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Spraying for thistles

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  • Spraying for thistles

    What do you use to spray for thistles in your pasture (and around the barn and in the arena! Hate those things!) Do you spray your whole pasture? Or do you spot spray with something? Mine are just starting to come up. I would like to stop them before they get too big and go to seed. I got a tractor with a bush hog last summer, and one of the most satisfying projects was mowing down the big thistles!

  • #2
    I've never sprayed for thistles. I've mowed the fields w/the brush hog and then for the times when the thistles popped up but the grass was low I hand cut them down. It was a bit of work the first year, but the thistles were much better the second year and now they are *completely* gone.

    How much of an area are you talking? I was covering three fields, about 10 acres total. The hand cutting down (w/a sickle-like tool from Tractor Supply) took about an hour every couple of weeks. I never let them go to seed -- what a potential nightmare!
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    • Original Poster

      Well, that's good to hear that mowing them helps. Last year was my first year mowing them. I have about 30 acres of pasture, so hand cutting is not really an option, although possible. Hand spraying doesn't seem too daunting. They are mainly in the "rough" areas of the pasture, where the horses don't eat the grass as much. In the "lawn" areas, there are no weeds. I've heard that thistles don't respond as well to general spraying. So I wanted to ask for others experiences first.


      • #4
        I very carefully hand cut all of the thistles in my +/- 2 acre pasture a couple years ago, only to find that the ONE I missed had been daintily (sp?) consumed by my PerchX.
        After my heart began beating again, I watched her carefully and nothing went wrong. I hate those d*mn things. I think we ended up spraying them (hand spraying) and keeping the horses away for awhile.
        PerchX also consumed the neighbor's sunflower. I'm planting sunflowers this year to get my own supply of BOSS.


        • #5
          Thistle have long tap roots. That's why they are hard to kill with pesticides.

          Not sure what is on the market that halfways works, but the true and tried method is to cut them with as much root as possible, well below ground level. Tool of choice - if you are lucky enough to find one - resembles something like a knife on a brooms stick.

          I hear goats eat them tho....


          • #6
            Best thing for thistles is still 2,4D same treatment as of 50 years ago. What ever you do, do NOT cultivate them or rototill them as each end of that chopped up root will make another thistle.
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            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the advice. What are your thoughts on 2,4D vs Roundup? Is the roundup stronger? I realize the roundup might kill the nearby grass, but if I hand spray it, it shouldn't make much of a difference. If I did the whole pasture with 2,4D, how long would the horses need to stay off? Thanks!


              • #8
                Round-Up works differently - in a nutshell, it makes plants grow themselves to death. It can be used carefully if you hand spray with low force, and the pasture only needs a couple of days off. With 2,4D, at least 10 days before they can go back.
                Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

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                • #9
                  Thistles are relatively easy to kill with herbides, particularily if they're young and growing rapidly. 2-4 D is cheap, effective also kills other broad leafed weeds, but also clover. Roundup is a brute force product that kills EVERYTHING, if applied often enough. With only a few thistles, when the ground is moist, pull them by hand while wearing gloves or with a claw hammer.
                  Bob Kane, Chairman Emeritus
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                  • #10
                    Get a scythe and cut them down. It's a very good way to work out your anger at them!

                    Don't worry about your horse eating them; they're not toxic, as far as I know.
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                    • #11
                      Cut them down with the bushhog. Just don't let them go to seed. Although................... it is always fascinating to watch the horses eat the purple flower heads. They seem to absolutely relish them. They curl their lips back so they don't get 'stung' by the thorns, reach out with their teeth and gently pick off the entire flower head and then chew with absolute delight and relish of this 'dainty delicacy'.
                      Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
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                      • #12
                        Thistles can be controlled by taking a walk with a large plastic bag, a good pair of scissors, and work gloves. Wait until they are blooming, then cut off the flowers, place them in the bag, and discard. They are not perrenials, so no more flowers = no seeds = no more thistles. We have successfully controlled thistles on 23 acres using this method for close to 30 years, and I know of others who do it the same way. You have to be dilligent the first year or two, but after that it's not much work at all. If you mow them, and there are flowers, the flowers will go to seed. If you spray them, sometimes they go to seed before the pesticide does its job. Any flower that goes to seed is a zillion more thistles waiting to happen. In some states, the thistle is covered under noxious weed legislation, and they must be controlled. A donkey or pony that likes to eat thistles is nice, but no guarantee of 100% control.
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                        • #13
                          Thistles are actually biannuals therefore, if you can keep them mowed for two years, short of more seeds coming up, you will have gotten rid of them. Yes, they are noxious. And if your neighbor doesnt keep them under control, you will always get them back. In Canada, you have to keep your fields clean for your neighbor for that reason alone.

                          Dont let them go to seed, and dont disturb seed. If you can just keep the farm mowed for a couple years, then you will have destroyed a lot more weeds than just the thistle.

                          I used 2-4-D and it was effective but...................like mowing, you have to keep it up for new ones.
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