Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Thistles after topping?  (Read 4586 times)


  • Joined May 2012
  • Linlithgow, Scotland
Thistles after topping?
« on: July 12, 2013, 10:10:35 pm »
Hi folks, I didn't top my field last year and the thistles are extraordinary this year as a result. I'm just about to top it but I can't get to the bottom of whether I should remove the tops from the field, or let them lie. It's just under an acre and there are 3 sheep on it. Will leaving the tops on the field stop them from spreading? Are three sheep enough to eat the tops all up? They are almost in flower. I'll let the insects get the flowers then go for it, I think. I have a blade attachment for my petrol strimmer so planning to use that. Any advice much appreciated. X
Joanne, West Lothian


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2013, 11:48:20 pm »
My concern with letting thistle tops lie in the field is that the seed heads go on developing after the plant is chopped down.  This means that you will have seeds floating about to all corners of your land.  We burn ours.
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  • Joined Mar 2012
  • South Wales
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2013, 10:28:28 am »
As its not a large area, pull them out by hand. I know it sounds tedious but it will rid them better than topping. You will hav e far fewer next year as a result.


  • Joined Aug 2013
  • Cornhill, Banff
    • The Roundhouse
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2013, 02:50:46 am »
I've hand pulled thistles in the past (very hard on your back) but if they have gone to seed it will still spread the seeds. I strim them down now using the brushcutter blade and catch them just as they are starting to get seed heads but before the seed heads develop properly. Just occasionally one of the sheep will turn out to be a thistle head eater..... I reckon if we can breed a line of thistle eating sheep we'll make our fortune!
Permaculture and smallholding, perfect partners


  • Joined Aug 2010
  • Aberdeenshire
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2013, 07:39:48 am »
My sheep don't eat them but my big horse loves the tops when in flower, prickles and all  :excited:


  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Carmarthenshire
    • Two Retirees Start a New Life in Wales
    • Facebook
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2013, 08:10:25 am »


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2013, 09:09:00 am »
Good advice (Please note it is a pdf)

Some interesting stuff in there.


thistles are not generally a
problem on damp grassland
:roflanim: :roflanim: :roflanim: :roflanim:

Maybe that's true in Suffolk.  Perhaps we have especially mutated water-tolerant thistles up here in wild wet Cumbria and Northumberland.  ;)
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


  • Joined May 2013
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2013, 09:37:41 am »
i think its down to timing, cut the heads before the seed heads are viable.


  • Joined Oct 2010
  • East Sussex
    • My Blog
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2013, 09:41:16 pm »
We strim before seed heads develop and generally just have a couple of patches over 5 acres. Our neighbour leaves everything and as a result is entirely overrun by that - and ragwort for that matter. Latter at the mo being over run by the Cinnabar moth caterpillars who do a good job of digesting the plant.

twitter - @southscouse

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Thistles after topping?
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2013, 08:05:32 am »
Roundup the thistles individually? Its quick.

I know its nice to leave the flowers for the insects, but I'd get at them ASAP - its sod's law and you'll be flat out doing something unexpected and not be able to cut them in the window before the seed heads start to develop.


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