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Re: [permaculture] weeds? (Star thistle)

howdo loren please E-mail your home phone to me as well as leave a message
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that we speak before project date    mike collins
>From: Loren Davidson <lorenstwin@yahoo.com>
>To: "permaculture" <permaculture@franklin.oit.unc.edu>
>Subject: Re: [permaculture] weeds? (Star thistle)
>Date: Fri, May 21, 1999, 2:38 PM

>--- stephan leimroth <slimerote@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> greetings!
>> i have a weed problem. 
>> not just with our local, demonic weed being highly
>> invasive and difficult to control but with controlling
>> them in the first place.  on our site, heavily
>> miss-grazed in the past, star thistle is insiduous. 
>> but it grows so well and thrives where nothing else
>> will (not even mustard), that i just hate to pull it. 
>> it seems so crucial to the development (and recovery)
>> of the soil, to getting the nutrient cycle going.  
>It's definitely a pioneer species, growing on disturbed soils and low
>rainfall.  On our property, we have some areas that are thick with it.
>If you want to control it, I know of the following options (and welcome
>- Sheet mulch:  We covered about 300 sf. of heavy star thistle last
>June with cardboard and hay as an experiment.  So far it hasn't come
>back or grown through in this area.  We're looking to expand this to
>other areas as time and materials permit.
>- Succession planting:  I hear repeated sowings of buckwheat will
>eventually choke it out; so far we've had no success at all with this
>strategy.  If you're in a fire/flood ecology, you could try (carefully)
>burning it out in the summertime, right about the time the seed heads
>form.  The native vegetation will be stimulated by the heat but the
>star thistle won't, so next season you get native vegetation coming in
>- Peaceful Valley Farm Supply offers "star thistle weevils", which are
>supposed to assist in controlling the plant.  We haven't tried them;
>they're fairly expensive.
>- Sow other plants (clovers, vetch, etc.) to attempt to choke out the
>star thistle and cover the otherwise unbroken soil it seems to prefer.
>- Mow frequently during flowering season.  (Yeah, I know it's not a Pc
>solution, but it helps, especially if you time it right so that you
>catch the plant before the seed matures and after the plant has used
>most of its energy creating the stalk.)
>OTOH, we've also been looking at ways in which the star thistle
>participates in our ecosystem, since we're never going to eradicate it
>- Star thistle honey is exceptionally delicate and flavorful.  Star
>thistle blooms (in the Sierra foothills of northern California) at a
>time after most other blooming things have given up for the summer, so
>it provides food for the honeybees (and other potentially beneficial
>insects) during that time.
>- We have a very small species of bird (finch or junco or similar;
>haven't been able to identify it) which perches on the seed heads and
>eats the contents thereof.  If this bird eats other things that we need
>to keep under control (pest insects, for example), the star thistle is
>habitat that helps us with this.
>Of course, by looking for the positives of star thistle, I may be
>exhibiting "hostage syndrome" - identifying with our tormentors. :)
>I'd be interested in hearing other uses/controls for this extremely
>hardy plant.
>Loren Davidson       Permaculturist, poet, philosopher
>Please reply to loren@wombat.net or loren@earthspring.org
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