Thistles suck and they resprout from a piece of root 1/8 of an inch long. Learn how to get rid of them without going to the dark side (i.e. chemical killers).
We re-graded the yard a year ago and its green pelt has sprouted a crop of thistles that would repel Norwegian invaders (which is exactly what happened in Scotland in the 13th century and that’s why Scots made the thistle their official plant. I hope they’re happy.)
Is it possible to eradicate the thorny infestation?
Before you answer, here’s some trivia about Canada thistle, the over-muscled cousin of Scottish thistle:
• Its seeds remain viable for up to 21 years
• Its taproot can travel to a depth of 5.5 meters (18 feet)
• Lateral roots can extend as much as 6 meters (20 feet) in a single season
• Those lateral roots produce colonies of clones
• New plants can erupt from root pieces as small as 3 mm (1/8-inch)
Thistles are the zombies of the weed world.
Dandelions aren’t much better. They’re poking through my heavily mulched flowerbeds as if to say, “Nice try, but a 10-inch thick layer of mulch is like a 4 SPF sunscreen for us piss-a-beds.” (Dandelions used to be called 'piss-a-beds' because of their strong diuretic properties.)
I’ve found three effective, natural weed-disciplining techniques. One is cheap, one is easy and one is so much fun you’ll squeal.
1. Cheap Homemade Solution: Boil 1 pound of salt in one gallon of white vinegar until the salt dissolves. Add a squirt of dish soap. Pour the cooled mixture into a spray bottle. Apply to weed foliage. This concoction kills anything green in about 24 hours and that includes grass, so watch your aim. Cost: About $4
2. Scotts EcoSense Weed B Gon - The kid-and-pet-safe EcoSense formulation exposes weeds to excessive amounts of iron (absorbed through their leaves and roots when you spray it on). Oxidation damages the interior cell walls and the weed turns black and shrivels to nothing over the next five days. The beauty of EcoSense Weed B Gon is that it only attacks broadleaf weeds, not grass (iron is actually a nutrient for turf), so you can spray it all over your lawn and only the weeds will die. Suck it, weeds. Cost: $20 for 2 litres, available at most hardware and gardening centers.
3. Fiskars Stand-up Weed Puller - This is the squealy one. This tool rocks, literally and figuratively. You don’t have to bend over at all to pull out weeds, even stubborn thistles. At its business end, this lightweight implement has steel tines that grab the weed underneath the soil surface. When you gently rock back on the handle (using the foot rest as a fulcrum) the weed comes out easily with roots intact.
There are two Fiskars models - the basic model is $30 but it’s a bit short for good leverage, so if you can spend $50 on the extendable-handle model, it’s worth it for the extra length. TIP: The smaller the weed, the shallower you press the tines. This will limit the size of the resulting soil divot. Available at Canadian Tire.
I collected a heaping bushel basket of thistles in under an hour using my Stand-Up Weed Puller. It’s the most fun you can have while naked from the ankles down.