Gladys Skinner, Chairperson of the Beautification Committee for the Hillcrest and Hillview Neighborhood Association contacted the Kudzu Coalition in July 2008. She asked that we "walk through our neighborhood" to identify the kudzu infestations with the idea that their Board would then decide where to start in the battle to remove kudzu "spots of embarrassment". We met with Gladys and found more than a half dozen kudzu sites.
Samantha Parks, neighborhood resident and mover shaker, came to Kudzu Kollege in July. After considering the alternatives, Samantha led the neighborhood deliberations and decision. They chose to start on the Hillcrest (eastern) half of the neighborhood (formerly two separate neighborhoods). They chose the largest and the most visible infestation. It was a mature patch under a Duke Energy power line, a two acre level field bordered by trees and a railroad embankment. The property actually belonged to Paul and Jan LeFrancois. One of the deciding factors in the site selection was that Paul had gradually pushed the edge of the kudzu back by mowing regularly. The first photo shows the edge of the LeFrancois mowed lawn and the kudzu edge all under the power tower. August 2008. The second photo shows the depth and maturity of the kudzu as we see Walt Pettis standing almost waist deep, watching volunteer Paul Blakeley attack the kudzu with his skid-steer loader in August 2008.
The first photograph shows Paul David Blakeley using Kudzilla to execute a "kudzu roll". This site is mostly level and that has permitted use of new approaches and tractor attachments. However, the edge of the power line portion drops off sharply at a very steep railroad bank (second photograph). August 2008.
The presence of kudzu on that bank complicates matters and dictates that we use defensive treatments to hold back the green onslaught during the growing season. After the first treatment with Kudzilla (the skid-steer), the level part of the power line field begins to look much different. August 2008.
Samantha Parks and her sister, Connie Melton, both card carrying graduates of Kudzu Kollege, volunteered to lead the neighborhood effort. They scheduled work sessions roughly each month. The next photo shows one of their kudzu "parties". The Mayor came and spoke at this one. He was most complementary of the neighborhood's beautification efforts. A fire truck also came, fearful that we were going to burn the town down. We didn't even strike a match. September 2008.
Measuring the number of rooted kudzu nodes was a popular activity. We found, in the sampling activity in untouched areas in the first photograph, the largest number of kudzu plants that we have ever recorded — a rate of 365,000 per acre. It is much more fun and easier to count the number of surviving crowns after the skid-steer treatment. See for yourself in the second photograph. October 2008.
Buddy Waters is shown in the photograph using a scarifier, which was specially modified for kudzu. This setup is for a second or even a third treatment. The background shows the previous mature field of kudzu, first treated with the skid-steer, then the cultivator with sweeps, and here finished-up with the scarifier. These methods are described in detail on the Farm Tractor & Attachments page. November 2008.
The first photograph shows a horizontal bar reducing the depth that the sweep shafts penetrate the soil. The second photograph shows the modified scarifier at work. Note the appearance of the field after the first two treatments. November 2008.
A kudzu root brought to the surface by the modified scarifier. As reported by Dr. Rowan Sage from the University of Toronto, exposed roots are killed when the temperature of the roots drops to 23°F. November 2008.
We could hardly believe our eyes. About 99% of all the kudzu plants in the level field were removed by these treatments. The soil is thoroughly cleaned-up and tilled, which is exactly what the Hillcrest Neighborhood desires as preparation for their planned vegetable gardens. Hence the neighborhood's theme: "From Kudzu to Community Gardens". May 2009.
By the end of June, despite not yet having secured a water source, their garden was in place. The site went from mature kudzu to community gardens in nine months. June 2009.
Paul Savko uses a one man walk-behind bush hog to mow around the edges of the site where larger equipment was unable to operate. July 2009. The second photograph shows the significant growth of morning glory after kudzu removal. We had very little kudzu, but morning glory threatened a takeover. September 2009.