Anyone who has land with horses on is probably far too familiar with the dreaded ragwort. A bit of bare ground, and those long-dormant seeds will go “Aha! An opportunity” and spring into life. While we all know that horses (unless literally starving) usually won’t eat green, growing ragwort, it’s always a worry, and better off gone as soon as possible so that there’s no chance it can go to seed, or get cut and become palatable when dried, and poison our unsuspecting horses.
I have tried cutting down every speck of the stuff at ground level, to no avail, and also using a ragfork to pull it all out, and as far as I have discovered, leaving just one bit of the tentacle-like roots means that the dratted stuff comes back later on that season, and the next year, and the next year. Of course I always burn all the ragwort I cut/pull out, but it feels like fruitless and infuriating toil when it keeps coming back. The roots need to DIE.
I do my best at my place not to use weedkillers in the fields. I don’t want Roundup or anything similar near me or my animals, or any of the other little creepies and crawlies that live here, especially the bees, or the many hares, badgers, bats, swallows, raptors, and so on. I like to think of it as a mini nature reserve of sorts, so, no nasty stuff is allowed.
I have been attempting to wage war on ragwort with topical applications of homemade stuff for literally years. Salt on its own (a generous pile poured on the cut off root of the plant) didn’t work. Vinegar didn’t work. I have forgotten the other things I tried… they didn’t work. Creosote worked, but is another horrible chemical that I’d rather not use in my fields!
My current concoction definitely does the trick. No regrowth either – I took these photos months ago when the earliest rosettes came through. No sign at all of any regrowth. 🙂 🙂 🙂
This photo (of the exact place where the previous photo was taken) proves it. I didn’t pull out the roots, the whole lot just disappeared after I’d collected the slimy brown dead top. Very satisfying!
This was taken today, months after the first and only application.
The recipe is: (quantities don’t need to be spot on, just be generous!)
In an empty 2L or 5L bottle:
Pour in about 2 inches of table salt.
Top up to about 3/4 up the bottle with malt vinegar (the cheapest you can get, obviously! We buy in bulk.)
Put the cap back on and shake this very vigorously until all the salt has completely dissolved.
At this point (and not before, because if you add this before dissolving the salt, it won’t dissolve, you’ll just get bubbles galore and a total mess… please, learn from my mistake!)
Top up with green washing up liquid. Maybe it doesn’t have to be green, maybe lemon or fruits of the forest of whatever would be fine, but I am just reporting on what has worked for me.
Shake it up a bit before use. You will get a pourable greeny-brown gloop which I am sure must taste completely vile (so I don’t worry about using it in a field with horses in. If they really want to investigate and try the taste, I doubt they’ll do it again, but it won’t poison them either!) The salt doesn’t separate back out, once fully dissolved – I made my first batches in clear plastic bottles to check that.
When rain isn’t forecast (I’d give it at least a few hours to sink in without being watered down or washed away), go ragwort-hunting, and pour the liquid equivalent of a generous dollop onto the middle of the offending ragwort, if it’s at rosette stage. If it’s already growing vertical, I cut the top off at ground level to reduce it to rosette status (carefully collecting and burning every single speck that I’ve cut off) and then pour the green gloop onto the middle.
About 4-7 days later I go back with strong rubber gloves on and scrape out the rest of the top of the plant, which will now be brownish. This might not be necessary, to be honest, but I don’t want to risk it drying out and somehow becoming palatable (probably very unlikely though).
I hope this helps anyone who doesn’t want to use commercial weedkillers and is waging their own personal war against ragwort.
(Next on my hit list, the hideous dock. One application with the above mixture hasn’t killed them off completely (although it seriously put them back) so I am going to continue experimenting. Someone has suggested adding chilli oil to the vile concoction… watch this space!)