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.
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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.
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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.
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• 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.