I am the designated gardener. I love dirt therapy. I am beautifying the yard and tending to my sense of calm.(More)

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

This idyllic notion of tending the earth has been rather rudely interrupted by thistles. Between the University of Minnesota and Bob the next door neighbor, I am learning just how difficult to eradicate they are.

Thistle control

Thistles are often troublesome weeds in Minnesota gardens and lawns. The first step to proper thistle control is their identification. Biennial thistles can be controlled by digging and cultivation; this is more difficult with perennial thistles because they spread by creeping underground stems (rhizomes). The most effective way to remove perennial thistles is through the use of herbicides. Broadleaf herbicides containing 2,4-D and MCPP can control thistles in lawns. In gardens, it may be best to spot treat thistles with a non-selective herbicide containing glyphosate, such as Round-up.

There is a wonderful hedge of shrubs along the back of the yard. Mixed in it are very tall, 6′ thistles. There is also a bunch of wild, poisonous rhubarb. I want to save the shrubs and eliminate the thistles and rhubarb. The thistles are so mixed into everything else and have such strong barbs that it takes two pairs of gloves and really thick clothing to work on them. It is down to chemical warfare.

I was out back standing in awe of this mix when Bob came over with a chemical spray. He told me he’d happily spray for me because pulling them was a fool’s errand. Thank you Bob! It’s been a couple of weeks and I can see some progress. I’d love to know if the previous owners planted these or if they just appeared.

The prickles prevent the plant from being eaten by herbivores.

Conversely however, the genus Cynara includes commercially important species of artichoke and some species regarded as major weeds are commercial sources of vegetable rennet used in commercial cheese making. imilarly, some species of Silybum that occur as weeds, also are cultivated for seeds that yield vegetable oil and pharmaceutical compounds such as Silibinin.

So thistles are good for something just not our garden.

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Credit: Adobe Stock Images. Standard License.