Managing thistles on the new farm

We are quickly settling into our new property.  The house is starting to feel like a home, and the shed is slowly coming into order.  We might still be deciding where things will live, and I am sure we will rearrange everything a few more times before we are sorted.  We are so excited with the potential of this property – but there are a couple of jobs that can’t wait.

One of our paddocks (1.8 hectares or 4.5 acres) had a healthy crop of thistles green and actively growing.  The only animal I know of that eats thistles like this was Eeyore, of Winnie the Pooh fame.  These thistles were just starting to look ready to flower.  And Eeyore doesn’t live nearby.

One approach is to poison the thistles with a herbicide, but not wanting to broadcast chemicals over such a wide area, I decided to mechanically mulch the thistles.  This returns the nutrients to the ground, without killing off the microbes and earthworms in the soil.

All I needed was a little patch of rain to dampen the soil and reduce the risk of starting a bushfire.  And on 26th of December, a lovely 16mm of rain fell, giving me an opportunity to mulch the thistles with a much reduced fire risk.

Lucie the tractor and the mulcher made short work of most of the thistles.  In a few of the thicker stands, some stalks remained and a few days later appeared to be still growing, but over 95% of the thistles appear dead.

It is a bit of an experiment.  I don’t know what residual seed bank is in the soil, and how many thistles I will need to manage in this way in the future – but it is nice to try to do it without spraying harsh chemicals on the ground.

I also found the mulcher an extremely effective tool for removing any loose wire on the ground. 😦  Thankfully I only had to stop a couple of times to remove wire from around the drum – and I know have at least one paddock free of loose wire!

That job complete, it was time to get back to the important things of enjoying the summer holidays 🙂

2 thoughts on “Managing thistles on the new farm

  1. Hi Amber,
    I slashed this paddock a couple of times the first year. There are still thistles in it, but no where near as many. I can now try to chip most of them out in a few hours. I don’t think I will ever be free of this task – but it is good healthy exercise. If they ever invent an autonomous robot that can walk around my paddocks and chip out weeds, I’ll be first in line to buy one.
    After the drought broke, a lot of Paterson’s Curse came up in the paddock during spring, which I also slashed. As this dies off over summer, I have been keen to let the grass get growing to out-compete the Paterson Curse this time around. The rosettes that are coming up now are being eaten by something, which I take as a good sign.
    The main management of the paddock is now through rotational grazing. The cattle spend around two weeks on this paddock every six months or so – which seems to allow the grass plenty of time to recover and set seed. There is now a good amount of Barley Grass and Phalaris in this paddock.
    The paddock is looking a lot better now, and continues to improve.
    Thanks for your question 🙂
    Phil

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