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Bring on the Goats


August 12, 2021

New Canaan Garden Club Goat Initiative Helps Eradicate Weeds

For years, Japanese knotweed, an invasive weed that spreads rapidly, crowding out and killing native plants, had been plaguing Irwin Park in New Canaan, Connecticut. Previous attempts at eradication involved chemical herbicides. In 2019, the New Canaan Garden Club, Connecticut (NCGC), which has responsibility for the stewardship of the park, set out to find an eco-friendly way to remove the weed—one that would not make use of toxic herbicides. With this goal in mind, the Goat Initiative was born. 

The club’s goal was two-fold—to eliminate invasive weeds and to replant the area with native plants that would support the Pollinator Pathway. Why goats? Goats are an age-old, environmentally sustainable method of weed control. Not only do they eat one quarter of their body weight daily, their unique digestive system destroys consumed seeds, inhibiting future weed growth. They can stand up to reach branches six feet high and yank vines off of trees. Plus, goat manure makes a great fertilizer.  

It was not easy to put the plan in motion, however. NCGC had to get approval from the city’s Town Hall, Parks and Rec, Planning and Zoning, Wetlands, Public Works, and Animal Control. Once approved, fence panels were rented, fencing was installed, and a farmer that rents goats was located. It was time to bring in the goats.

The novelty of the goats has brought many visitors to Irwin Park. Two of the goats, Stewie and Ralph,  became mascots on the New Canaan holiday ornament. The club posted educational signage about the goats, green alternatives to herbicides, and information about the Pollinator Pathway. Once the goats have accomplished their mission, the club plans to plant native grasses, flowers, and trees and welcome the pollinators.


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