Are you being invaded by St John’s Wort or other perennial weeds?

We’ve talked specifically about St John’s Wort here, but these methods could be used for any invasive perennial weed. At the bottom you’ll find a collection of thoughts on blackberry control.

St John’s Wort thrives in areas of overgrazing and compaction of the soil. It is an invasive weed in this situation and quickly takes over the pasture. Here we give you two options to tackle it. A complete version, which takes time and a “quick fix” as we understand taking paddocks out of production isn’t always an option. So let’s start with the longer process where we renovate the paddock.

Collect a couple of wheelbarrows full of whole St John’s Wort plants – flowers, seeds and roots and burn them in a hot wood fire on a full moon. Collect the ashes and spread 75% of them on the St John’s Wort before mulching the paddock (If you don’t have a mulcher you can slash down the weeds or use a ride on mower for a smaller area). This is called peppering. Retain the other 25% of the ash for later.

Then spray the paddock with Biodynamic Soil Activator, Horn Manure or Combined Soil Preparation. Use the quantities recommended for the area to be sprayed.

The next step is to grow a green manure crop of annual grasses, grains and legumes and feed then with a liquid manure such as Fish Concentrate. Also add lime if necessary, (for acid soils – you may need a soil test, but often degraded soils are acidic) and basalt rock dust if you can obtain it, (may be available from your local quarry).

If you chose to grow a green manure crop, mulch it and disc it in when the majority of it is flowering. Throw the remaining 25% of ash over the green manure crop before mulching it. Spray the area with Biodynamic Combined Soil Preparation and plant the perennial grasses when the green manure crop has been incorporated (about 4 weeks).

The perennial grasses should then out-compete any remaining St John’s Wort.

Quick Fix: Taking paddocks out of production to manage weed invasions, while being a more permanent solution is expensive and may not be possible. In this instance, strategy for St John’s Wort control is as follows:

  • Make sure that the Biodynamic Soil and Atmospheric Preparations are being used
  • Collect St John’s Wort – flowers, seed and roots, burn on the full moon and spread the ashes over affected areas before plants set their seed for the next season.
  • When St John’s Wort is in full growth, slash, let dry and burn in situ on a full moon. Then sod sow perennial pasture into the ashes.
  • If you can’t collect sufficient ashes, hand potentise a handful of ashes to D8 and spray out monthly on the St John’s Wort when the moon is ascending. See our Biodynamic Resource Manual (free with membership) or contact the office on (02) 6655 0566 for directions on potentising.

More thoughts on Blackberry Control

compiled by John Hodgkinson

Everyone loves to hate…. Blackberries.

Ok, so we agree about the plant, even if we consider the gloriously aromatic jam and jelly of its fruit, our favourite condiment. I am an inveterate blackberry picker and jam/jelly/syrup maker (organic sugar only) every late summer, from across NSW New England stamping ground.

But I did try to eradicate it on my place near Dorrigo through the nineties – physically, and with serious intent to eradicate. Yes, slasher, bobcat, excavator, pick, mattock, machete, secateurs, brushcutter, fire after mulching – yes, done all that. For a time I succeeded, but the property being a complex of gullies and steep slopes, and subject to high rainfall, my efforts were insufficient, I wearied of the task and when it was sold, it was being seriously re-invaded. Applying biodynamic preparations and peppering wasn’t working in the short term. Experimentally planting wattles and apples in some large thickets only showed me that what was needed to fully control and ultimately eradicate them were either :

  1. fully accessible pasture areas where stock grazing pressure and slashing (preferably mulch-mowing) is regularly carried out, or
  2. close planting of tree species which eventually forms a canopy – and a dense one at that.

I found in the latter case, that if I planked my way into a blackberry thicket, cut and knocked down fair sized growing spots of about a square metre, and planted quite advanced tree saplings into these keyholes, eventually (3-4 years) the patch became seriously weakened as the shade grew. Also as “I fluffed” up the flattened canes from the planking lanes, I had a ready made protection for the saplings from wallaby and rabbit.

Not surprisingly, blackberry control and eradication is a serious challenge in many parts of Australia. The question we are frequently asked to address at BAA is : “How can I eradicate blackberry biodynamically?”

Acknowledging that peppering does not appear to be working in the short term (1-2 years), we are left with little that rates as a definitive solution. In a recent “forum” of Directors, Shane Joyce gave us his approach of :

  1. put out all of the biodynamic preparations
  2. make a tea of the unwanted & spray out
  3. use pepper (aiming at the mid to longer term, supposedly)

Hugh Lovel feels that mowing after Summer solstice, before blackberries ripen, really “rocks” them. He’d then spray out the preparations and “fertilizers” to stimulate grass growth, then put out blackberry seed pepper along with another slashing. Thus he “rounds them up”.
Louise Skidmore advocates paying attention to the spread of blackberry by birds and foxes, especially the later via their scats, which they drop numerously around rabbit warrens and dens. Therefore control of rabbits is a prerequisite. She feels that growing strong grasses along fence lines reduces germination of seed dropped by birds.

In a separate communication, Cheryl Kemp reminds us that blackberry, like many of our weeds, is a perennial species, and peppering its seeds will not get rid of “mother” plants, but can only prevent further seed germination. We also need to consider the degree of viability of the seeds we burn. She suspects that just as Camphor Laurel seeds are made more viable by passing through the gut of a pigeon, it is possible that blackberry seeds which have passed through foxes and various bird species will have greater viability, which in turn may lead to a more potent pepper.

Additionally, why not burn the fox scats and bird droppings instead of only seed from bushes, or as well? And burn when the Sun is in Leo to increase potency even further?

Cheryl’s final suggestion is to burn the bushes and thickets around August if they are flammable or cut/slash beforehand, then burn. This will not prevent the old crowns reshooting, but by putting out, say, Combined Soil Preparation and seeding with vigorous grass and pasture species, there’s at least a chance of the crown re-emergence getting some significant competition. By putting out the pepper, and not just over the burnt areas, there’s a good chance that no seeds will germinate over whatever area is covered. (Thanks Cheryl)
The following are suggestions from various sources:

Permaculturists: start small, work outwards, follow-up, employ plant barriers and living mulches, weed mat, lay slow-decay sheet mulches, start a plant succession to shade or engulf.

Animal Tractorists: chooks, goats and pigs – difficult and at best temporary/small scale, or preliminary to grubbing out roots.

Taoists: Take account of the difficult while it is still easy.

And deal with the large while it is still tiny.

The most difficult things in the world originate with the easy.

And the largest issues originate with the tiny.

Philosopher/Spiritualist: “How did fear and loathing become so widespread as the typical response to weeds” says Dr Dwyer in “The Weeds New Digest”, Jan 12-20 2012. He suggests that emotive language reflects and compounds fear and anxiety towards weeds. This response may hamper our efforts at combating blackberry with intent. Elsewhere I hear of cases where communication with elemental beings makes it possible to bend plant response to our will or to achieve cooperative outcomes with plants (Findhorn, Perelandra). This is a challenging area for blackberry control.

Why not contact us with your suggestions for, and experiences in controlling blackberries, particularly successful attempts?