I hate the buggers. This is why.
The previous owner had warned us he hadn’t done anything with the lower garden, but we weren’t quite prepared for what was waiting for us three months after seeing a perfectly mown lawn. I never realised plants could grow that fast. If it had just been grass I supposed it wouldn’t have posed too much of a problem, but weeds outnumber grass by about 10 to 1.
We were leant a strimmer, but we couldn’t get it to work. We put heavy duty cord in our own strimmer, which actually did a pretty good job to begin with; but no kind of strimmer would’ve got through those thistles anyway. This is no exaggeration – they towered over me at 6′ tall and when I cut them at the base with the loppers, the stems had 3″ diametres. I began by digging them out, but I was leaving such big holes behind, and it was taking so long, I decided to try something different. I also discovered the the garden was probably once a tipping ground for builders – just an inch below the surface is full of rubble and getting round it with a spade was nigh on impossible.
So I cut the buggers down with the loppers – getting near to the base of the stem by kicking it over and stamping. Several hours work later (over about three weeks) it was finally done. By then, my father-in-law (whose brother owned the strimmer) had visited and fixed it. We did three quarters of the garden before it ran out of cord, and that is how it remains to this day. Well, actually, it now has a huge pile of old conifer at the bottom of it; waiting to dry out for a massive bonfire – but that’s a story for another day.
My biggest difficulty was the thorns. Thistles of this size had prickles that thought heavy-duty leather work gloves were mearly made of chiffon. I had to give up at one point because of the pain in my hands. I now can’t use those gloves as the lodged-in prickles continue to dig into my skin. So I bought some gloves designed for prickles – wiggly rubber on the palms and cloth on the back. B & Q – though stapled together with a cardboard label – sold me a pair with two right hands and I still haven’t taken them back. I managed to use them anyway because B & Q is 20 minutes away and I wanted to get on with it. Worn inside the afore-mentioned leather gloves; it actually works! My hands were prickle free at last! Very hot and sweaty, but without pain. So that’s what you do when tackling thistles.