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Author Topic: Injurious weeds!  (Read 5390 times)

tommytink

  • Joined Aug 2018
Injurious weeds!
« on: December 23, 2018, 02:49:58 pm »
Me again!

The previous owner of the smallholding I have moved to advised that they used a knapsack sprayer for what was classed on the solicitor's agri questions as "injurious weeds". They have thistles and dock, and they said nettles too although I haven't seen evidence of them yet.

Dock is where there is a small bunch of leaves at the base and then a tall stalk coming up, right? There seems to be quite a bit of it in one particular field, along with a bunch of reeds here and there that I'd like to put a stop to as well.

I am not keen on using chemicals but is this the only realistic option? What are the risks to any animals that go on the land? Is there a certain time of year to do it? The previous occupant used something called Grazon 90. So you would just mix this up, put it in the knapsack and then spray a bit on each plant?

In addition there is an area affected by bracken. The previous occupant apparently cleared a lot of the bracken back but said they use Asulox on it to keep it at bay. They said to use mask and all the safety gear so it looks like potent stuff but looking online and can't see that it's still available, at least not to the average joe?? Anyone know?

There is some bracken that's advanced down into the field, a bush here or there - if I put pigs in that area would they clear it??

And can you tell me if these weeds, thistles and dock etc, are harmful to livestock? Or is the idea of getting rid of them just so they don't spread?

Once again many thanks in advance for any help/advice.


henchard

  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Carmarthenshire
    • Two Retirees Start a New Life in Wales
    • Facebook
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2018, 03:33:35 pm »
Firstly you can't legally use a knapsack sprayer or tractor sprayer and spray agricultual sprays without having undergone a course and obtained the relevant certificate.
http://www.hushfarms.co.uk/Pesticides-c-25.asp
Some weeds can be killed by pulling up by hand at the right time of year; e.g. thistles early in the spring (particularly when very wet) can be uprooted with a fork.
Bracken can be crushed which weakens it but IMHO is bext sprayed with Asulox which is only licensed on a tempoary basis year to year. It needs to be applied at exactly around the right time (jsst as it is starting to turn brown in late autumn). Asulox will actually kill Docks as well but is not licensed for that purpose.
Bracken can poison cattle, but most weed control is for the fact that the more weeds there are; the less grass there is to eat. Some weeds like nettles have environmental benefits to species like butterflies so as with everything it is a balancing act.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2018, 04:22:25 pm »
We don't use chemicals full stop.  However, 'off the record' organic advice is if there are lots of noxious weeds (I love 'injurious weeds') When you take over a place, blooter the lot with chemicals, after all they have been used until now.  Then once clear, you can start on organic chemical free methods.  However, as chemicals have been used, but you still have loads of weeds growing, then that tells you that the treatments so far haven't worked too well.
There are chemical-free ways to deal with perennial weeds.  There are mainly two kinds of bothersome thistles - spear and creeping.  Spear thistles are dug out by hand, usually in June just when the plant has invested its all into putting up a flower spike.  Dig it out (two spade slits at right angles is the neatest way) roots and all, before the seed head opens, then burn it.  If you leave spear thistles lying around they go on growing, the flower sets seeds and they blow all around the place.  Creeping thistle responds well to close mowing several times through the summer, before they grow tall.  Both kinds of thistles are loved by bees, especially honey bees on creeping thistle, and butterflies, hoverflies etc. You might also get riverine thistles, but they don't take over.  We have almost entirely eliminated spear thistle here, by digging out year after year.  We just see it as an annual chore, which becomes less each year. Sheep will eat thistles, especially spears, which are full of juicy vits and mins from having very long tap roots.  They eat them very carefully, turning them round so they go down with the points facing out.  Still, it's terrifying to watch!


Nettles will soon show themselves with fresh green leaves starting low down.  They tend to be the first edible thing available, so were used as a cleansing vegetable in ye olde times, when folk lived off stored food all winter, so the nettles flushed their bodies.  Nettle shoots are tastier than spinach.  You can tell where they are in winter, because you will see dense patches of pale grey dried stems still hanging on.  At this stage the mats of roots, which are close to the surface, can be forked out, with all the little yellow hair roots.  In the main though we tend to leave ours for wildlife, and for the sheep to eat.  Where we don't want them we keep the area mown short.


Docks?  They are more of a problem as according to old farmers' tales, one lazy year will leave you with 20 years of docken seeds.  Again the only way we have found to control them is by frequent mowing.  Sheep will also eat small amounts, but too many is not good.  About the only things in docks' favour are for rubbing on nettle stings, and to make a fibre dye from their roots.


I don't know much about bracken except that the spores (seen as brown spots on the undersides of fronds) are carcinogenic to humans when they are airborne (the spores!) but if cut at the right times can be used for pigs bedding.


For rush, we leave ours for the sheep to nibble at, then mow them before they set seed.  We don't have many, and then only where we are about to make a damp wildflower meadow, so they are no problem.  I can see that if you have lots you would want to keep them mown.


You don't have to keep your place spick and span if you like wildlife and can ignore your neighbours' taunts.  All sorts of mini beasts, flying friends and small mammals will make use of scruffy patches, and will provide food for bigger critters, and help pollinate your crops, so have a think about just how much you want/need to clear, before assuming you have to.





"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2018, 06:27:22 pm »
A few points.

1.  They’re almost certainly not reeds, but rushes.  They do several positive things.  Firstly they hold the ground together and stop the whole thing becoming a quagmire if you have livestock on over winter, especially if you will be travelling on it yourself taking forage etc.  Secondly they provide important shelter - from wind, sun, and other weather, and flies - to sheep and especially to baby lambs.  And thirdly, well-managed, they are an important habitat for ground-nesting and -feeding birds.

You will need to manage them, but don’t try to eradicate them.  You won’t succeed anyway!  But if you did, you’d wish you hadn’t.

So the best way to manage them is to top 1/3 of them twice in any given year, in random patches, to make there be areas that are open, areas of full-grown bush and all ranges of size and stage of plant in between.  Top the first time in July or August after the local ground-nesting birds have fledged (check with your local birders or ecologists to make sure you know what is around locally and what dates you should use) and again - the same plants, more or less, leaving the others completely alone this year - about four to six weeks later. 

Occasionally, for instance after a number of very wet summers when you couldn’t get on the ground to top twice, you may find they are all too huge and you can’t get on top of them again.  Your choices then are either heavy duty toppers or flails, followed by re-topping several times to wear the plants out, or to use a weed-wiper.  The RSPB have good advice on how and when to weed-wipe to manage dense rush for the best for the environment and the farmer.

2.  Grazon-90 has a persistent chemical which survives passage through ruminant and equine digestions.  Grazon-90 kills broad-leaved plants in grassland. 

If you graze animals on the grass or feed them on hay made from that grass, the weed killer will be present and active in their dung.  So do not use your FYM or horse poo in your veg plot, on your field crops, or in your poly tunnel.  Nor on your bedding plants or roses! 

The weed killer is highly persistent on the ground, in the grass and in the hay, as well as in the dung from animals which have eaten the grass or hay, for more than twelve months.   So long as the dung is going back on grassland, it’s not a problem, as it doesn’t harm grasses, only the broad-leaved plants that compete with them. 


Oh, and 3, I agree with FW, docks are best managed by repeated mowing.  You might also find that the ground needs lime or other balancer - you could get a soil and or forage test done.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 06:30:42 pm by SallyintNorth »
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

tommytink

  • Joined Aug 2018
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2018, 04:28:37 pm »
Thanks all. I remember reading about needing a cert for spraying back when I was looking at a property that was absolutely infested with rushes (and called them reeds then too!) and was having to consider weed-wiping.

So - basically I don't have to use any chemicals? As I really rather wouldn't. I don't want any animals ingesting it and it sounds like it hangs around awhile, especially as you then can't use the pooh for fertilising.

The thistles are rather big, and flat. Obviously only seen them at this time of year but they're the size of a very large dinner plate, or more like a carving plate! Maybe a spear thistle? I did think I should be able to dig these up. They are dotted about so should be easy enough - so once they've sent up a flower, dig them out?

The rushes are also dotted about, only small bunches here and there. I am only wary of them as the previous place I was going to buy was riddled with them. I have seen sheep in amongst them in fields I've passed. So okay to just leave these be? Won't they carry on spreading if not dealt with?

The bracken - it's fenced back at the moment. So just crushing it in situ could keep it at bay? The Asulox sounds like some evil stuff. Again, I don't want to clear the area, just make sure it doesn't start encroaching on cleared ground. There are a few small bushes of it but I guess I could dig those up?? Or would they be on the same root system? I don't want to cut one down and five more jump up in place!

And the dock - a lot of this (with thistle and rush) is in a field that was purchased about four years ago by the previous occupant. The area that was originally part of the property doesn't seem to have the same amount of these weeds so I wonder if it was worse and they were in the process of eradicating. Unfortunately I live in a valley so these fields are quite steep so doubt we can mow. You wouldn't get a tractor up there. I know we can get a mower attachment for a quad but not sure how long this would take. And if too steep for that, and animals won't eat them, it'll be down to a brushcutter!

I am not averse to having areas that are a bit wild, but ideally I'd like to keep the fields as fields for the time being to help the property retain value. We do have the bracken area, and a couple of fields down there is a wood and bracken area (again!). No wild flower meadow, but will see how we get on!

I have seen a couple of buckets of white powder around the outbuildings. I am guessing this may be lime? Previous owner didn't mention anything about it, and it's not labelled, so could be anything! What would you do with lime if a soil test showed it to be too acidic (this is when you would use lime, right?) - would I need a spreader to cover it all?

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2018, 04:39:15 pm »
Yes those sound like spear thistle rosettes - individual leaves in a star shape, each maybe 6" long, dark green with sharp spikes on them.  Creeping thistle are smaller, paler green usually with lots all close together - they don't have a tap root, instead they have a network of fragile white runners, which break in the soil and each one puts up a new shoot.


Rushes tend to grow when the soil is wet/damp and a bit acidic (don't worry, you are not alone in confusing rush with reed)
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

tommytink

  • Joined Aug 2018
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2018, 04:41:02 pm »
At least those should be easy to deal with then - as long as I've got a good pair of gloves on  :o

Possum

  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Somerset
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2018, 06:31:10 pm »
I'm afraid that not all sheep will eat nettles. We have Wiltshire Horns and they have never eaten the nettles. Not even the young juicy ones in the spring!

Rupert the bear

  • Joined Jun 2015
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2018, 07:01:05 pm »


You don't have to keep your place spick and span if you like wildlife and can ignore your neighbours' taunts.  All sorts of mini beasts, flying friends and small mammals will make use of scruffy patches, and will provide food for bigger critters, and help pollinate your crops, so have a think about just how much you want/need to clear, before assuming you have to.

 :relief:   I don't feel so guilty then, and will use this in my defence if required .
Yep digging thistle and dock , and mowing before seeding is the way to go

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2018, 11:30:39 pm »
I'm afraid that not all sheep will eat nettles. We have Wiltshire Horns and they have never eaten the nettles. Not even the young juicy ones in the spring!


In fact my sheep seem to prefer the old nettles, which are still green when the grass is dying down in autumn.  I think the juicy young ones sting more?
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

There is NO planet B - what are YOU doing to save our home?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

YorkshireLass

  • Joined Mar 2010
  • Just when I thought I'd settled down...!
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2018, 11:43:09 am »
Everyone has covered what I'd say, apart from a bit about bracken. If you keep heavier animals (pigs or cattle) they will bash their way through the bracken and open up the ground a bit, allowing other plants to gain a foothold. You can also harvest bracken and use as bedding. However, if the bracken develops spores, these are carcinogenic if breathed in - so do look this up and learn to recognise this.
Oh, you can also cut and dry nettles to give a nutrient rich "hay".

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2018, 02:12:14 pm »
I’ve found that cattle and sheep absolutely love freshly mown nettles and thistles.  So will follow the topper, munching away! 

There’s a rhyme about when to top thistles :

Cut them in June, they’ll be back soon,
Cut in August, they’ll spread their dust
But cut in July, they’ll wither and die.

In other words, cut when they’ve made their flowers but before the seeds form.  They put a lot of energy into making the flowers, so it will wear them out to repeatedly cut them then.  (And that’s why native ponies are good thistle clearers - they pick off and eat the flowers.)
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

tommytink

  • Joined Aug 2018
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2018, 01:07:22 pm »
Everyone has covered what I'd say, apart from a bit about bracken. If you keep heavier animals (pigs or cattle) they will bash their way through the bracken and open up the ground a bit, allowing other plants to gain a foothold. You can also harvest bracken and use as bedding. However, if the bracken develops spores, these are carcinogenic if breathed in - so do look this up and learn to recognise this.
Oh, you can also cut and dry nettles to give a nutrient rich "hay".

Thanks - the plan is to stick some pigs up near the bracken. There is a fence in place separating the bracken area (which is thick) and the grass area that the previous owner has cleared. There are some bracken bushes that have appeared in the grassy area which I am hoping the pigs will get rid of. I've read that bracken has quite a root system so is hard to get rid of. We have a brushcutter so will tackle some of it with that. Reading about the spores etc it seems like scary stuff. Thanks for bringing it to my attention as I would never have known. From what I read it recommends cutting it three times a year. I don't think we would be able to cut all we have as it's quite thick and a sizeable area, but if we can hack into it a bit and then the cold weather kill off the new shoots... it will be a task I'm sure, one to go with the many others we've taken on at this place! Definitely not interested in spraying it with anything. The bracken can give you cancer, and so can the stuff you spray it with - a deadly combination!


Penninehillbilly

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2018, 01:26:36 pm »
Goats love docks, thisles and nettles, and also nibble tops of rushes, taking flowers/seed heads  :) .
If you want to dig some out, try a RAGFORK, a narrow reinforced fork with 3 'prongs', we use it for docks and thistles, very easy.
I don't like using chemicals, but took the course so I could deal with fields full of rushes which we'd bought, (not wanting to totally eradicate all of them, as said, useful for stock and wildlife), during the course the instructor told me you could use a smaller sprayer with off the shelf weedkiller without needing the certificate. useful targeting odd clumps or smallish areas?.



tommytink

  • Joined Aug 2018
Re: Injurious weeds!
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2019, 04:30:49 pm »
Goats love docks, thisles and nettles, and also nibble tops of rushes, taking flowers/seed heads  :) .
If you want to dig some out, try a RAGFORK, a narrow reinforced fork with 3 'prongs', we use it for docks and thistles, very easy.
I don't like using chemicals, but took the course so I could deal with fields full of rushes which we'd bought, (not wanting to totally eradicate all of them, as said, useful for stock and wildlife), during the course the instructor told me you could use a smaller sprayer with off the shelf weedkiller without needing the certificate. useful targeting odd clumps or smallish areas?.




So like a hand-held sprayer instead of a knapsack? Useful to know, although I will try and avoid altogether. Luckily our rushes are only in patches here and there so don't prove a problem. There's quite a bit more dock but will just see how we get on cutting it or see if anything takes to it.

I fancied getting some goats but heard they can be a bit of a pain in one way or another? Such as not wanting to be outside in wet weather??!

 
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