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I'm eyeing a 50-acre property to plant fruit trees and vegetables. There is a rather ideal property that is overgrown with thistles feet tall. We are talking about 50 acres of this stuff. Before I buy, I want to know if there is any way to get rid of this weed once and for all...

Here is a picture:

pasture with thistle

  • 1
    I'm curious to see what people say. It is my understanding that Thistle grows from an underground tuber. If you kill one plant, the tuber will fight back with several smaller ones. It takes diligence to eliminate it once and for it all. Easy spray applications I imagine, but it may take an entire growing season to do it. – Evil Elf Nov 12 '15 at 13:35
  • What kind of thistles are they? A picture would be helpful. – Shule Nov 12 '15 at 19:25
  • Hard to say in that desiccated state, but perhaps not Canada Thistle, which improves your odds considerably if you can manage multiple mowings before they go to seed again. – Ecnerwal Nov 13 '15 at 2:41
  • I imagine if you're not planning to plant all fifty acres at once, you could, at the very least, lay black plastic down where you're going to be growing. Fifty acres of black plastic would be a whole lot, though. – Shule Nov 13 '15 at 3:47
  • If they really are thistles, you might consider leaving them there and doing beekeeping on that land. Bees are said to love some, if not all, kinds of thistles. I also would think you could grow fruit trees even with the thistles there, though, but they may take the surface nutrients. I'm not sure how much of a problem they would be. – Shule Nov 13 '15 at 4:03
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Check with the local agricultural extension office. e.g. http://www.agrisk.umn.edu/cache/ARL02967.htm They can be managed, but effort is required and management varies with the exact type of thistle as well as your personal choices (such as herbicides or not, though many are actually quite hard to kill with herbicides alone.)

If your 50 acres is surrounded by more thistle-infested lands, re-infestion by seeds from neighboring lands will be an ongoing issue.

  • There is probably so much seed floating around I don't think neighboring land will have so much of an impact. – Escoce Nov 12 '15 at 19:53
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This applies to the US, if not here, you would need to look for similar organizations.

Thistles are no more a problem than any other undesirable plant. There are so many species of thistles that you really need to find out which one you have. From this photo this is not possible (If I knew where and what time of year I may be able to make a good guess). There are ways of getting rid of nearly anything. But I wonder if you looked into even more important aspects of this land. First, I would see if this property is suitable for what you want to grow. There may be issues with too much water, too little water (or access to irrigation water), alkalinity, salinity, or many other things that would make this property unsuitable for what you want to grow. The Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resource Conservation Service can be very helpful http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/soils/home/. They have soil maps (this is where the old name is important to know) and associated data that will tell you a lot. Some of these are online, some you need to seek out at their offices, which are in many communities where agriculture is carried out. Find out what soil type you have and what is suggested that it can be used for. There is a huge amount of data concerning relevant soils such as suitability for agriculture etc. If you have difficulty call your local office - that's what they are there for. The extension service (often called the County Extension Service, for your county) for most states is also very helpful. There is usually a fruit/orchard specialist as well as horticulturist on the staff or somewhere in your state. They will usually come out to see the area if you are really serious. They can tell you how to get rid of the thistles, as well as whatever else you may need to do to grow what you want on the property.

  • Thanks for the info. The property is in northern California; an oceanfront property in Mendocino County. – Robert Hsiao Nov 20 '15 at 22:33
  • Then you should have lots of help there cemendocino.ucanr.edu/contact/cooperativeextension – Eric Deloak Nov 21 '15 at 17:15
  • They should be able to ID the species of thistle too - if you collect it, take a whole plant, with old flowers, and roots too. If it's roadside you don't really need to ask, but if not, you may need to ask permission... Usually people don't mind collecting a weed, but ground disturbance is another matter... – Eric Deloak Nov 21 '15 at 17:18

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