing.
> Some engineers are more receptive than others.  By contrast, I blew a
> whistle on this county's engineer for creating a toxic dump in the
> wooded median of I-87 just north of exit 23.  He was forced to resign.

Whoa.

> We planted locally found hardy flowers in the ditch.  Any extra herbs
> and plants we thought would make it were tossed in too.  On the border
> of the property we put a row of Autumn Olive and Caragana.  Caragana
> provides food for birds fixes N2 is attractive while Autumn Olive
> provides quick shade, and places for birds to hide and nest.  In front
> of that, on the state's side we put day lilys, and other flowers.

Awesome - you have lots of experience with that!  I'm a little cautious 
about shrubs here, but I'll look around!  N2 fixing is a good thing, as 
is erosion control.

> Keep
> in mind that the state "owns" 25 feet off the center line of the road.

Yep.  There's an old marker just across my neighbor's property line that 
indicates it.  The right of way includes the whole hillside I'm planting 
on, though they haven't seemed interested in it.

> Every few years they will come by with a gradall and scoop out the
> erosion debris and the sand they spread on the road in winter.

Yep.  They did that five years ago here, and have done it regularly to 
surrounding properties, but seem to skip my ditch for now.  I expect 
there'll be regular massive disruption in that area.

> They
> would probably give you the dirt if you ask the crew foreman.  They like
> ice tea too, and many of them garden.  They also know all the nooks and
> crannies of the county and can tell you things like where all the
> springs are and any old abandoned farms where plant treasures can be
> found.

When I've talked with them, they've been very helpful.

> So don't put anything in that ditch you can not part with.

Yep - that adds to the challenge, and kind of adds to the fun.

>  The
> crews also cut down leaners, any tree they determine to be a threat to
> traffic. They will give you the chips if you want them, or they will
> even buck the trees up into stove lengths if you want.  Chips to me
> equals mushrooms to eat.

When I first moved in ten years ago, NYSEG came through and chopped down 
a lot of the trees in front, trimming others into weird configurations. 
  A few years later, the wires on this side of the road went away, so 
I'm just left with oddness, but only one branch heading for the road.

>.I don't know how long the salt stays in the
> dirt, probably not long as it dissolves in precipitation and run off

I think it does run off, but there's at least a while every year when 
plants will be exposed to it.  There'll also be salt spray when plants 
aren't actually buried in snow.

Thanks for the great advice, and I'll report more on how this goes.

-- 
Simon St.Laurent
http://simonstl.com/



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