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Thistle control in a food forest?

 
pollinator
Posts: 308
Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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forest garden urban bike
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I am pretty excited for this book, especially the 14 case studies.  Tomas, any suggestions for thistle?  We are overrun by it.  Currently I pull and use as living mulch for the fruit trees.  It does keep the neighborhood out of that area, which I guess is a plus!
 
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Cris Fellows wrote:I am pretty excited for this book, especially the 14 case studies.  Tomas, any suggestions for thistle?  We are overrun by it.  Currently I pull and use as living mulch for the fruit trees.  It does keep the neighborhood out of that area, which I guess is a plus!



Hi Chris, hard to give specific advice on a site I've never seen!

I imagine the thistles don't exist on their own so pay attention to the other plants that thrive around them. Between them they fill the space above and below ground, and this is where you want to be with your forest garden ploants.  Remember, weeds are just a  successful plants with a bad reputation.

What type of root system does your thistle have? One theory is that every successful plant occupies a particular niche (or several niches) and we can attempt to replace that plant with another more useful one that fills the smame niche(s). If it's the kind of thistle that grows in a clump then a globe artichoke or cardoon might be a good choice (it's a relativ eof thistles). If it's the underground runner forming type then look out for other runner forming plants - mint maybe? Bamboo? But you want to be careful not to replace one plant that is "too successful" with another.

Thorough ground clearance followed by quickly established dense ground cover with many varied root patterns seems the best strategy to prevent weeds taking over. Thistles are early succession plants so the sooner you establish a canopy the more they lose their competitive advantage and the weaker they will become.

Understanding the ecology behind forest gardens will help you find strategies to deal with tricky customers like thistles, so I think you will gain as much from the ecology section of the book as from the case studies (which are all excellent of course!)
 
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