following notes derive from our own field scale studies, demonstrations
& contracts. While we offer advice, we are also aware
of the almost infinite variability of sites, weather, and
Some examples of tasks, which can be suitable for handwork
(or Scotch thistle) in new seeds that are due to be conserved.
Docks (or any thistle) in cereal /vegetable crops (and around
Docks or any thistles (esp. Creeping & Scotch) in permanent
pastures, banksides, fence-lines.
Ragwort anywhere, but especially on pasture (either protected
by status or not).
Bracken in pasture, or spreading into heather (the latter
Nettle clumps invading pastures.
(Rumex sp) Some preventative measures
encourages them to grow and spread?
Any section of a dock root is capable of producing buds and
roots, especially when exposed to a good measure of light
and moisture. The upper 6" of roots may grow more vigorously,
but all sections are potential plants. Dock seeds require
particularly strong light to spark, in contrast to budding
root sections, which search it out (especially in cultivated
Uproot them from pastures, leys, fence-lines. If a
lower section of root is left in the ground, heal in the hole
and keep going. In old pasture these remaining root tips often
give up. Do this work before ploughing. Otherwise,
plough early, and drag any root clusters to the surface with
mounted chisel harrows, and take them off the field. [We sometimes
use a reciprocating power harrow with sideways rather than
rotary action, which helps to shake roots onto the surface
].Go for crop cover and the quick establishment of
autumn sown grass & cereal crops. Don't drill cereal seed
too deeply. [Incidentally, we always use a break crop (forage)
when coming out of grass, which gives us another chance to
remove dock roots. It also avoids getting leather jackets
in the cereal crop]. After potatoes, make sure any
dock roots are picked out of the aulms left behind by the
harvester. Always be vigilant about removing docks whenever
they appear close to fields.
The feeding of contaminated silage or hay to ruminants is
bad news. Many dock seeds survive their passage through
animals, and get a head-start, by being coated in manure
and then randomly deposited on open land.
1) If you have a batch of contaminated feed, make sure it
is only fed in yards or buildings. After mucking out, organize
a hot compost for the bedding, which must cook the seeds
for a minimum of 3 days at 55 C. Whole piles of dock roots
can be treated in this way, and will have an ash-coated appearance
if they have been cooked sufficiently.
Ruminants let into the aftermath of a hay/silage field, where
docks have been left to mature in the fenceline, will nibble
the seed heads from choice (and probably do get something
useful from them). This can cause the spread of docks to
the centre of a field. Even if the seed heads are immature
when the animals first go in, they will mature later on, and
get eaten. Over wintering, tight grazing and paddled land,
will add to the problem.
the trash under fence-lines, to help locate plants & kill
off the surface seeds. Then pull the docks, or if time is
short, top or cut off the maturing seed-heads early enough.
Autumn/Winter strip-grazing is an ideal time to remove dock
roots when they appear in strips, as the fence is moved forward.
Grub out the small quantity of easily located roots, daily.
After using ring feeders / hay racks etc, the soil is exposed,
allowing the surface seed bank access to light. Seedling docks
will be among them. (Incidentally, we think that dock seeds
are viable earlier than is generally supposed, and that plastic
wrapping may even encourage their maturity ).
Either feed on a special concreted area, or repair exposed
& paddled soil by sowing quick-growing clovers & grass,
after harrowing. Try and do this soon after the fodder racks
are removed, and the earth has been exposed. If seedling docks
do appear later, hook them out using the ships foot nose on
Strong winds and birds can move dock seeds, and they can appear
(unexpected), in lawns, new seeds and pasture.:
Grub them out a.s.a.p., using the 'sheeps foot nose. Regular
mowing of lawns can persuade seedlings to give up, but in
patures and leys, at least three low cuts (before the seed
heads mature), would be necessary. Following this with close
grazing of sheep during the growing season (only), might
contain the problem.
L-D research includes: a) looking at the viability of dock
seeds at different stages of growth / in wrapped & chopped
silage / haylage. b) the long-term effect of chiselling creeping
thistle and c) grubbing out ragwort at the rosette stage.
Removing docks with a Lazy Dog 'A stitch in time
are rarely easy, for a variety of reasons. As 1st year plants,
(or plants kept small by regular sheep nibbling), they can
be awkward to locate, and fiddly to lift. Docks in old grasses
vary in size, so that old and massive root systems (very satisfactory
to lift) grow alongside modest 1st or 2nd year plants. In
old grassland, there always seem to be more plants than
one predicts, and the different characteristics of clay
soils, sandy soils, stony conditions, can make it difficult
to choose which grubbing nose to use on the tools. Experience
provides the best guide to when to change to a fork,
and this is helped by another general skill that develops:
the accuracy with which an operator can locate the crown of
a plant in long grass. Yet another skill, is judging the best
distance back from each crown, for inserting the grubbing
nose. We often have two tools at hand. One with NO1b (sheeps'
foot), and the other with NO8 (large fork).
Some pulling tips
1) Pull docks in moist conditions, especially on heavy
land which can turn into concrete by the end of May. Young
docks growing in sandy soils can get easier to lift, when
a small amount of surface compaction or dryness holds the
soil together. Always place the grubbing nose (of your
choice), well back from the plant. When removing large
docks there is no guarantee that the tool will engage the
actual root, so support each lift with a wedge of soil (especially
in cultivated or sandy conditions).
Pull docks in the Autumn/Winter, while strip grazing lambs,
and remove the plants in each band of freshly that is freshly
eaten. On bigger grassland tasks, we often mark out the field
with vehicle wheel markings. This gives each member of the
gang a limited area to concentrate on, and ensures coverage
of the field. Throw the up-rooted plants into piles for collection
later. Always wear thick soled boots & gloves.
Develop regular use of the 2nd (lower)handle, when lifting
the uprooted plant to waist height for removing it from the
fork. Remember to employ the same hand on the 2nd handle,
after it has been used to pull back & extract the root
(using the top handle), and get out of the garden fork habit
of bending to the ground, (which doesn't come immediately
to regular users of a garden fork !). Some bending is inevitable
but keep it minimal
and sometimes it's easiest to swing
the tool completely upside down, in order to pull the root
cluster from the fork.