Yesterday I had a friend request on Face Book and accepted. Three minutes later I got a message from the new friend that said, “Have we been friends long enough for me to ask you a plant related question?” I thought that was funny. Anne wanted to know how to get rid of a privet infestation in her back yard. I have answered that question many times before. One of the reasons I started this blog project was to answer questions.
It takes more than a chain saw to get rid of privet
But the idea of getting rid of privet always reminds me of a conversation I had with Lamar Whitehead a number of years ago. You need to know about privet before I tell the story.
Privet is used in a lot of places as an ornamental but around where I live it is a pest. It grows on the edge of the woods and can be most pervasive. The plant spreads by sending shoots up from roots or through the prolific seeded berries that the birds love to eat.
Driving down a southern country road, one may see many instances of long lines of privet growing where a fence used to be. This is because the birds eat the privet seed and sit on a fence to discuss world affairs while their bodies complete the digestion process. Chemicals in the bird’s system remove the fruity covering and when the seed drops from the bird’s butt it is prepared to germinate.
The privet is not much good for anything other than feeding the birds and holding the dirt down. Cows won’t eat it. It doesn’t make good firewood, and given time it will ruin a pasture or turn a nice wooded area into an ugly thicket. If you cut it down or dig it up it comes right back–every time.
Lamar Whitehead is a retired electrician and one of the first people I met when I moved to the lovely town of Rome, Georgia about 35 years ago. He lives in a very nice brick house on a hill with lots of pasture all around him. The farm has been in the family since a little before the flood.
It was probably about ten years ago when I sat on Lamar’s front porch and talked with him about the ways of the world. The talk turned to privet and how to get rid of it. Believe it or not, this is a popular topic in the rural south.
Lamar crossed his legs and leaned back, took a sip of sweet tea and said, “I can tell you about getting rid of privet. My daddy decided one time that he was going to get rid of a big row of privet that was out in the pasture.”
I paid attention–I was getting ready to learn something.
Lamar continued, “Daddy was really tired of that row of privet. It was large, getting larger, and in the way. The row of privet was about ten feet wide and a hunderd and twenty feet long. He was bound and determined to get rid of it.
“First, he took a chain and a tractor and he jerked the privet out of the ground and piled it up and burned it and then he hauled off the roots and ashes and got rid of them…
“Then he took a back hoe and dug a trench six feet deep and four feet to each side of the privet row. He hauled all of that way off to the back end of the farm…
“Then he spent about a year collecting old logs and limbs and he piled them in the ditch…
Lamar was leaning back, waving his hands around to enhance the story, “Then, one day in the fall, Daddy sprayed twenty five gallons of diesel fuel all over the ditch full of stuff and lit it on fire. It burned for a week.”
I was amazed at the story. I couldn’t imagine anyone going to this much trouble getting rid of some privet. What a heroic, epic battle it was turning into. “What then?”
“Well, then he took his dozer and pushed dirt and grass up from where there wasn’t any privet and filled up the ditch. Planted grass on top of it and called it a job well done.”
“WOW” I said, “That is an amazing story. Tell me, Lamar, just exactly what part of the pasture would this have taken place?”
Lamar leaned way forward and pointed off past me to his left. “Right there.” He said, “Right there where that row of giant privet is. That’s where it was at.”
I looked to my left to see a row of privet about ten feet wide and a hunderd and twenty feet long. That was the end of the conversation.
So, not to let anyone down who is looking for a solution to the problem, the best way to do it is to cut the privet to the ground and spray the stumps with a weed killer. The privet will still come back so you will have to check and spray again every month or two. If you are diligent, The privet will be gone in a couple of years. And that’s the truth.