It’s so good to be back at the refuge after a long absence and see that things have gotten bigger, greener, lusher! And we had had a big surprise. There were two Pied Harriers! It’s a different pair of Pied Harriers from the ones we had last year. These ones last year were a male and female. These ones are both brown, so maybe a female and an immature? Two females. One of them perched on the bamboo fence, just like old times! Makes us think it’s the same female from last year.
We also saw 4 Philippine Ducks. Tonji saw them swimming in the big pond when he was cutting the paths in that area. The dogs and I saw them on the path beside the smallest pond. The path was newly cut and they were on the short grass.
This was short visit inspect things and make plans. We planted 20 more Narra seedlings and 20 Duhat seedlings that we grew from seeds. This year we are boosting our seedlings with vermicast made at home from horse poop compost. We’re hoping this makes our trees even bigger, greener, and lusher this year!
We received 265 Dao seeds from our neighbor Dr. Ed Gomez! We bumped into him in UP Diliman where he holds office once a week. He was excited to show us what appeared to be a sack full of soil and offered us a few scoops. Mixed in with the soil were Dao fruits. I’m guessing the very ripe fruit fell to the ground and were scooped up into the sack, soil and all. The fruits had big white worms in them. I later figured out that those were Black Soldier Fly larvae.
My first Hagonoy Eradication Project Version was a failure. The good thing is, I now know why it failed! And I have a new and improved technique that works!
Version 1: Brute Strength and Fancy Tools
When I started the first Hagonoy Eradication Project in 2015, my goal was to find an efficient and safe method for removing hagonoy or Chromolaena odorata, an invasive weed that quickly spreads and can create a dense canopy that prevents other plants and seedlings from growing. It can even climb up small trees and overwhelm them. I thought that I could defeat the hagonoy with my brute strength and superior tools! Hahaha! I was mistaken.
For the first project site, I selected an open field that had many mature hagonoy plants growing in big clumps. I wanted to make a big impact by cleaning up the area with the biggest hagonoy plants. I thought the key was simply finding a big tool that could easily dig up the entire root of the hagonoy. When I found a great tool that could handle the big hagonoy roots, I thought that I had the solution to my hagonoy problems. I spent hours digging up hagonoy, only stopping out of exhaustion!
At first it looked like it worked. I was unprepared for when the hagonoy returned. Today, instead of big hagonoy clusters, there are many, many small hagonoy plants covering the entire field. Argh! There are so many of them that they are even harder to remove. The field looks even worse now than before I started.
The only hagonoy-free areas are the paths that Tonji mows regularly. It seems that mowing with a grass cutter is an effective way to keep hagonoy out. Notice how the sides of the path are full of hagonoy and madre de cacao. The area also had an explosion of madre de cacao! I don’t know if it’s related to my hagonoy removal.
Version 2: Use Your Brain. And Fancy Tools Too.
In January 2017 I started version 2 of the Hagonoy Eradication Project. Instead of a big, open field I chose a much smaller, more manageable area. It is small area that is close to the cottage, easy to access, and is surrounded by trees.
While working on the new site, I noticed that the hagonoy growing inside the tree line is very easy to uproot. I realized that when hagonoy grows on good, soft soil with a lot of organic material like the soil found inside the tree line, it doesn’t spend a lot of energy on growing roots. Instead, it focuses its energy on growing leaves and branches. When the hagonoy is in open fields where the soil is usually more depleted, then it tends to send down longer and more tenacious roots.
I was on the right track with my new site! By choosing to work inside the tree lines, I can just sit in the shade of the trees and use a hand tool. Much less effort than standing in an open field and attacking the weeds with a huge weeder-shovel!
This is Hagonoy Eradication Site #1. The brown area in the middle used to be a small patch of tall grass that Tonji mowed. There are different kinds of seedlings planted along the edge of the tree line. Most of the hagonoy at this site is gone. The site still requires some maintenance. There are small hagonoy plants that need to be pulled out. I think there were a couple of hagonoy that flowered in December and I wasn’t able to pull them out before they went to seed!
On the whole, I think this site is successful. It is in the stage where other plants are coming up in place of the hagonoy!
This is called Kandikandilaan. It was already present at the site and has spread even more. It attracts a lot of butterflies.
We call this Limang Sugat. I never noticed this at the site before, but now there is a big patch of it there!
The most exciting part — the tree seedlings that just came up by themselves! Before, this was just a blanket of hagonoy that choked out everything else. Now we now have different kinds of plants coming up including new trees!
The first seedlings to show up in the area were Ipil Ipil or Leucaena leucocephala. I removed them and the tree they came from because they are a weed-like tree that can quickly form a dense thicket that blocks out all other plants.
This is Hagonoy Eradication Site #2. It’s a line of trees in between the horse paddock and compost area. We also planted trees along the tree line. I will work on this site while the soil is still soft and easy to dig.
This is a cleared section. The Talisay trees we planted are now free from the hagonoy that was choking them and blocking their light. Other things can now sprout from the ground. I used to drag the hagonoy out to the path so they would shrivel up and not suddenly spring back to life. Now I leave the hagonoy on the ground where they fall so they can serve as mulch.
I’m also going to try this tool and see if it’s easier to use than my hori hori knife.
Phase 2 – The Chipper!
In a few months when it’s summer and the ground is hard and dry, I will start Phase 2 of hagonoy eradication. Chop and drop time! There are a lot of dried branches and madre de cacao trees in the area that I can turn into wood chips. I will cover the areas around the trees with a thick layer of wood chips. This will improve the soil even more, make the trees grow better, and make any hagonoy that grows even easier to remove. As a bonus, the roots of the madre de cacao trees that were cut will die back and become water channels. This is good for the trees other remaining trees. Soon, hard, dry, weedy soil will be a thing of the past. We will have soft, moist, hagonoy-free ground!
Hagonoy Eradication for Reforestation
There are many more areas with hagonoy at the sanctuary. I will continue to focus my hagonoy removal efforts combined with mulching with wood chips on the areas that already have trees and seedlings that we planted. This aligns with a method of reforestation called ANR or Assisted Natural Regeneration where instead of just focusing on planting trees, you also remove or suppress weeds to encourage naturally occurring wildings to survive. Removing the hagonoy in those areas will encourage the forest-like areas to expand and grow.
ANR is a method for enhancing the establishment of secondary forest from degraded grassland and shrub vegetation by protecting and nurturing the mother trees and their wildlings inherently present in the area. ANR aims to accelerate, rather than replace, natural successional processes by removing or reducing barriers to natural forest regeneration such as soil degradation, competition with weedy species, and recurring disturbances (e.g., fire, grazing, and wood harvesting). Seedlings are, in particular, protected from undergrowth and extremely flammable plants such as Imperata grass. In addition to protection efforts, new trees are planted when needed or wanted (enrichment planting). With ANR, forests grow faster than they would naturally. – from http://www.fao.org/forestry/anr/en/