Canadian Thistle Helpers

We have weeds.

This is the line I use to begin farm tours. It may be obvious to some visitors, the weeds are everywhere. But, until I point out the fact, most people don’t even notice the areas of healthy green, 2 feet tall, pointy leaf plants that are those pesky Canadian Thistles.

Back in the 1980’s, County Extension Agents would visit farms and fine those farmers who did not control their Canadian Thistles. Chemical spraying was the most used and wildly accepted treatment.

The plethora of vibrant foliage here on our farm, is a downfall of trying to control the invasive species without using chemicals. Our solution for control is to mow the suckers down. Over a summer, depending on the weather conditions, we mow them once, twice or three times in an effort to keep the purple flowers from blooming. By cutting them down, the seeds are interrupted from maturing and fall to the ground without reproducing.

This approach is not 100 %, I miss those hidden patches hanging out along overgrown fence lines, or behind patches of trees, not to mention that we have miles of timberland stretching out from our farm where the neighbors are not as determined to control this weed.

Thankfully, we are not alone with the destruction of this weed. While using a hedge clipper to clean up some of the areas that I missed with the tractor and rotary mower, I noticed some black aphids have moved in to help. The little aphids attack one plant at a time. Several thousand of them cover a plant and suck the moisture out of the tender top 1/4 of the plant and kills the part that would produce flowers and seeds.

Right on little aphids! Thanks for your help!

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