The gardener’s golden rule for weed management is to yank out the suckers while they’re still babies. But you were busy in early spring, when the teensy-weensy weeds were poking their little heads out of the soil. Now it’s late in the year and your fields and pastures are overrun with full-grown thistles, dock weed, ragwort, Himalayan blackberry and other spawn of the devil. And they’re all about to drop seed.

You can go with the modern solution—break out the RoundUp and the Crossbow and kill everything in sight—or grab a stout tool and set about selective weed slaying.

Which brings us to the project for this issue. We’re talking a beast of a fork with two heavy tines and a chest-high handle equipped with a nearly shoulder-wide T-grip. Called “dockweed irons” or “thistle grubbers,” tools like this were the heavyweights of weeding from the days of ancient Rome to those of your grandpappy.

As long as you have the good sense to make sure the ground around the monster-sized weed has some moisture in it, this big tool can reach a foot into the earth and heave up the tenacious, intertwined taproots of curly and broadleaf dock, thistle and their noxious fellow travelers. Let’s get to it.


• Two 18-inch lengths of 7/8-inch square steel rod (cold rolled or mid-carbon is best)

• 16 inches of 1 1/4-inch-diameter tubing with 1/8-inch wall thickness

• 14 inches of 1 1/2-inch I.D. black pipe with 1/8-inch wall thickness, cut into 8-inch and 6-inch lengths

• One 40-inch-long, 1 1/2-inch-diameter piece of ash for the handle (Note: I used a cut-down heavy fork handle. A round post-hole digger handle will also work.)

• Two iron shovel rivets (20D nails will do)

This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Winter 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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