Of Goats and Kudzu

Every year about this time someone hears from someone that I rented goats to get rid of the four decades of kudzu that covered what is now part of Patchwork Urban Farms.

I did rent goats but that is not ultimately how I got rid of the kudzu.   Read on…


Contrary to popular kudzu fear-mongering…

Kudzu can be removed and controlled with out chemicals or destroying the top soil with heavy equipment.  It’s not hard but you do have to be more persistent than the kudzu.  It helps to have help.  Hiring people to help creates a green jobs!

Who did I call about renting goats?
Wells Farm  in the Mill’s River and Tuxedo, NC area are the only folks I know about that are renting goats for invasive species management.  There may very well be others.  I hired goats from Penny and Michelle  at Got Your Goat, who don’t seem to be in business anymore .
Things I learned about goats and kudzu:
1. They love it.  Eat it up!  They’re also really fun and easy going.
2.  The neighbors loved them.  To this day when I’m a neighborhood gatherings and meetings people say, “Your the woman that had the goats.”  It’s been a great ice-breaker for me in the neighborhood that is experiencing so much transition and, let’s name it, gentrification.
3.  Goats really need variety.  So on my property, after they finished off the leaves,  they pretty much stopped.  They didn’t really do much to the vines themselves.  However, Penny said that  if there had been a variety of species they  probably would have eaten the bark off the vines as well.
4. I don’t know if they’ll eat the vines or not.  We ended up waiting until early spring to remove the vines.
5. There is no ordinance about renting goats for a few days to get rid of invasive species.  There is an ordinance for keeping  goats in the city.  No one questioned me at all.
Here’s how we removed the kudzu vines:
  1. Since I still had vines, I had to cut those away and bail them up.  This is best done with two people.  One to roll the bales (preferably down-hill) and one to cut the vines down close to the ground.  You can use loppers or a machete.
  2. Mark each of the crowns with a little flag where the vines were coming up out of the ground.  These crowns are usually about 2 -8 inches down in the soil.
  3. After you have all the vines pulled away and the crowns marked, you can go back with a trench spade and loppers or clippers and cut all those crowns off from the tap root that is connected deeper in the soil to the big kudzu root.  I had over 100 crowns on my .12 acre plot.  It took 3 of us about 3 sessions of 4 hours each to get all of them cut out. aftergoats11
  4. You’ll miss a few but you can see them easily and remove them when they start sending out shoots.
  5. It’s important to do Step #4  because you must deny the root the energy created by photosynthesis so that eventually the root will die too.
  6. Plant cover crops to compete with all the wonderful pioneer species that will come to fill the void left by what is, essentially, a clear cut.  Kudzu is a nitrogen fixer so the soil probably has a pretty healthy nitrogen content.  So maybe give it something that will add phosphorous.
My best,
Michelle Smith is a social profit cultivator who works with for-profit and non-profit businesses that are committed to contributing to vision of vitality, prosperity and peace for the whole community.  She is co-founder of Social Profit Strategies in Asheville, NC