Monday, 3 June 2013

Use your thistle

Today was one of those days when things go wrong or don't go right. I wont bore you with those things (yes, it was a plural failure day!) that I haven't been able to fix, instead I will talk of my one triumph of the day - a triumph over thistles.

Even my triumph over thistles started with a failure. Ever had issues with your whipper snipper / line trimmer? Well today I decided to whipper snipper the variegated thistles that are threatening to take over what we call Kangaroo Valley a pretty part of the property that always has loads of grazing 'roos. But I couldn't get the  xxx***xxx nylon line on the whipper snipper to extend, aarrgghh!

First, let me introduce to you to the agricultural weed - Variegated Thistle (Silybum marianum).

Photo from Victorian Government Department of Environment and Primary Industries  linked to above
It is quite pretty actually - for a thistle. Lots of cabbage-like curly variegated leaves off a rosette but with lots and lots of nasty spines. It has pretty purple thistle flowers but it takes over and one plant can generate millions of seeds. Thankfully most seeds fall near the mother plant and as a result they form huge spiny clumps - easy to hit them in one go.

With no whipper snipper to aid me and keen not to waste the day totally, I decided to do what I could by hand. Armed with long sleeves and thick gloves, I decided to hand weed this beasty. With the soil being soft from lots of rain and their tendency to overcrowd themselves they were easy to pull out. I cleaned up three big patches.

Thistles and nettles are pretty known for being rich in nutrients so I  packed all the pulled thistles into the back of the truck to bring them home. I placed them on the new beds I am building to make a nutrient rich mulch of organic matter. Piled on top of cardboard, some soil from a nearby valley and cow pooh I am sure they will add to my veggie patch preparation.

A very spikey leaf
Adding these beasties to my veggie patch makes me feel like weeding  - usually a chore - is worth it.

Die thistle and fertilise!
So a frustrating day over I will nurse my spiked hands in front of the fire while I watch the colours on the hills change in the afternoon light.

Do you have a favourite weed that adds to your veggie patch?


  1. Dandelion! My ducks love them, so I've actually gotten to a point where I don't have enough of them in my garden to satisfy the ducks and have been begging them out of my mums garden too. Sad really...

  2. Oh that's funny. I wish ducks or chooks or 'roos liked these beasties!

  3. Nice work, glad you found a reason for positivity. Your method of dealing with and using thistles is great. My parents property is littered with little pink patches after each time my dad goes out spraying. Not the best environmental choice I know, but it does also work but it doesn't lead to organic mulch so your method is doubly preferable.

  4. Nice work. But if they do go to flower make sure you chop them before they seed. But then I expect you already know that. Enjoy watching them die. Hope your hands feel better soon

  5. Perhaps you need a scythe to deal with thistles? A remember reading about some Australians who raved about their merits. I think it was here:



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