Mike Clough's Japanese Knotweed blog
Welcome to my blog. Here I'll be posting about the most important issues in the Japanese Knotweed industry and how it affects companies. Please do drop me an email with any thoughts or comments.
December 11th, 2013 by Mike Clough
One of the troubling aspects of the plethora of new companies coming into the invasive non-native species market is the lack of knowledge that they have regarding the plants that they are dealing with.
You don’t really need to be a rocket scientist to identify Japanese Knotweed…(..and I’ve known one or two surveyors who definitely aren’t rocket scientists who do a passable job of spotting JK)…but what about Himalayan Knotweed, bonsai Knotweed, giant Knotweed, Chinese Knotweed, bohemian Knotweed etc etc …and what about all the other invasive non-native species…? What do you do if you are unsure of exactly what species it is you are dealing with?
Well I’m pretty sure what most of these less than skilled surveyors who work for these new companies will do…if they aren’t sure what the plant is…they will label it as Japanese Knotweed anyway… and spray it with poison. Once a plant has been sprayed with chemical, it’s often pretty damn hard to identify what it was before it curled up and turned brown – hence any comeback on these cowboys is limited.
We recently were contacted by an elderly couple who had been quoted £38,000.00 for excavation and removal of Japanese Knotweed rhizome, they were worried that they were being conned – when we visited site – surprisingly, there was no Japanese Knotweed but plenty of sycamore root…
So, if these new breed of companies don’t know what these plants look like, and can’t identify root systems of invasive species from native (or non-native) trees and shrubs – how on earth are they ever going to advise you on what should have been growing there in the first place?
All of these invasive plants have pushed out other species from the areas that they have invaded. Generally they have been spread unintentionally by cross contamination or by fly tipping, occasionally they have been planted on purpose but either way they always take over and dominate. They produce single species mono cultures with little or no associated insect or animal life, they alter drainage and light levels and create a whole new environment in the areas that they take over.
So if you go in and kill a huge swathe of Japanese Knotweed what’s going to happen after the knotweed has died?
Let’s assume in the first instance that the chemicals used are residual, that means that they stay in the ground after the process of eradication, the chemical will kill broadleaf species but not grasses – so in the short term, grasses will take over this piece of ground. Once the grasses have established and the active ingredients from the herbicide have been neutralised a succession of broadleaved weeds will begin to move in.
In the second case scenario where a Glyphosate – non residual herbicide has been used – there will be no limitations on what will begin to grow. In many riverside situations there will be a range of seeds ready to germinate once Japanese Knotweed has been eradicated.
Number one on the list of wetland invaders will be Himalayan balsam, which will rapidly colonise your riparian habitat and become as intrusive as Japanese Knotweed…
So should you just be leaving this to ‘chance’ or should you be actively managing what plants replace your eradicated problem species?
Well, here at Japanese Knotweed Solutions we would suggest that a carefully managed strategy will always produce a better result, leaving things to colonise ‘naturally’ may give you a headache equal to that provide by Japanese Knotweed…
You need to understand habitat and understand what plants ‘do’. How they spread, whether they are native or non-native, do they have any weird growth habits or poisonous sap do they grow quickly or slowly and will they tolerate the conditions on site…
Let’s try and restore habitat and remove the non –native species.
That requires you to work with companies that have an understanding of plants, and that means plants in the plural – not just knowing one plant!
December 4th, 2013 by Mike Clough
You may have heard of Alex - he’s very much at the forefront of what we do here at Japanese Knotweed Solutions.
He’s in first in the morning and works latest every night; he’s doing e-mails at ten o’clock in the evening and asking me questions all weekend… and can often be found covering the entire UK in a 24 hour period as he surveys sites in London, Wales and Scotland, whilst also managing to be fully available 24/7 to our clients.
He’s pretty much a work horse, doing things ‘half assed’ just isn’t in his vocabulary.
His primary objective in life is to make our clients happy; he does this by doing everything within his power to make their projects work for the right price and within the right timescales.
He goes that extra mile, and won’t rest until he’s done everything in his power to make a site ‘work’.
Let’s be clear, if you have a project that Alex loses on price, then something generally doesn’t add up.
He recently lost a ‘muckaway’ project for a main contractor – our price was £18,900.00+VAT to excavate and remove material to a licensed tip. The main contractor awarded what he stated was the ‘same works’ to his landscape sub-contractor for £1,200.00… er…no…can’t be done.
If Alex has a weakness it’s that he works too hard for clients that don’t fully appreciate the time and effort he puts in.
We repeatedly provide what I would class as ‘consultancy’ work for clients providing survey details and method statements all on an ‘at risk’ basis for clients who then take the information and pimp it out for the cheapest price (on more than one occasion even giving our price breakdown to our competitors).
So if you are lucky enough to get Alex involved in one of your projects please don’t take advantage of his good nature, be aware he’s put time and effort into pricing your project and don’t just blow him off for some cheap half assed company who don’t really give a crap about your project.
Japanese Knotweed management and eradication is an art – it’s about minimal environmental impact and minimising the risk.
It’s not just about being cheap.
Business relationships are not just about price, it’s about building trust and getting the best value for your money.
Alex is your man.
Speak to Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd.
November 27th, 2013 by Mike Clough
You probably won’t have heard of Phil. Phil is a pretty quiet bloke, very unassuming, very much a ‘background’ type of guy.
Yet Phil knows more about eradicating Japanese Knotweed than anyone I know.
I would guess that Phil knows more about getting rid of Japanese Knotweed than anyone else in the UK.
…and…given that the UK is way ahead of the rest of the world in dealing with invasive non-native species, I would go as far as saying Phil knows more about getting rid of Japanese Knotweed than anyone else…in the World.
Phil works for Japanese Knotweed Solutions Limited.
Phil has worked for Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd for getting on for fifteen years doing nothing but kill Japanese Knotweed.
He’s sprayed it with Tordon.
He’s sprayed it with every Glyphosate product on the market.
He’s dug it up.
He’s MeshTech ‘d it.
He’s screened it, burned it, encapsulated it, eaten it.
You name it, he’s tried it….
He’s also always open to new ideas, he regularly checks what our competitors are doing and whenever a ‘new’ patented strategy comes on the market his face lights up – till he realises that it’s just a fancy acronym for something we’ve been doing for years.
Phil isn’t from Poland and hasn’t just been taken on from some job seeker promotional government campaign.
Phil is a Manchester lad who lives in Gorton with Mary and is a regular guy who enjoys his job and enjoys working in a team of professionals. He gets satisfaction from doing a job with a group of like -minded blokes who like nothing more that hearing that our clients are happy with the quality of work they have done.
Phil isn’t a sub-contractor, Phil is directly employed throughout the year by Japanese Knotweed Solutions and has been for over fifteen years. The majority of our team have more than five years fulltime employment with JKSL under their belt.
They know what they are doing.
So next time you’re thinking about getting somebody in to sort out your Japanese Knotweed problems, think about Phil, then give JKSL a call 0161 723 2000 – you never know he might even answer the phone!
November 20th, 2013 by Mike Clough
When is the best time to spray Japanese Knotweed?
Well… depending upon when this blog actually gets published I would say ‘now’ (or mid-October) or as some people state - ‘just as the plant approaches senescence’. NB This could also be a good way of identifying whether the Japanese Knotweed ‘expert’ you are dealing with a consummate professional or a poorly trained idiot…if they don’t know what senescence is, then get rid of them!
What does the word even mean?
…and what time of year are they referring to when they state ‘approaching senescence’…?
The word means ‘biological ageing, with molecular changes at a cellular level’ or (in layman’s terms) when the plant’s leaves are about the die – this is the best time to spray a herbicide onto the plant – as this time of year approaches, one must carefully study the plant and apply the chemical just as the leaves are rapidly taking-up nutrients prior to dormancy over winter – thus effectively delivery the poison throughout the plants system.
I am a strong believer in backpack sprayers and foliar applied herbicides being the best way to get poison into a plant.
There are others who believe that ‘direct injection’ systems are the ‘golden bullet’ answer to all your knotweed problems.
We, at JKSL, have tried all of the available systems on the market and do not believe with injection systems that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Yes, they can be very accurately applied, yes you can give accurate dosage…but you are not using the plants natural growth systems to absorb the chemical.
We are getting increasing feedback from clients who have used direct injection systems and found that the plant has been put into dormancy – and NOT been killed. This is probably the result of high dosages of chemical being applied at the surface of the plant resulting in the lower regions simply cutting off circulation from the above ground growth. When disturbed – the untreated beneath ground growth simply starts to spread.
We have also had some feedback from the various governing bodies within the industry that there are question marks over the amount of chemical being used on a per square metre rate – resulting in overdose - if large areas are treated.
So currently…now…the best thing to do is try and catch that plant just before ‘senescence’ and apply herbicide through a foliar applied system - which if applied correctly, can result in taking years off your treatment timescales…
Whereas …using a poorly trained idiot who has no idea what he’s doing, will just take years off your lifespan.
November 13th, 2013 by Mike Clough
I’m definitely getting very cynical in my old age, is it me or is everybody is trying to tell you something that you don’t need or want to know? Everyone’s Twittering and Face-booking and going on Linked-in and if you were to believe it all – then everybody is really busy and making loads of money.
Yet truth be known most people who have time to Twitter about how busy they are, generally don’t have enough to do and are just filling in time. Yes, I know, I have a Twitter account, but in my defence I’m on it usually when I’m stuck in traffic (stationary)…
So what’s going on in the World? Are we all so busy telling everybody what we are doing and taking pictures of it, that we don’t actually ever have time to do anything worthwhile?
It’s not enough anymore to just ‘do something’ – you have to be seen to be doing that something and make sure it has maximum exposure on the social networks. Some companies have staff full time doing nothing but blogging and twittering…and most of it is lies!
I know of two companies who had a bit of a falling out some time ago – the two company owners are in some sort of ‘duel to the death’ on Twitter with each one making bold claims as to how much work they have on. Whenever one of them puts out a Tweet saying they have six weeks of work – the other guy posts that he has eight weeks of work. When the first guy has 8000 tonnes of soil to screen, the other guy has 12000 tonnes …and on it goes…filling the air with random nonsense. I’m pretty sure that they are both making it all up and are just in some ego induced frenzy of ‘my dicks bigger than yours’.
Websites, don’t start me? How do you tell a good one from a bad one, and how do you possibly keep up with the various changes that the likes of Google randomly impose on us all.
We all know the classic case of the young girl being chatted up on line by a guy who she thinks is Justin Beiber – but is in fact some overweight middle aged bald bloke with paedophile tendencies…you would be an idiot to fall for something as obvious as this wouldn’t you…?
So why oh why do people believe that just because someone has a website saying ‘number one Japanese Knotweed expert’ …why would this would be the truth. Nine out of ten companies offering their services to eradicate your Knotweed are one man and a transit…who probably has paedophile tendencies as well…
I like to have a conclusion in my blogs giving an overview as to how the situation described could be improved, but currently I’m at a loss.
…and as if things weren’t bad enough…my ranking on Google is currently behind someone called Dr Knotweed, my God how low have we sunk..
November 6th, 2013 by Mike Clough
I attended a seminar a seminar last Friday organised by my accountants and run by Andy Gilbert of ‘Go Mad Thinking’ fame. The day started well – I was tied to the attractive lady to my left and we were asked to unravel ourselves without removing the rope from our wrists…not a bad way to spend ten minutes…
We couldn’t do it.
Mr Gilbert then advised us that he knew how to do it – then asked us to pick a partner again and repeat the process…(and nobody picked Mr Gilbert).
Again we couldn’t work it out…
He then pointed out that he had made us aware that he knew the answer, yet nobody had asked to pair up with him! The point he was making was that – if you know somebody else within your organisation may have answers to your problems why not ask them - instead of trying to re-write the book every time?
It was an interesting start to a stimulating day, all based around positive thinking and persuading your team to set achievable goals and to hit targets.
One of the things that I came away with was the realisation that many of the ideas that Andy presented, were already being implemented by us here at JKSL.
We have a meeting every Monday morning and everybody gets to discuss their targets and goals for the week ahead. We encourage communication and we encourage social interaction – and a bit of competitiveness doesn’t go amiss. We even have a ‘brainstorm’ session every month or so where everyone gets to air their ideas – and nobody is allowed to laugh or mock any suggestion no matter how strange…
Current ideas for the melting pot include cloning Suzanne and replacing Mike Clough with a younger fitter model – on a more serious note we have been experimenting with altering water table levels around Japanese Knotweed stands in an effort to drown the plant…all of which came from a throwaway comment in the brainstorm session…
So keep thinking positively everyone…and yes I do know how to do the rope thing now so if anyone wants to be tied up – please give me a call.
October 30th, 2013 by Mike Clough
I’ve been in business for a long time now, I used to look at the old farts who I worked for and was always the youngest face round the table, I used to laugh at their old ways and knew I was younger quicker and cleverer…
Unfortunately all this has changed, I am now the oldest face round the table and I know that the faces looking back at me all think that I am the old fart…
I have an i-phone but I’m not sure how to use it, I know about the internet and ‘the cloud’ but haven’t got a clue about what happens if either of them stops working…how would you fix a cloud? Turn it off and on again…?
All of this I can cope with, but what really wears me down is the constant stream of people copying what I’ve done and passing it off as their own work.
Going back to the old fart comments at the start of this rant, one of the things I never did – was copy anything someone else had done previously. If I was smarter than them, why would I want to copy what they had done? Stands to reason doesn’t it? …If you’re as clever as you think you are, then you should be able to come up with some new ideas…
So why oh why do people come and work for me, then leave and decide that they can just cut and paste everything I’ve done over the last 15 years and then call themselves an expert…?
F*ck me… it pisses me off…
15 years ago you were in f*cking diapers – how could you possibly be thinking you were the first company to offer Japanese knotweed eradication, you f*cking idiot…
Now legally I can’t name this company, but I can probably drop a few hints, they deal with Japanese Knotweed (JK) and are a Partnership.
What amuses is most about these guys, that if they showed half the initiative that they have showed since leaving – whilst still working for me- then they wouldn’t have lost their job in the first place…!
Move on, don’t let it bother you.
October 23rd, 2013 by Mike Clough
This is the type of comment you will get in a report you will get from someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. They may know what Japanese Knotweed looks like, they may even know what Himalayan balsam looks like… and perhaps they might spot Giant Hogweed…but that big green thing next to the invasive plant??
It’s a tree…
Ok, you’re a genius, it is a tree… but what type of tree is it? Does it even matter…??
Well ‘yes’ it does actually…
Is it a broadleaf species? Is it shallow rooted? Is the tree itself a non-native alien species?? All of these factors could impact on what treatment strategy you should be implementing, and all of these factors could impact on the ability of the tree to survive during whatever eradication process is used nearby.
Of course what I’m getting at here is the proliferation of ‘EXPERTS’ in Japanese Knotweed appearing on the internet.
So I ask myself “…how did these people become ‘EXPERTS’ in Japanese Knotweed?” Well it would appear that half of them used to work for me and the other half have either read my website or simply just copied it.
True ‘experts’ in Japanese Knotweed come from a horticultural background or have landscape experience, or an agricultural qualification– they aren’t car salesmen or even building surveyors. They understand how plants grow and spread and they know about plant relationships.
They understand that knowing what one single species looks like IS NOT ENOUGH…
Now I’m not suggesting that Mike Clough (background – Landscape Architect) knows every plant species that there is. In fact, I would go on record as saying my plant knowledge is very basic. I can say this because knowing a little bit about plants enables you to be aware of how LITTLE you actually know.
There are experts out there who JUST specialise in grass. Yes JUST grass, nothing else. There are literally thousands of different types of grass out there all with different characteristics…and I can safely say I will never be able to identify them all.
There are millions of different plant types and varieties and strange cross bred species and probably the odd plant that hasn’t even been identified yet – and again I have absolutely no chance of ever identifying them all…no chance.
But what I do have is an interest – and this is what I insist upon with my team.
If you meet with one of our surveyors and he doesn’t know what a plant is, he is challenged to take a photograph and identify it when he is back in the office. He is expected to show an interest and to try and improve his plant knowledge so the next time he comes across the same plant – he knows what it is.
So if ever you need a survey or some advice on non-native invasive plant species don’t pick a company that knows nothing about plants – pick one that can explain not only why Japanese Knotweed is there, but what plant groups it has displaced, and what should be re-planted after your eradication programme has been carried out.
October 16th, 2013 by Mike Clough
Please remember when you read this blog that I warned you before it happened…and that nobody took any notice.
I’m talking about changes in the way Landfill Tax is charged for Japanese Knotweed contaminated materials…
Hmmm… “What a dull, uninteresting topic for a blog,” you may be thinking, well - read on and see if you still think so at the end of the article.
Going back a few years there used to be all sorts of horror stories about the cost implication of removing Japanese knotweed to landfill, with prices being quoted in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, often producing removal costs that looked like telephone numbers…
To give you an idea of how this was arrived at:
For example 1 sq. metre of surface growth of JK one would have to excavate 2 to 3 metres deep and 7 metres in all directions from the surface growth – which would give 153m2 surface area x a depth of 3 = 462 m3
462 m3 x 1.8 (1.8 tonnes is roughly what 1m3 of topsoil weighs) = 831 tonnes of material to go off site.
831 tonnes at a Landfill tax rate of £72 per tonne = £59832.00 just in tax…and that’s before you have hired a machine and a dumper and then paid for it to be taken in a wagon to wherever your nearest landfill site is (…and it has to be one that’s licensed to receive Japanese knotweed… )
For the last few years there has been a little known side step to avoid the highest levels of land fill tax where contaminated materials are classed as…‘less than 5% Japanese Knotweed’… this has allowed the landfill sites to charge the lower rate - and hence make removal from site a viable option.
We are now hearing of a legal case where this precedent is to be challenged and HMRC are arguing the case for the higher rate of tax being charged for every piece of Japanese Knotweed removed from site.
This does tally with rumours that have been circulating for some time which have highlighted DEFRA and the EU changing the legislation dealing with invasive species.
We are told that in future we will not be able to remove Japanese Knotweed to Landfill sites - and that the land owner must deal with the contamination within their site boundaries. We are told that during the eradication process the site must be classed as a ‘waste management site’ and that development will not be allowed until the knotweed is proven to be dead.
So…a few changes on the horizon…
October 9th, 2013 by Mike Clough
It has been said that I have a rather strange take on being in business, I have been described as distinctive, unique and occasionally a bit of a ‘dick’…whichever way you look at it this will be my 30th year of having my own company.
So what have I learnt?
Well…I guess one of the things that becomes obvious as you get older… is that you can never ‘rest on your laurels’. The fact that I have been in business for thirty years means nothing to the new crop of twenty something surveyors and ‘jobsworths’ that have just come into the working world. They want it cheap, they want it quick and they don’t particularly want to pay you for whatever it is you’ve done.
Another thing I have learnt is that the older I get, the less flexible I am – both in body and in mind. I now meet people on site and when they say ‘I’m getting fifteen quotes and I’m taking the cheapest’ where in the past I might have tried to be that cheapest quote…I now just say ‘fuck off and stop wasting my time’…
I have also learned to manage my stress levels. It became fairly obvious a few years ago that if I were to carry on the way I was going I would be dead before I was fifty. So here I am at fifty two, not exactly relaxed but certainly able to say to myself – ‘ok forget it, there’s nothing you can do…move on’.
I have learned to be more tolerant. When I was young, everybody I met was an idiot, literally nobody thought like I did… and because of this they were all wrong. My mother got me out of this mind set by pointing out… ‘What sort of world would it be if everybody was just like you…?’ …Clearly there is only room for one Mike Clough in any one room at any one time …(thank God)…
I have also learned to be grateful for what I’ve got. Again… when I was younger I wanted the world, I wanted the cars, the houses, the trappings of wealth and a big fat wedge of cash in my wallet. Now when I’m asked by my accountant ‘what are your plans for the next twelve months…I tend to say …’you know what? …If I can carry on doing what I’m doing, I will be perfectly happy…
So I guess what I’ve really learned is that testosterone has a lot to answer for…
Now that I’m an older, calmer person I can reflect and see what motivates other business owners and take a more measured approach to working life.
I guess I’ve slowed down.
So if you want a calm measured approach to your project call Mike Clough…
If however you want an all guns blazing response by tomorrow, call my MD Alex Dayes…he’s a lot younger than I am, and more like I was twenty five years ago – just bear in mind – if you don’t agree with him, he’s likely to call you a ‘dick’ when he puts the phone down.