How to Kill Thistles

Written by k.c. morgan
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How to Kill Thistles
Thistles are unattractive weeds with sharp, prickly thorns. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Thistles are weedlike plants that become a pest in garden areas, competing with more desirable plants for necessary nutrients. Thistles will spread across garden environments, potentially ruining the look of outdoor spaces and making other plants unhealthy. Kill thistles as soon as you find them in the yard to keep them from causing time-consuming problems. If you kill thistles right away, you will prevent them from spreading all over the garden and affecting all of your plants.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Garden hose
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Grass seed/mulch
  • Herbicide (triclopyr, metsulfuron or dicamba)
  • Acetic acid vinegar

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  1. 1

    Look for thistles in bare, sparse areas of the lawn and garden. Thistles thrive in areas where there is little to no grass growing.

  2. 2

    Water the areas you find containing thistles with a garden hose. Soak the ground deeply and wait for 24 hours.

  3. 3

    Dig up thistles with a shovel, taking care to remove the long centre taproot. Do not allow roots to break while they are in the ground; it may cause new thistle growth in the future. Dispose of dug-up thistles promptly.

  4. 4

    Rake the soil to smooth it out.

  5. 5

    Sow grass seed or cover the bare area with wood mulch to prevent thistle growth.

  6. 6

    Apply herbicide to the lawn and garden in early spring to kill thistles before they start to flower and produce seed. Triclopyr, metsulfuron and dicamba are effective in managing thistles.

  7. 7

    Pour vinegar with acetic acid in it directly on thistle plants. The acetic acid is extremely aggressive, burning the tissues inside thistles, and may damage surrounding plants as well.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear gloves when working with vinegar and herbicides. Acetic acid will burn your skin.

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