Monday, June 6, 2011

Thistles, Thistles Everywhere

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
   since from it you were taken;

If thistles were a cash crop, I'd be rich.  Our house was vacant for a year before we bought it, and a jungle of weeds sprung up in the lawn.  Did you know that one Canadian Thistle can colonize an area 3 to 6 feet in diameter in one or two years?*  Did you know that pulling thistles make them worse?  The stem breaks and sends up two shoots from the broken stem.  They have a huge underground root system (horizontal roots may extend 15 feet or more and vertical roots may grow 6 to 15 feet deep*).  And let's not forget all the seeds thistles send flying in the wind if you let them flower.  Ugggghhhh!  I read all these things when trying to figure out a way to control them without herbicide.  These plants have an amazing set of survival mechanisms.

This summer, I broke down and succumbed to having a lawn service.  I hope one summer of this will get the thistles (and other less daunting weeds) down to a manageble level.  Even so, here's a shot from my freshly-planted tomato garden to illustrate the problem.  Those little sprouts next to the tomato plant are Canadian Thistle.  It's still hand-to-hand combat in the garden.

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