Reasons we complete Winter clearance Knotweed

Here at Knotweed Support we find that a winter clearance is an important part of the control process.  We carry them out as required at many of our clients sites.  All of our plans include an allowance for winter clearance visits if required.

A combination of a winter clearance and a successful first season treatment makes a huge difference to the appearance of the Knotweed for the following growing seasons.  This immediately looks better and should you be trying to sell your property it can offer some further visible reassurance to potential buyers. They and their lender will still want to see that you have full documentation and an Insurance Backed Guarantee in place, they will also need to know that your chosen company is a PCA member too, but that visible evidence can be a helpful addition.  Before you read any further please note that clearance of untreated Knotweed during the growing season is not advised.  We will only carry out this work during the winter while the plant is dormant.

As mentioned of our clients report that a winter clearance is instantly pleasing as it makes the affected area look a lot better and tidier immediately, but as contractors, there are a number of more important reasons why we carry out a winter clearance.

These include:

Improved access to the Knotweed

For Knotweed to be treated successfully, we must be able to access all of it. It must be allowed to grow without obstructions where possible. During the clearance process we will clear the dead Knotweed canes. We also clear a pathway around the area so that we can access all sides during the treatment period.  A clearance of a stand of Knotweed prior to the first seasons treatment often means that we can treat the whole stand during the first year.  It can also given enough safe access so that we can work our way through the Knotweed itself and stem inject throughout.  This is often more difficult if a clearance has not been carried out.

Ensuring Safe Access

Knotweed canes can remain standing for up to 3 years if left undisturbed. If old, dead canes and other vegetation like brambles are removed, it means that we can pass safely through the Knotweed without the risk. On slopes it makes it safer as we lower the risk of trip hazards.

Larger areas of Knotweed have generally been abandoned for a number of years so it is impossible to know what is underfoot. We have seen sites with large holes and abandoned footings that nobody was aware of.  Also these sites are often a magnet for fly tipping.  During the growing season the vegetation quickly covers the abandoned holes and dumped items.  A good winter clearance allows us to identify risk zones to ensure safe working practices.

Beware of Live Plant Material

We advise our clients to leave their Knotweed alone once we put a plan in place as pulling the dead stems or cutting too close to the ground can damage the crown. The crown is where the rhizome (root) from below ground has protruded out and been exposed.  This is live plant material, any pieces broken off this crown could lead to the plant being spread accidentally to other, non-affected areas.  A winter clearance undertaken by our team helps to prevent the risk of damaging the crown if clients are tempted to pull large dead canes out of the ground. Dogs or children running through the area or high winds can cause some of the larger canes to break, pulling with it a piece of the crown or rhizome.  A piece the size of a fingernail of this live plant material is all it takes to turn into a new plant that same growing season!

Should you just cut the Knotweed back ourselves?

No – We don’t encourage this for a number of reasons:

  • There is a value in us seeing the way the plant has grown in the previous season.  This allows us to assess the health of the plant.  An unhealthy plant might twist and grow differently giving us clues that will inform our approach to treatment in the new growing season.
  • It is important that the Knotweed should not be cut until it has fully died back to avoid the risk of spreading it to other areas of the land.
  • As already mentioned it is important to avoid damaging any crown material, so it must not be cut too low.
  • Finally, it is important that none of the Knotweed or associated material is moved offsite as it is controlled waste. (unless special procedures including appropriate licenses are put in place).  DO NOT put your Knotweed material or any other potentially contaminated plant material in your green waste or compost.

What Happens During a Clearance Visit?

When undertaking a winter  clearance, we shred the dead stems on site.  We leave this material to compost naturally over time.  On some bigger sites, we have burned the dead stems on site, although increasingly this is proving to be a less popular method.