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Landscaping l Irrigation  l Tools l Buying Landscape Plants  l Solving Problems  l  Weed Control  l Chemicals 

Landscaping & Irrigation
beauty, comfort, & energy savings

Do the weeds make you wacky?
Roundup® will be your best friend!

Poison Oak is probably the most problematic plant you'll find here. It's extremely pervasive and hard to kill. 

The photos here of poison oak will hopefully teach you what it looks like in this area. But, keep in mind that this stuff is a lot like a chameleon in other types of climates. While in a forested area on the North coast of California, the poison oak looked very different in how it grew. It's important to learn to recognize the leaves so you can avoid it anywhere you or your family might be. 

 

According to experts, no one can escape it's wrath after the first exposure, so you should know what it looks like and how to rid your property of it where necessary. 

There are several ways you can be exposed to poison oak... the obvious being to touch it.  The not so obvious ways to get exposed include petting your animals who have been in it, touching what appears to be a dead poison oak branch (we've found that it doesn't become really harmless until it's been dead for 3 years or so), and inhaling smoke from burning poison oak. The latter is potentially the most serious health risk.

The photos should help you with identification. If you decide you want to control it. I'm not sure you'll ever really get rid of it... after years of work, I've reduced the plant size and can kill off small plants for the season, but it almost always comes back.

When we first got here we read... spray it when the new leaves come out. Then we read, wait until fall. So here's what we're doing that seems to work the best.... I spray it once in the spring.... right after the new leaves are fully formed. I spray again mid summer. And, I spray again in the fall.

 

 

 

This is the regular thistle... the flower is pretty large compared to star thistle. This is the one that usually crops up first. Once it's controlled, the star thistle comes a year or two behind it.

What do I spray? Either a strong concentration of "professional" Roundup® or a product called Remedy®. Remedy and Roundup Pro is not always available at large retailers so you might try farm supply stores, or A&T Sprinklers. Both are pretty expensive to buy. But, it's highly concentrated and lasts a long time. We use so much of it we buy it in a 2.5 gallon container. 

If you're going out to spray... suit up. The attire of the day is knee high rubber boots (protects you from rattlesnake bites, stickers, and the actual poison oak), jeans, lightweight long sleeve shirt, hat, gloves, and goggles. When you're done throw all the clothing into the wash immediately and don't start polishing those rubber boots without protection!

There are some other weeds that are bothersome as well. 

Thistles are common here and you'll find they grow the following year anyplace you mow or clear the natural vegetation through other means like Roundup®. I've seen two large varieties, plus the Star Thistles noted below.  Goats or sheep will eat the young thistles if you're going to have them, but there are other considerations to having livestock so be sure you visit that section before you jump into that cure. My cure... you guessed it, Roundup®. 

Star Thistles are difficult to get rid of because the plants have thin leaves and come out only when it's really hot so spraying isn't something you look forward to.  Once the batch you spray today dies, they've often left enough seed that they'll keep springing up every week or so all season. And, experts say, that the seed from one plant can live for up to 20 years -- ugh. 

I'm not sure why Transline is necessary here. When the star thistle is growing the meadow grasses are dead for the season. And, the more I just use Roundup the more convinced that it, coupled with persistence, is all you need to control the star thistle.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the only herbicide known to kill star thistle effectively is Transline from Dow-Elanco. It's an extremely selective herbicide that doesn't harm native grasses, wild animal or livestock, but eliminates the star thistle.

Transline is very expensive, however, so this year I'm doing my own experiment.... Roundup once a week trying to catch all the new plants before they go to seed. It's working pretty well, but these plants grow amazingly fast. They can be barely showing one day and in three or four days already be flowering and seeding, so you have to be pretty determined and stay on schedule if you're going to try Roundup on them.

The areas that I'm trying to "tame" were first mowed several times in the early spring to get the grasses down and remove the rocks so the area is fire-safe

Most types of thistle grow primarily in sunny areas. Once an area is mowed, or sprayed for the first time, it seems like it's the large leaf thistle (shown above) that takes over first. These are pretty easy to control. But, once they're under control, along comes the Star Thistle. This is especially good to know since once you mow the edges of your road, for instance, you'll have to figure a few years of thistle control where you mowed. If you don't, the thistle will start there and then run the field. If you hate the stuff as much as I do, it's far easier to control it when there's not much there then when it's a field full. 

Regarding the sun / shade issue, fields of star thistle on our property come abruptly to an end where trees begin to shade an area.

Stickers -- there are lots of these (and your dog will find every one of them!). Many you can't possibly kill off, but one that is easy to spot and kill produces a great big sticker that'll get so entwined in your dog's hair, you'll want to get rid of it. It also grows fast an can take over outdoor living areas if you don't kill it off. What's it called? Don't have a clue, but here's a picture and a picture of the lovely sticker it produces. 

To clear large areas of everything to create paths or other living areas, Roundup® is the least amount of work and the least expensive in the long run. The first couple of years we were here, we used a weed whacker (eater) two to four times a year (depending on when and how much rain fell that year) to keep paths open. Not only didn't it work very well, but it's a lot of hard work.

Then we started using Roundup®. We found that once a path was cleared it became a spot clearing job a couple times a year where things grew back. And subsequent years, the paths never really filled in all the way. One good spray in the spring and a couple of touch ups a year are all that's necessary. This method is much less work in the long run. 

Are you beginning to get the picture? Roundup® is your friend!

I must caution you though. Roundup® will kill everything, so be extremely careful not to spray near plants you want to keep on breezy days. Also, if you spray the roots (Aspen,  Birch trees, and many other tree roots run along the surface) or hit an exposed tuber of a bulb plant, you could easily kill the plant. Also, you'll want to have the right equipment for spraying. 
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