On a previous post about the lessons we can learn from our weeds, I noted that I've taught myself how to pull thistle weeds bare-handed, and there were several readers who asked in the comments how I did that.
So I'm going to try to explain it.
The first thing you should know is that the old age is true, "know thine enemy". Study it, find out its strengths and weaknesses and then learn how to overcome those strengths and exploit the weaknesses.
The strength of the thistle lies in its leaves and roots.
The leaves are fill of thorniness and evil and will scratch you and attempt to hurt you if you try to grab them with your bare hands.
The roots are strong and deep and the thistle can grow back from any root left when the thistle is pulled.
But the thistle has weaknesses.
It, too, starts to wear out as the summer progresses.
Remember this rhyme:
Cut thistle in May,
They grow in a day.
Cut them in June,
That is too soon.
Cut them in July,
Then they will die.
Here's a thistle plant waiting for me, taunting me in a garden path.
It just looks mean and evil. It's bad. You really should wear gloves to pull out this evil weed, but sometimes you'll see one and you won't have your gardening gloves with you.
In those situations, when you find yourself staring down a thistle barehanded, you can take advantage of the weakness I've discovered after careful study and trial and error.
If you scrape back the mulch or soil to reveal the stem below ground level, you'll see that it is smooth. That is the weakness of the thistle, a smooth stem below ground level!
Grasp the thistle on the smooth part of the stem and pull firmly.You should be able to pull out most of the roots along with the plant.
I've resigned myself to pulling thistle not only in July, but also in May, June and August. But at least I don't have to run for the gloves every time I see one.
Now go out and try it yourself. If you are successful, let me know, and you can join me as a Gardener of the Order of the Bare-handed Thistle Pullers, a mostly ceremonial title.
If it doesn't work for you, let me know that, too, and put your gloves back on.
Good luck and embrace weeding!