Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Enemy Must Die

Canadian Thistle! 

Can you hear the theme from Dragnet in your head??
  Did I just date myself?

I pull and pull, yet this spot is still full!  Why???

This year, we tilled in our strawberry patch to make room for an herb garden.  We have never had problems with Thistles.  Well maybe one prickly little bastard in a mile, but it's getting out of control.

We have had enough rain in these parts to make the garden just mucky enough to have 5 lbs weights on your feet from walking in it.  Mud cakes on your shoes.  However, when the ground is moist, weeds come up easily.  So yesterday was a great day to weed and weed and weed.  I didn't have to wear tennis shoes and it was wet enough to pull and dry enough to get around.  Conditions were ripe.

As you can see, weeds are healthy little buggers.  This is less than one week of not weeding:

Around lunchtime I started.  It took forever and the weeds were especially concentrated around the potatoes, greens and onions.  Now the greens are just tender enough that at times, you aren't even sure it is a weed or not.  To my dismay, it took me one hour per 5 gallon bucket...just in this area!  I filled FIVE!

But things are looking up!  Pig Pen got home just in time to run the tiller also.  Ain't it pretty now?

So back to my worst enemy...Thistle.  After much frustration, I decided to get smart and spent a few hours researching ways to get rid of them with little to no chemical.  I learned some disturbing things...and I am not sure which is worse!
  • Don't Pull this weed!  Helloooo...isn't that what I have been doing? 


  • Apparently, pulling thistle is exactly what this perennial wants!  It disturbs the root system that runs forever deep, and sends up new shoots at the break points.  So where the break is...presto!  Two new babies!
  • Don't till them in...for the same reason.  You have to, over time, years even, get to the root of the problem.  I'll get to that...
  • This weed spreads in two ways.  The roots, obviously.  But they also spread when they go to seed.  Each weed flower can contain anywhere from 700-1500 seeds!  I was shocked to learn this!  So if they get along that far, snip the bud off the top carefully and dispose of in a galaxy far, far away.  Your neighbors yard isn't far enough!  Even if you don't like your isn't far enough! 
  • Just a 1/4 inch of root left in the ground has enough of a nutrient base to continue to thrive and revive for up to 100 days!  But if you are diligent and continue to work, again after a few years even, you will lick it.  Well, don't lick it, it would hurt worse than a cat's tongue.  Yuck. 
  • Did I mention the seeds are viable for 20 + years.  Uh-huh!
I have determined that these weeds play possum.
Sneaky and cheeky, that's what they are.

So here are some things I am going to try based on what I researched:
  • Again, no more pulling.  Snip the weed just above the ground and then water log it.  This will drown out the root eventually.  Either pour water directly on the snipped  shoot, or do your snipping just before a heavy rain or good sprinkle with the hose.  Sounds weird...water the weeds.  But I am going to do it.
  • Vinegar.  You can apply household vinegar to the plant and it will suck the life from it topside.  Added bonus, vinegar is organic.  It may however kill other things around it.  So proceed with caution.  Paint it on if you have to.  Check the Vinegar links below and by all means, do your own homework too!
  • Kill the plant topside and it forces it to use it's root to survive.  Eventually it will burn out, starve and die.
  • If you can, crowd it out.  Grasses are good for this.  But I don't want grass in my garden!  What is a good productive alternative here???  Of all things and to my great horror- Strawberries.  Did I not just till my strawberry patch in???? 



I feel like a good Charlie Brown scream is in order! 

Enough already!!  Moving on, I found so many references to Canadian Thistle.  Please check it out as well and don't just take my word for it.  Use what you think will work for you.  Master Gardener...I am not.  Just desperate and ticked off!  Here are a few links you can look at also. 

On Vinegar:

On Thistle in general:

And I am really loving this comprehensive blog as well:  This Garden is Illegal.  Her humor is right up my alley and she has a ton of really great info and fun stuff!
...Speaking of which, What Type of Flower are you?  You can take her quiz on the new Gadget on the left!  Have fun!



  1. This was a very "prickly" post!!! Love it...awesome as usual!!!

  2. Oh, and this is scary! I'm a Snapdragon too!!! I always said we were alot alike!

  3. All right freak shows...I am a Snapdragon too!! Maybe this explains our relationship :-)

    And I have these damn thistles all over our yard too!!! Glad you posted these tips because I was obviously doing it wrong too!! Boo!! I HATE WEEDS!

  4. Someone needs to come up with a weed and bug killer that kills all things bad, fertilizes all things good, contains no harmful ingredients to humans, and can be applied one time before it gets insanely hot outside.

    In the meantime, honestly, Preen has worked well for me as long as you put it on really thick and all of the seeds for the plants you want have already germinated. I don't know if it would do anything about your thistles though.

    FYI, I'm an Echinacea.