by Carol Rawle

Spring has sprung on the Ranch and so have the noxious weeds. For every thistle that property owners failed to spray last year, we now have up to a hundred new thistle plants. That is pretty scary, both mathematically and in reality since noxious weeds can soon come to dominate the vegetation in what is presently desirable grassland. Agriculturally and aesthetically, this could be potentially devastating. If you have recently graded your property for a construction site, expect to have an invasion of these nasty weeds.

Among the noxious weeds found on the Ranch, Canada thistle is, by far, the most
Canada thistle
Canada thistle
serious as well as most prevalent. All the other varieties of thistle, and other species of noxious weeds, can be controlled without spraying if you locate them and dig them up. Canada thistle reproduces by both seed and root spreading, similar to scrub oak, so that spraying with herbicide is the only effective means of control.

Thistle, as well as knapweed, has leaves with prickly spines on the pointed ends on the leaf edges. The only other non-noxious wild flower that has a prickly leaf of this sort is the prickly poppy. This poppy has a soft-petaled white flower and is not as numerous as the thistle and knapweed plants, which all have various shades of purple flowers. We also have leafy spurge (small creamy white flower) and yellow toad flax (yellow snapdragon-type flower). Both of these plants are found near water sources and in damp places. They aren't a huge problem on the Ranch yet, but they could be if property owners don't take steps to control them.

Russian Knapweed
Russian knapweed
So how do we control these noxious weeds? The first step is to learn to identify them. I will conduct another "weed walk" again this year on Saturday, May 12, at 9am. We will meet at the mailboxes near the Ranch entrance. We'll drive to an area in Gallinas Canyon and go for a SHORT walk where we can see many kinds of these targeted weeds growing. I'll have handouts to help you remember what you need to watch for, as well as methods to eradicate them. Please try to attend if you are on the Ranch that weekend.

If you have located any of these weeds on your property, you may purchase any herbicide containing 2-4D, which targets only broadleaf plants, or Roundup, Rodeo, and such, which will kill ALL plants and grasses. Just follow the directions on the label of whatever you buy, and it will be safe for the environment. Most of these chemicals break down into harmless components in a few days.

The Common Areas Committee is organizing a volunteer weed spray program this year. We feel we might be able to save the POA several thousand dollars and probably do a better job spraying roadside weeds this year. But we will need everyone's help! We are planning to do this volunteer spray on Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28.

We need folks who have trucks with water tanks to provide water in the field for mixing the spray solution as the volunteer sprayers run out. We need folks with ATV's, with or without spray tanks, who are willing to spray a section of ranch roadsides. We can even use anyone who only has a two- or five-gallon pump sprayer and can only spend a couple of hours in Gallinas Canyon walking around zapping thistle. The POA will be purchasing extra ATV sprayers as well as the chemicals.

Please sign up on the signup sheet on the bulletin board at the mailboxes, or you can contact Bill Wenstrom at 719-846-7457. If we have a lot of volunteers, it could only take a day to do the whole ranch! We plan to use a non-restricted herbicide, so volunteers do not need a private applicator's license.

If you find that you have several acres of thistle on your property and don't have the equipment, you can contact Tom Miller at the soil conservation district, 846-3027. He has a 300-gallon pump for a 3/4 ton pickup for rent at only $25 a day. He also has an ATV spray tank available. Big R in Trinidad carries all kinds of herbicides.

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