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4 acres of poison. What to do?  RSS feed

 
                              
Posts: 44
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We finally settled on our property, which has a big lovely 4 acre field in the middle of it, which we'll mostly be fencing in for pasture.  The plan is to have a couple of mules, some chickens, and probably two Dexter cows.  I've been Googling all night to figure out what kind of plants we already have in there, and I'm not pleased with the results.  I knew about the milkweed - the pods were popping open all over the field when we were up there last week.  But we also have ground cherries, some kind of plant with burrs called "spanish needles", and something else that I haven't found yet but that I can only assume is toxic based on my luck so far.  What the heck can I do about it all?

I thought of just turning some goats loose once we have the perimeter fence up, but that stuff will even be toxic to them, won't it?  We don't have a mower, so we can't keep mowing it down and trying to re-seed with something better in the hope that it'll take over.  So what's left - a controlled burn maybe?  The trouble with that is that the property is very far from us, and we won't be visiting again until spring, when we'll be starting to put up the foundation for our house.  I don't know when we could possibly do that, or how.  I suppose I could offer it to the fire department, but I'm not sure they're want to do it, especially because it's not terribly accessible.

Any ideas?
 
                            
Posts: 126
Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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Poison?  Make real sure of your ID before you try eating any of these, but groundcherries, when dead ripe, are very tasty, although the leaves are probably toxic.  "Chinese Needles" is a common name for Bidens spp.  The leaves are edible, best when cooked.  Milkweed pods are edible when very young, and the new shoots are as well.  Both of them need to be cooked.

Groundcherries are in the same family as tomatoes.  Most of them have toxic leaves, but livestock will not eat them, or at least not enough of them to do any harm.  Bidens spp. isn't a problem.  Milkweed is toxic except when very young, but it too tastes bad and isn't eaten.  So, in short, you will not kill your livestock by putting them in the area, unless that is all they have to eat and they either starve or eat things they would normally leave alone.  That's true with most toxic plants.  It doesn't do a plant any good to kill a grazer after it has been eaten.  Better to taste bad and get left alone.

 
                              
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I'm very sure of my identification on everything I named, and there's a decent amount of all of it.  But the majority of the field is taken up by a plant I can't seem to find an ID for.  For the safety of my stock, I have to assume it's toxic until proven otherwise.  It's about 3 feet tall, has long, narrow leaves up the stem.  The leaves are about 3 feet long and alternate, two across from each other, then two more going the other way - I forget what that arrangement is called (this is my third night shift in a row, so please cut me a little slack in the memory department).  When we went it appeared to have the remains of a cluster of little white flowers at the very top of the stem.  I can't find a picture anywhere that looks like it.
 
gardener
Posts: 823
Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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hi WIR,

you might try searching here for the UFO (unidentified floral object)

http://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/
 
Posts: 84
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What about tilling the land?

It would reincorporate the nutrients back into the land, and while you would lose some topsoil, if you planted it as soon as possible with pasture, and then grazed it with some ruminants, you could easily start building your topsoil back up quickly.

As much as I don't like the idea of tilling, the alternatives aren't too pleasant.

The timing of everything is what would probably be the most important, doing it well enough before major rains to guarantee that all the topsoil wouldn't rush down the hill.
 
                              
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We'd have to hire someone to till, because we don't have a plow of a tractor.  And as strapped as we are for cash, that just isn't going to happen.

I'm going to try the weed database just posted, and see if I can find some results.  I suppose I can try to rip out as much ground cherry and milkweed as I can when it comes up next year.  Might be able to at least reduce it a bit that way.
 
Posts: 165
Location: Slovakia
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What about a scythe?

Also, goats go for what they like to eat first, so if they have a large selection of things to eat, they won't generally won't eat the toxic things.  But, my experience has been that goats don't really eat much grass either, preferring leafy and brushy plants first.  A cow or steer on the other hand is better for a field for really "mowing" it down.  If they are staked out on a decently heavy chain, that will help to flatten down whatever they don't eat so it can decompose.  That is my experience anyway...  But, if you aren't going to be around till spring, then maybe animals aren't a great option.

However, putting goats and pigs on areas here that were either overgrown or tired out from being over-plowed really makes a visible difference.  Land that was last year just growing a few weeds now has lush grass afterward.

Everyone here burns their fields in the spring.  Which isn't to say that is the best way to manage the field, but it isn't really so complicated to do yourself, though you might need a permit in the U.S. to do that.  You want to do that on a calm, windless day, scythe away the grass from places you don't want burned, and do small bits around the perimeter first, having a big flat shovel (like the kind used for shoveling snow) to beat the fire out where not wanted, a stronger shovel for digging if needed, water helps to have around too.  But really you should have several people to do it, and preferably one who's had experience.

But, maybe there is a neighbor with a tractor who'd be willing to do you a favor for the cost of the diesel fuel and cut or till the field, or at least plow a wide perimeter to make burning a safer thing.
 
                            
Posts: 126
Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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WildIrishRose wrote:
I'm very sure of my identification on everything I named, and there's a decent amount of all of it.  But the majority of the field is taken up by a plant I can't seem to find an ID for.  For the safety of my stock, I have to assume it's toxic until proven otherwise.  It's about 3 feet tall, has long, narrow leaves up the stem.  The leaves are about 3 feet long and alternate, two across from each other, then two more going the other way - I forget what that arrangement is called (this is my third night shift in a row, so please cut me a little slack in the memory department).  When we went it appeared to have the remains of a cluster of little white flowers at the very top of the stem.  I can't find a picture anywhere that looks like it.



I guess my biggest caution about miss identifying plants is if "Ground Cherry" in one part of the country means something different.  If it has a husk over the fruit, it's what I'm talking about.

Does the mystery plant have a square stem?  Things in the mint family have that leaf pattern, so do many others but that is what came to mind.  I'm guessing the if you could post pictures, you already would have.  If not., it would help.  Sharp pics of a leaf, flower and the overall shape of the plant.

 
                                            
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These plants are here for a reason. They are able to grow in this pasture because the soil became to poor for grasses and such. Right now, these weeds are working to tilth the soil and draw nutrients.

I'm no expert, but to get rid of the weeds and have suitable pasture immediately will likely require breaking the soil, intense fertilization (maybe mineral supplements if the soil is to acidic or alkaline), and seeding. Money.

The weeds will do all this for you, but it won't be quick. Check out this: 

Weeds -- Guardians of the Soil by Joseph A. Cocannouer, Devin-Adair, 1950.

Its a free download on Journey to Forever.org.

I have a small pasture in the ozarks which supported almost no fodder. I removed my animals. I have let the weeds take over and the soil has improved each year. Now the weeds are being smothered out in places by the fescue and clover I broadcast, which could finally grow thanks to the support of the weeds.
 
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there are almost always alternatives .. depending of how much time you have or what are your plans .. you need everything functional next year or would you take a hard way to reach the goal? wich is ...?

burning field everyyear imho is killing it softly .. from time to time I can understand but every year can't be good for anything .. even I notice that grass thrives over other plants after quick fire over land .. cause if fire doesn't "travel" fast it burns soil and then .. weed is back in game

I have much smaller area that on the frontiere with forest so my "vegetation problem is different" but I have time to do it slowly and observe natural reaction to each action I made on some part

anyway for fast "solution" tilling is obviously answer, but I would for sure be ready with seed and temping it with weather regarding the seeds ..

I hope I helped even a bit
 
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Seem to me if you put all that time and energy into burning ext. You’re going to have to same outcome, you still will need to till land. Have you thought of posting a free add online in your area? Maybe there is a farmer or some Amish that would be willing to barter with you. You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. As for the soil, yes I agree you will have to use a lot of manure fertilizer. Sometime farmer just need to get rid of that too. Just remember hope is not lost. If there is a will there is a way.
 
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Spanish needles can be cut down or ripped up by hand, makes a fine compost ingredient as they are quite succulent. You need to get it to the heap before the blossoms drop off or the result is a gozillion prickly seeds that stick to your pants and sweater. Keep this up for a few years and the population will decline.
 
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Before I say anything I will admit I don't know much about the plants mentioned. One thing I do know is that a lot of plants that grow in a fallow field are weeds that are geared toward making use of an abused space with little nutrients. Once you add more nutrients those plants don't like it any more and other plants which are heavier feeders take their place. Again, I don't know if this is the case with your situation because I don't know the plants. Is it possible to throw on some cow manure and plant in nitrogen fixing field plants like sweet clover and vetch or something. Using them as a green manure to enrich the soil more. This is the technique I am going to be using next year in an attempt to rid an old garden area of napweed. I am not certain it will work, it just seems like it should.
 
Posts: 69
Location: Valley of the Sun
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Wild Irish Rose wrote:Any ideas?

Aloha Rose! Good Luck on your new property!

Do you have a "County Agent" in the area, or someone else who might serve that role? (Think Hank Kimble on Green Acres ) Agents are typically affiliated with the State Agriculture college, paid by the State or County to support in-the-field questions locals have. All the Agents I've ever met are veritable Diamond mines of information about all things local.
 
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Animals better than we know the botany! However, as I understand you have another problem - you do not have a valuable food in the pasture. Sow buckwheat in your pasture - it strangle all weeds and give your animals good food. Winter rye is also a good option.
 
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a quick fix will mean higher expense. Something not mentioned in the thread above re: tilling is that there are millions of seeds already there, and tilling will mix some of those back to the surface where they will germinate because that's what they do. Ken and AD Mccoy have some really good suggestions -> remove a lot/most of the trouble plants by hand. Compost what you remove. 4 acres will ultimately produce a giant pile of compost. Overseed with something suitable. Clover, buckwheats, fescue, something desirable. not disturbing the soil will prevent those dormant seeds from germinating.

even in my backyard, this method took a full season and half to get nice results. But it cost me $40 in grass seed and a yard of compost. You're talking about 4 acres, so be realistic and patient.
 
Posts: 68
Location: Flathead Valley Montana
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Here is my solution to napweed management for the fall. the Kama or the Japanese serrated sicle ($6ea on Amazon) cuts through napweed like butter. Great workout for cold fall mornings and the bees have been allowed to fully enjoy these first. When they are done, I harvest it.
Sept-2012-021.JPG
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9+am ready to harvest a ton of napweed before the seeds fall to the gound.
Sept-2012-028.JPG
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10+am one hour later huge patch is gone.
Sept-2012-025.JPG
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One full truck load. 5 days, 11 hours, 7acres. gone
 
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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What do you do with the hay Kelly?
 
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Do you have a truck? I've had decent luck killing weeds with a sheet of plywood weighed down with about 500 lbs of stuff. I drilled two holes in the plywood (3/4 inch is what I used). Ran a chain from both holes to the hitch on my little truck (4wd ford ranger) weighed it down with various chunks of rock, metal, etc. and dragged it across a patch of vetch I had before I planted my last garden. It took a couple of passes (in the same direction) but it crimped all the stalks at the ground and layed the plants over in a thick mulch layer, suppressing regrowth.

If you dont have a truck, but do have time, you could slowly cardboard mulch it and replant it in sections.
 
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