published Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Lea: Removing privet is long, hard work

By Pat Lea

Q. Invasive privet is ruining my natural area. How can I get rid of it?

A. Privet is truly an invasive and noxious weed in our area. Carefully pruned hedges of privet have been used since early times in America as garden plants. Unfortunately, privet escaped its garden confines and birds, who appreciate the tasty berries, spread the seeds far and wide. Attractive trimmed hedges became wild thickets of messy-looking privet.

Untrimmed privet blooms and produces lots of seeds and whole areas can be colonized. In a natural area, native plants and wildflowers can be choked out by the quickly spreading invasive. Folks who try to stop the march by cutting the woody stems of the plant back discover that they will sprout into even thicker growth.

But the season for really removing privet is approaching. The seasonal freezes and thaws of late winter create a lightness in the soil that is great for removing privet. Wait until the soil is slightly dry since wet soil is can be slippery and mucky. Get out your mattock and get ready to pull those plants out root and all. Chop into the soil at the base of the plant, rock your mattock back and forth in the loose soil then, using the mattock as a pry bar, lift out the entire root system. Shake the soil off the root mass and you have accomplished a task that would be impossible in any other season.

If the privet is growing in clusters, loosening one plant helps loosen all the others. It is hard work, but it does assure results.

If you are attacking the problem in stages, cut back the privet you may leave and do not allow it to bloom. Then work on it again next year.

Contact Pat Lea at

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