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EMS Artifact Versus The Forsythia

EMS Artifact Versus The Forsythia

It’s been busy here at EMS Artifact Galactic HQ. The company I work for has picked up some new client agencies. That means that in addition to work with my regular clients, I’m doing introductory classes for a new client. Plus I’m doing my regular periodic reviews for all three of my existing clients.

In addition, my boss wants to lighten his work load, so he has asked me to pick up an existing client. This one is pretty easy as they do a good job with their EMS responses.

All of that means that I’ve been working a lot of hours and have had less time to blog. I have a couple of posts circulating in my head, and I’ll get them out as soon as I have time.

In the meantime, here is a post about nothing to do with firearms, EMS, politics, or much of anything else.

Forsythia is a deciduous shrub with upward and arching shoots that may be 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Forsythia is a popular cultivated plant that is used often in landscapes. Native to China, you can find forsythia throughout much of the northeastern US and Canada.

So says the online guide to Forsythia that I read in preparation for this post. “Native to China” means, at least to me that Forsythia is an invasive species that displaces native flora.

This article When Forsythia Becomes a Ground Cover describes the issue thusly.

Yes, forsythia is ‘easy to grow’; a phrase that has many meanings. But the survival of my specimen is a clue to what’s going on with Jason’s plants in Kettering: “layering”. Some plants can be propagated simply by pressing one of their branches down against the soil. Sometimes you need to put a rock on top to keep the soil contact, but with forsythia—and tomatoes—a branch that droops down low enough will do this naturally.

That’s pretty much it. Forsythia does well and can be contained if it’s pruned back on a regular basis. Guess who never knew that and before he knew it, had an infestation of ground covering, flowering, shrubbery.

If you came here from Facebook, the featured image you saw there is a “well pruned” Forsythia bush. Which looks like Harpo Marx’s hair style.

If you look at the picture above, the large patch of bare earth is where the Forsythia was up until recently. Back when we bought the house thirty-eight years ago, that was all grass. In fact, up until a few years ago, that was all grass. Then, seemingly while my back was momentarily turned, Forsythia moved and and supplanted the grass. I cut it back last year, but made the rookie mistake of not digging out the roots. The roots of the Forsythia, like roots of all plants and tree, suck up water and other nutrients from the ground. In the case of the Forsythia, they spread out horizontally more than vertically. Which means that you have to dig a big hole around the stumps of the cut of plants to get the roots out.

If you don’t get the roots out, the plants grow back. Just as if you don’t get all of a cancer out, it will grow back. That’s a good analogy, I think.

I first started cutting about three weeks ago, between rain storms. Then, about a week went by before I could get back to the job. At that point, to my horror, I discovered that shoots were sprouting up out of the recently cut branches. Soooo, I decided that the roots needed to be dug up.

The problem being that the larger the plant, the deeper and wider the roots.

Here is the biggest of the stumps which I dug out of the yard. The stump is partially hidden by the two big rocks I had to dig out to get at the roots. The trash bags give an indication of the size of the stump/root bundle. That one stump took about an hour of digging with a shovel and pick axe.

I put the big hole to use as a burn pit over the past weekend. Town burn permit in hand, I spent five hours on Saturday and six hours one Sunday chopping the previously cut Forsythia branches, along with some thick as an axe handle things  with 1/2″ thorns on them. That was just an extra bonus to the fun. I then cheerfully consigned them to the fire pit and watched with glee as they burned.

For all the world, my arms look like a someone who made an attempt to cut my wrists.

While doing all of that, I discovered some of the roots that I thought that I had dug out had left little bits behind. Guess what started to regrow? Which meant that I had to spend some more shovel time rooting out roots. Plus I found more under the leaves that had gathered on the edges of the yard.

During all of this my neighbor came over a couple of times to look at my handiwork. I get along very well with him and his lovely wife. I was a bit concerned that they might not like that I had strayed about five feet into their yard. Nope, no problem, although they did invite me to continue as far into their yard as I wanted. I politely declined.

I’m still not done with this battle. I have one more big stump/root section to dig out. Then that part has to go out into the deep woods behind the house. Where I have no doubt that they will take root.

Once that’s done, I’ll fill in the fire pit, spread some loam around, and churn it all up with my handy roto tiller. Then comes the grass seed and fertilizer. Hopefully, the grass will grow in. Then I’ll have to make sure to cut the Forsythia back.

Because I know that the Forsythia isn’t defeated, it’s just regrouping.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


  1. I’m not normally a huge fan of using chemicals, but plants like the forsythia are the exception.

    A couple days to a week before you plan to dig up the last stump, cut several fresh notches in the top of it (or take a drill bit to the top), and saturate the cuts with Roundup or one of its generic equivalents. I keep a bottle of generic concentrate around for just that purpose. It might not get ALL the roots, but it’ll help kill at least some of the ones that you can’t get dug up.

    • Thank you. Someone else mentioned this, of course AFTER I had worked like a coal miner to dig up the roots. I’ll have to try the Round Up method on the couple of stumps I have left.

      I also have a feeling I’ll be facing this battle again next year. 🙁

      I’m reliably informed that I also need to wait until the fall to drop grass seed, so there will be a whole summer to watch the patch of ground for new sprouts.

    • You will be.

      We’ve been fighting the same battle against a Trumpet Vine. Roundup, dig up the stump, and then keep the area mowed, religiously, seems to have done the trick. Though I’d not be surprised that if we stopped mowing the shoots would appear again……

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