What Are Thistles?
The term Thistle is used for a variety of wildflowers and weeds, mostly part of the sunflower family. Generally, Thistle leaves have sharp prickles along the edges of their leaves and along their stems to act as a defense against grazing wildlife. All varieties produce flowers, usually purple or yellow, and spread through seed. In the Fall, the flowers frequently produce puffy, white fluff attached to the seeds to ride the wind and spread seeds farther. Some varieties do also spread through rhizomes. All varieties have deep roots, often taproots, that can grow multiple feet underground. The plant itself can grow up to six feet tall. Thistles are found in nearly all eastern States in the U.S, as well as Quebec to Manitoba in Canada.
In Ohio and Indiana, Thistles can be fast-spreading and difficult to control weed. While birds and butterflies may like it, people walking barefoot through a lawn generally find its prickly leaves to be painful.
What Causes Thistles?
Thistles thrive in dry soil without a lot of nutrients in full sun. They tend to grow in the least tended part of properties and especially in fields and prairies.
How Can I Get Rid Of Thistles?
We recommend being diligent about removing the weed, by plucking it as frequently as you find it. Use heavy gloves and pull the weed at the base of the stem. If you are pulling weeds right after a rain, Thistles will be easy to eradicate. We also recommend Weed Out, a weed pulling tool that can be very helpful during drier weather. You might even try filling the hole left behind with Burnout, an organic weed and grass killer, to try to kill the root a little more effectively. If this weed has really taken hold in your property, a spot chemical weed control spray in the Fall or Spring will work best. We’ve also had good results directly injecting an organic weed killer into Thistles with a syringe. While this method is a bit unorthodox, and maybe a bit more time-intensive, it really gets the job done!
How Can I Prevent Thistles?
The most common variety of Thistle we see is Canada Thistle. Canada Thistle has a deep and extensive root system that is difficult to eliminate. Your best bet for preventing Canada Thistle is to continually remove or treat what you see to prevent it from getting energy from the sun and spreading by seed. In addition, feed your soil and grass to keep it healthy and competitive with the Thistle! We strongly advocate for mowing high every time, three to four inches, so that your grass will grow deeper roots. Only give your grass an inch of water per week and only water once a week. We recommend Good Nature Earth Turf Spring, our natural fertilizer, which will help achieve lawn thickness. Our general Ohio and Indiana recommendation for lawn grass is a mix of 5% Microclover, 90% Turf Type Tall Fescue, and 5% Kentucky Bluegrass for our region of the United States. We sell a premade mix: our Tuff Turf Lawn Seed provides the Turf Type Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass and we also sell bags of Microclover. You can Slice Seed this mixture of grass into your existing lawn where you have thinner patches.
What Can I Do About Thistle?
You can stay diligent with removing the weed, by plucking it as you see it. Weed Out, a weed pulling tool, is very helpful for this. You might even try filling the hole left behind with Burnout, an organic weed and grass killer, to try to kill the root a little more effectively. Adding 1-2 additional Natural Weed Buster applications each season can also help provide extra Thistle suppression, without chemicals. If this weed really bothers you, a spot chemical weed control spray in the Fall or Spring will work best.