One man’s war against jaggy thistles and sticky willow

In the war between man and jaggy thistles, there is only one casualty - me. One minute my garden had been wrestled under control, and the next the prickly plants were gathering like the aliens in War of The Worlds, ready to attack.
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Last summer I think I spotted, and uprooted, one thistle. Maybe this is there revenge - because they are everywhere, even wrapped among my hedges.And the blighters grow with scary speed. I swear they shoot up a few more inches while you cut the grass, almost defying you to come at them with a fork and a pair of gardening gloves. I’m running out of plasters to stick on the cuts of my fingers, while two jaggies managed to lodge under the skin of my thumb for the best part of a week before I let my other half near it with a sharp pin and a re-assurance that “trust me, it won’t hurt.” Trust me, it bloomin’ nipped.

A neighbour seems to have lost the war completely. I reckon his home will be almost obliterated by the time summer recedes, but I refuse to be beaten.

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A request for advice brought forth some handy hints. Salt, vinegar and Fairy Liquid were all suggested, but I went for the boil ‘em alive method, mainly because it sounded the most evil - although it did mean umpteen trips back and forth to the kitchen to fill the kettle.

Thistles thwarted: boiling water finally brought down this garden menace (Pic: Fife Free Press)Thistles thwarted: boiling water finally brought down this garden menace (Pic: Fife Free Press)
Thistles thwarted: boiling water finally brought down this garden menace (Pic: Fife Free Press)

It worked. The jaggies were duly murdered, and dumped unceremoniously in a black bin liner. Fast forward a weekend, and I stepped out to find another infantry of thistles all standing proud against the kitchen wall, and in parts of the garden they’d previously not explored. It’s as if they know I’ve chopped down their brethren.

It’s a mystery to me where all the thistles have come from, particularly since last summer I howked out two puny wee specimens in total. They’ve certainly upped their game this year and brought with them a host of horticultural gubbins I swear weren’t part of my garden 12 months ago.

Are we in the grip of a sticky willow epidemic? The stuff is everywhere and, rather unhelpfully, all wrapped round the roots of umpteen bushes. If only I’d read the column which said “avoid getting seeds on clothing, as this can inadvertently spread it around the garden” breaking my back hawking the stuff out. It’s like trying to untie spaghetti.

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I’m still complete rookie when it comes to gardening - and I think we perhaps were a tad ambitious taking on a house with quite so much garden front, back and down the side. I genuinely have no idea what’s growing where, let alone what to do with it beyond taking a strimmer to anything that looks a bit too bushy - that’s as technical as I get - come the end of the season. Halfway through summer I’ve finally got on top of the back garden and there is a plan to get me through the rest of summer without a trip to A&E to get a jaggy thistle howked out of a finger.Given the number o f times it’s been boiled, I may need to invest in a new kettle though. Or a flame thrower…