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problem with yarrow

 
Joe Paul
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Hi guys, quick question if I may please...

We have a real yarrow problem in some of our paddocks and it is getting to the point where about 75% of the field is infested with it. The cows refuse to eat it and thus a large area is wasted. Worse, it seems to be spreading! How do I get rid of it in a permaculture manner? The neighbors are telling us they would use pesticides to blast the field and then plough/reseed but I really want to avoid that option if possible? How do you guys deal with this?

Thanks in advance!
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Google is bringing up nothing, do you know how Yarrow holds up to trampling? It seems that mob grazing might fix it, though you will have to provide some hay for the time being since your pasture is so overgrown.
 
Joe Paul
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Hi and thank you for the reply. We have been high intensity grazing with the cattle (small cell as opposed to huge numbers) and that doesn't really have any effect that I can tell.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Is your operation purely cattle? I know sheep eat Yarrow but I don't know that they would safely deal with that much of it.
 
leila hamaya
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yarrow is perennial, and resprouts from the roots, plus it spreads through its seed, so i can see how it could get to be too much.

i am not sure you will like the answer to "how i would deal with it" but i will tell you -- by hand weeding. a larger area i would use a tool, a small fork, a hoe, etc...but then hand weeding out the roots too, gathering as much as i could and then piling it elsewhere to compost.

you might try vinegar? it does kill weeds, but it will kill back the grass and everything else too. possible it may still resprout from the roots though...idk.
 
Joe Paul
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Hi guys - cows only here but we can bring in some of the neighbors sheep if necessary to assist. I think it may be a bit too gone however as we have left the paddock for the last 18 months with no cattle (to help rest it) and inadvertently gave this weed a chance to take over in the process.

Pulling the weeds is actually very difficult. They are small now (since we recently cut them to stop them seeding again) and pulling them out just breaks it off. Roots must be pretty deep here. I can wait until they grow into stalks again and try pulling but perhaps I am risking the problem getting worse?
 
leila hamaya
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Joseph Cim wrote:
Pulling the weeds is actually very difficult. They are small now (since we recently cut them to stop them seeding again) and pulling them out just breaks it off. Roots must be pretty deep here. I can wait until they grow into stalks again and try pulling but perhaps I am risking the problem getting worse?


thats why one would need the fork, hoe, shovel, etc....to loosen up the dirt along patches so that you could pull up the roots too. or once you loosen the dirt some, you just sift through it and pull out the whole plant, with the roots.
it is slow, but if you stick to it, it can be done.

likely some will resprout, but less so that its not as bad.
 
Joe Paul
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Hi, I have taken a photo of one patch where you can see it a bit better. If I dig into the ground here I will be forced to rip up the whole area (good grasses included)

How to hit the yarrow without killing surrounding pasture?
IMG_8621.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_8621.JPG]
 
leila hamaya
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well the grasses would come back from the roots very quickly.

it seems simple to me, and i do this all the time, but its actually harder to describe something like this rather than just do it! but basically you would just push your fork (or whatever) down, and and just lightly loosen it, pull it up a bit. only a few small clumps would come up, not intensively actually DIG up the area. just rough it up a lot. and then do this a hundred more times! or however many times it took. strategically, right beside where the yarrow is.

after you sift and go through the clumps pull out the yarrow, you would basically settle it all back to mostly flat, or it will settle itself after some rains...and all the grass around it would re sprout. it would also be a good opportunity to seed with interesting forage plants, clovers, etc....
 
Joe Paul
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Do you do this on a wet soil day?
 
leila hamaya
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sometimes, i have done this in wet and dry soil. its easier to dig when its wet....but i do it whenever it seems needed, to weed.

at least you dont have blackberries!!! thats often the case here, if i have to do this is often for blackberries. though i do this for grass, i pull grass out this way from the garden areas.

but with the blackberries, ah its hard. you have to try to get every little bit and you never can. then your fingers and hands tingle from the irritating prickles for days afterwards. cause of course at some point you take off your gloves cause gloves arent that comfortable!
 
Joe Paul
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Hi again!

I just had another walk through of the pasture with an eye to seeing the work involved to dig up each of one of these weeds... It is just not going to happen. They are spreading as far as the eye can see and it would take me weeks to do this fulltime . I'm not lazy, but there is just not enough time in the day to tackle such a job. Is there a less laborious method or "plan B"?
 
Dillon Nichols
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I haven't had an issue like this with with yarrow, and don't know how practical any of these options are for your specific situation. That said, there's only so many ways to eliminate/reduce a problem plant, so, if direct physical removal is out, you're left with a fairly short list. Herbicides were deliberately omitted...


A. Getting an animal to remove it for you; you say sheep aren't likely able to handle it on this scale, but how do pigs feel about it? Geese? Or perhaps the sheep would be effective if combined with another approach?

B. Getting another plant to remove it for you; perhaps yarrow would be reduced over time as taller, desirable grasses shade it out?

C. Smothering it directly, with a heavy mulch, cardboard, rubber matting, etc; then reseeding with a desirable pasture mix.

D. Alter the pasture conditions so that the yarrow is less happy, and thus more easily out-competed. This article says that nitrogenous manures and lime are useful for reducing yarrow growth, though it isn't very specific. It does offer some more info on grazing it with sheep, as well. https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/weeds/yarrow

E. Give up and become a yarrow farm instead of grazing cattle?


Since you have a number of cells, you could certainly try different approaches in different areas and see which is most effective and efficient.; good luck!
 
Joe Paul
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I must admit to really liking the idea of going with option "A" Dillon. If I could find an animal that could keep it under control to the point whereby it doesn't spread beyond where it is now and may even die back a bit then it is a winning recipe for our situation.

I will speak to the neighbors today about potentially getting some sheep in there. Does anyone have experience in whether or not Pigs, geese, or other animals will target this weed for us?
 
Dana Jones
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There are some good points brought out here. I just ordered yarrow because it is supposed to make good sheep forage. I didn't know cattle disliked it, indeed it seems that yarrow is toxic to calves. Sheep and goats like it, so maybe you should look into sheep. I read on another thread that somebody bought practically feral hair sheep to improve his pastures. He lost some to predators, but the sheep cleaned up his pastures. I found some links for you on yarrow.

http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_acmio.pdf

http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/pasture-grass.html#.Vrk-FTbSkic

Thanks for posting the picture of your pasture. While what I have read about yarrow says sheep like it and the roots reach deep to bring up nutrients, knowing that cattle don't like it kills the deal for me. I don't have cattle, but am surrounded by large cattle operations and would hate to unleash an invasive on my neighbors.
 
Joe Paul
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Thank you guys!

As an update, we are getting a soil test specifically on the areas where this is the worse to see what we can learn before applying anything. Will try to come back with the results and let you guys know how things work.
 
Joe Paul
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Hi guys, finally received the soil test back on the pasture having this issue. Any thoughts on how best to interpret this one? Seems like only one thing really missing.

back paddock report.png
[Thumbnail for back paddock report.png]
 
Jim Thomas
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Location: SC; Zone 7B
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Yarrow is an accumulator. Like many 'weeds', it is a sign that something is wrong with your soil - it is spreading because it has an advantage over the grasses you want to grow. Pulling it up is not only just treating the symptom, it will prevent the actual problem from being fixed. According to gaia's garden, it is helpful for Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus, and Copper. From your soil report, apparently your field has great P, and too much K. Therefore, I would think that it is deficient in nitrogen. Can you leave that field alone for a year or two? This will give the yarrow time to add the necessary N, and (hopefully) lead to a succession towards more edible pasture plants.
 
Joe Paul
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Hi Jim and thanks for the heads up. It would be difficult to leave the field alone in the sense that we need the pasture but it remains an option. Of course my fear is that the yarrow continues to take over making it worse down the road. It was leaving the paddock without livestock for a year that allowed it to get so bad in the first place.

Few quick questions based on your thoughts:

1. Would adding nitrogen back by hand (fertilizer) help here?
2. What happens when the nitrogen levels are back up? Will the yarrow just go away or is that the point we start pulling?

Thanks again!

 
Ben Zukisian
Posts: 84
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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You could always start a tea company...yarrow makes a great tea that tastes a bit like it smells and is naturally slightly sweet and in my experience is noticeably relaxing and soothes aching muscles and some cold symptoms. This is why it is in many cold remedy teas. I have used it while backpacking and it really hits the spot when you are sore.
 
Luke Eising
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We had a lot of yarrow a couple years ago. Less now.

My grazing animals (sheep and cattle) will eat some. While its young and tender.

I believe it indicates a weak soil (general low nitrogen and organic matter, but moderate moisture)

You can continue to pasture till the nitrogen from manure allows the grass to outcompete - but that takes a long time.

Disturbance is a tool
after a disturbance, with some active un-assimilated organic matter, it doesn't stand a chance.

my disturbance preferences:
(a) find the worst spots (preferably higher point because nutrients will flow downhill some), winter the cattle there or winter feed them there. Smother it with 3 inches of uneaten hay and manure. You'll never see it there again. Tall dark grass will poke through, and in a few years it'll be gone.
(b) chicken tractor or paddock the worst sites.
(c) till it with pigs. Overseed with some clovers if you want, but don't worry: a pig tilled pasture will quickly regrow to surviving grass (unless they stay on there for a very long time)

Disturbance can be good. It can restart the cycle and allow you to lay nutrients in the soil with grazing/root slough and manure. Don't feel bad about disturbance in the right place.

These things have worked for me.

Same problem, same solution for knapweed, except knapweed favors drier, acidic, low fertility spots
 
Joe Paul
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Really appreciate the feedback guys - you are giving me some great ideas of what to try next and I am looking forward to seeing how it works.
 
Ben Zukisian
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Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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I have also been trying yarrow in my compost teas after reading it is supposed to be a great uptake catalyst for many nutrients.. I can't isolate it's value alongside many other weeds but I don't seem to have any severe nutrient deficiencies and have a lot more productivity than last year.
 
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