How to Get Rid of Thistle?
Some of us have asked why there are plants that seem to be there just to annoy us and cause us pain. We might have even asked the question, “Why are there weeds?” This question may have been directed toward the thistle, a plant that seems to grow just where it can cause the most problems – in grain fields.
Thistle is a fast-growing plant with a tough stalk and sharp needles by the dozen. Thistle left unattended may grow to be four or five feet tall. This plant will spread rapidly because healthy plants produce thousands of seeds. As if that wasn’t enough, thistle has a massive, strong root system and a pattern of “runners” underground that need to be removed.
Get Out, Thistle!
As you prepare to attack the thistle growths in your yard, in a garden or in a small field, keep in mind there are a few methods for getting rid of this plant pest. Here are some ideas that are a combination of two or more methods. We’ll look specifically at removing thistle from a yard, as an example.
You’ll need to cut your lawn as low as you can without causing damage. This will expose more of the small thistle plants you might not see otherwise. It is important to get to thistles when they are no more than six inches tall. They will be easier to remove in the fall and when they are relatively young plants. Cutting them just before winter deprives them of time they need to recover.
Doing it by Hand
You will have to commit to some manual labor to do this job correctly. Dig up each plant with a shovel. Be sure to get all of the roots! If it seems you have “too many” thistles to dig them up individually, convince yourself to take them on one at a time. Removing many plants is better than not doing anything at all. If you live in an area where it is allowed, you can reduce thistle infestations by allowing animals to graze. This will keep all vegetation to a minimum.
You can also keep thistles from thriving by covering them with dark plastic or heavy fabric. This prevents the plants from getting sun. The individual plants will usually die quickly when this method is used. Of course, the best time for covering individual thistles is when you have just a few plants in the lawn. Take care not to kill lawn grass or other plants with this covering.
Talk with an agriculture or botany specialist about specific weevils that feed on thistle and similar plants. This may not be possible because of cost or availability but it has been suggested for some infestations. You may be able to eradicate thistle with chemical sprays but sometimes there are just too many plants. Spraying large areas to get rid of thistle might cause damage to your lawn or to other plants. Burning individual thistle plants should be a last resort!! Of course, this must be done with great care. Consider getting some professional help before taking this step.