underbrush removal

We recently moved into a newly constructed home that borders a stream. Around the stream are some beautiful trees, but unfortunately they're being chocked by vines. Also there is just a tremendous amount of underbrush in the area that makes the entire area unwalkable and unusable. People have also been using the area as a littering ground until we moved in. It's quite a large area that I wish to clean up, and I just can start pulling weeds etc by hand to start out with.
Does anybody have any suggestions for how to clean up an area such as this? are they any power equipment that can be used (like a tiller etc)? What is the best season for doing it?
Also, any suggestions on the best way to get rid of the vines from the trees? Should I just chop them at the bottom?
Thanks in advance! Kartik
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On Jul 23, 10:48 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Well , you don't say where you are but I will remind you that some vines are poison ivy so be sure you know what you are looking at before you dive in. Most vines (bittersweet,poison ivy,english ivy) can be tamed by working with a partner one severs the vine as close to the ground as possible and the other applies brush killer to the stump straight from the can or bottle with a brush. (Brush B Gone). After the foliage dies you can unthred them easier. Try to disturb the soil near the stream as little as possible lest you cause silting and bank erosion. This is really a job to take a little at a time with hand tools, loppers, pruners, bill hook etc and do a small section at a time well. A buffer strip (undisturbed) of a good 10 feet from stream bank in is a good way to help maintain the streams health. Until you can identify the underbrush please don't try to just cut it all down as you have plants that are adapted to their surroundings and you could carefully select the better ones.
Grab a lawn chair and just sit and observe what wildlife comes and goes and then consider what they need for food and shelter.
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Thanks for the responses! I appreciate the help.
I live in the northwestern suburbs of Philadelphia, and I certainly have quite some poison ivy. I was planning on doing most of the cleanup starting in October, when a lot of the plants start going into hibernation mode. Should be a lot easier to clean up without having to worry about trampling underfoot.
My wife, in particular, loves all the butterflies that come around the area, so I don't want to remove the foliage that attracts wildlife. However, it would be nice to be able to walk around back there and have something nice to look at from our deck, instead of a really thick unruly underbrush.
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Agreed. And it's a good idea to check with local government agencies before hacking down vegetation on property abuting water, there may very well be riparian issues... a stream can be a tremendous benefit or a curse, depending on ones point of view.
Personally I'd clean up the trash, then leave the area undisturbed except for any trees threatened by choking vines (I'd not kill or remove the vines, just prune them back and periodically manage them, you need those roots). You definitely do not want to denude the area, and being there only recently you've no idea about flooding and erosion during periods of spring thaw and heavy rain. What's a little meandering stream during mid summer can turn into a raging white water torrent come spring. That underbrush is very likely what's holding the soil over the entire area and keeping that stream's banks from washing away. My advice is to take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footsteps, and go very stingy on the footsteps. Rather than eliminate vegetation I'd suggest installing a raised narrow wooden walkway to the stream, keep it rustic an unobtrusive. Live there a few years, speak to the old timers who abut that stream. Once you clear that land you may never be able to put it back how it was... and it doesn't take much clearing to start an erosion point, then it spreads rapidly like a highly invasive cancer... when the rains come what you see will definitely scare the bejeesis out out of you... that thick underbrush could well be what's keeping your house from washing away. Been there, have scary pictures... Mother Nature can be an angel and a bitch.
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Why wouldn't you want to kill or remove the vines? Not sure I understand why you need the vines' roots... aren't vines an invasive plant?
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Agree completely. You must see the area in each season to get an idea of what happens there. Once you have some ideas, contact the extension folks. They have been a boon to me. Let me add my voice to the danger of starting an erosion path. It's like being a little bit pregnant.
Good luck
oz
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Don't forget there are many canopies to the woods. Try to keep them alive. Nurse logs and tree trunks from fallen trees can help the health of your area. Informaion on wood here http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/hardtoget/jk-79html/index.html
http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/hardtoget/jk-64-html/index.html
http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/SOUND /
See manageing trees for wildlife. http://www.treedictionary.com/DICT2003/hardtoget/ntb182/index.html
If you lived in my area I would give a free consultation on the property.
Sincerely, John A. Keslick, Jr. Arborist http://home.ccil.org/~treeman and www.treedictionary.com Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.

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Yeah, hire me to remove the vines.
Sincerely, John A. Keslick, Jr. Arborist http://home.ccil.org/~treeman and www.treedictionary.com Beware of so-called tree experts who do not understand tree biology. Storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions keep reminding us that we are not the boss.

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Goats.
--

Travis in Shoreline Washington

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Travis wrote:

i don't know....goats may work for a while, until they discover all the areas that you don't want them at.....
lol rae
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On Wed, 25 Jul 2007 08:17:08 -0400, rachael simpson
<snip>

That sounds like people. Is there a difference? (grin)
--
Leon Fisk
Grand Rapids MI/Zone 5b
  Click to see the full signature.
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Chopping these at the base of the trees is fine. They can grow back if it turns out you really wanted them. Before I went too far I'd identify your vines. English Ivy is probably the most common here (Washington, DC), as well as porcelainberry, grape, poison ivy, virginia creeper, and some others. Some of these will really take over, but others are much more benign and maybe just need to be trimmed back a bit if they are in the way.

Again, identifying the plants might help. Few people will suggest you would desire to keep something like multiflora rose (because it is non-native, thorny, not particularly attractive, etc). But amongst that underbrush might be some plants which aren't really taking over, and would be quite attractive if not covered in vines (or whatever).
I second the comments of everyone else about treading somewhat carefully and being careful not to end up destroying the streambank and ending up with a bunch of mud sliding into the river. But starting by trimming everything back isn't going to hurt anything. You can always let them grow back as you figure out which ones are good and which ones not so good, where you want to put a path, etc.
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