Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thistle (Weedy Wednesday!)

Every now and then I'll be writing a post about the common weeds that we find in our yard and garden.  I'll save these posts for Wednesdays so we can have a bit of a creative alliterative effect by calling it "Weedy Wednesday"!  I won't be writing about weeds every Wednesday but I feel that it's an important aspect of gardening that every homeowner and gardener ought to have some knowledge about.  By learning a little about the weeds we can deal with them more effectively with fewer dangerous chemicals leaching into our environment.  To start things off we're going to begin with one nasty little weed - thistle!

First of all thistle isn't necessarily just a weed.  It's a good flower for the bees to feed from in the summer and a great source of nourishment for the birds as well.  However if you like to run barefoot through your lawn - or have children who do - stepping on a thistle can be a nasty surprise!  Imagine playing a game of backyard football and getting tackled on top of one of these spiky menaces!  OUCH!

You don't need chemicals to remove thistle.  In fact probably the most effective way to get rid of it is to dig it out.  It has a long tap root and you need to make sure that you get all of it our or else you risk a repeat performance. Additionally (although I don't do this for thistle) you could pour boiling water on the hole area where you just removed the thistle.  That should kill off the remaining roots.  No chemicals are necessary

If you have a very large area to clear of thistle regular mowing may do the trick over the long haul.  Mowing the thistle will cause it to use its stored energy to regrow which then gets cut back again.  Eventually it will be unable to sustain its growth and won't be able to produce seed.  This strategy works for many weeds but requires the repeated removal of the plant which can be a tedious process.

Bull thistle is a biennial plant and will produce leaves the first year and will flower in the second year.

So have you stepped on any thistle lately?

5 comments :

  1. When we got our property here and first let the hay fields grow into "meadows" I was appalled at how much thistle there was. I would go on "thistle patrol" at least weekly, snipping off flower heads and collecting them in plastic bags for disposal in the trash. I would then hack the plant down to the ground. Years of hacking, burning, mowing, - and, yes, some Roundup - we are now nearly thistle-free.

    If only the Japanese honeysuckle was so easy to control!

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  2. You ain't just a kidding they have a long taproot. I usually end up breaking it off.

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  3. Here in the desert, where the ground is mostly sand we now are fighting weeds because of the frequent winter rains. I never expected weeds like this, and don't quite know what to do about them since there are too many too pull. I am thinking of salting the areas that aren't close to other plants, and then hiring someone to pull up the rest!

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  4. I find this occasionally and just pull them up. I make sure to have gloves on though. Learned that lesson upon the fist tug without gloves....

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  5. Thanks for sharing. I had an unfortunate encounter a few years back with this plant.

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