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fireweed and my aching back

Home Forums FOOD PRODUCTION, HARVEST AND STORAGE Weed Identification fireweed and my aching back

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    mark wmark w

    I have fireweed, lots of it. I’ve made a good dent in it, but am imagining that this could be what the rest of my life looks like in autumn/winter, stooped over in a field, standing up occassionally to stretch the back and survey what’s still ahead of me.

    Was wondering what the alternatives are.

    I’m looking at sheep. Does anybody know of the upsides and downsides of this in a moist area? Fencing problems?

    I gather from what I’ve read on the net that mulching isn’t a good idea. True/False?

    Anything else?

    Hoping someone out there has beaten this blight without bromocide.

    Mark W


    No information, but you do have my sympathy. My sister coped by the 2 bags a day method – that’s 2 plastic bags per whatever able-bodied person happened to be in the house at the time. They have 22 acres and absentee neighbours, but they’ve managed to get and keep their land (near Forster) pretty clear for several years.

    Or so they say. I haven’t been there for a while and my back remembers the last trip:o

    Lyn BagnallLyn Bagnall

    Sympathies Mark. Slashing fireweed (Senecio madagascarensis) at the first sign of yellow flowers will prevent these pesky plants reproducing because the seeds won’t be able to mature. Our property had fireweed growing through it ten years ago but there have been only rare plants appearing in recent years. Fireweed is common on cultivated soil that is deficient in nutrients, and most commonly where bare-earth cultivation is practised. Vigorous pasture will out-compete it. We slash our paddocks regularly. When slashed after grass seed heads have dropped, we use the slashings for mulch around our crops. At other times we leave the slashings to break down in the paddocks and improve the soil. This has reduced the fireweed and saved our backs. However, we don’t have stock grazing in these paddocks and fireweed causes liver damage in grazing stock. Where stock is grazing, you would have to be very vigilent in not allowing fireweed to go to seed. Hope this helps. 🙂



    I feel your pain, but there is light at the bottom of the fireweed bag. 1st you have to accept that you will never beat weeds, but you can get them to a managable level that will allow you to have your life back:D.

    We have 21 acres of ex-dairy in the Bega Valley (very similar to Berry in soil/climate/ aspect etc). Our place was full of fireweed (and several other weeds) as a result of overgrazing, too much super, too many herbicides and effects of drought etc etc. It took a good 3 years and some rain to get it to a controllable level. We focus on improving soil naturally which means we can maintain a heavy cover of pasture that out competes the fireweed (the only way to deal with it organically). We are reveging most of our farm so generally stock feed (pasture) is not required which helps. We resist the use of any sprays as I feel they damage the soil micro flora and micro fauna ( they are my friends and workers:D) A few key points that helped us;

    -removing all stock for a few years

    -hand pulling flowering plants like mad people to prevent seed bank increase until pasture recovers (mabye only one year if you have rain/ irrigation) then you’ll only have to hand pull small outbreaks (this accounts for less than 2 days a year on my place now)

    -slashing, let the cuttings mulch back down to form a thick organic weed mat that prevents seed ingress and also prevents seed germination as they are under too much mulch. Mulching (with the slashed grass) also improves soil moisture retention, increases soil microbes/micro flora etc which will improve soil fertility by releasing tied up nutrients etc etc.

    -we have established shelter belts of mixed natives (lots of acacias etc) around all perimeter fences to provide seed traps (sticky wattles), reduce wind blown seed etc we have now started planting vegetation belts along the gullies also. This all helps with pasture improvment ie reduces evaporation, increases soil fertility (acacia=legume=free nitrogen for pasture) , also looks nice and give birds and bees a place to frolic.

    – allowing kikuyu/clover pasture (or other cover) “vigor” by not grazing as long as possible. We now only slash around the natives we plant for the first 2 years until they establish above grass height. Once the grass cover is good it mus be maintained to outcompete the fireweed.

    I feel goats are better than sheep as weed eaters (ours eat weeds and leave the good pasture!!), I think Doorpers (Sp?) are the choice if you want to get sheep. I keep two goats as spot weeders (on a tether in areas of woody weed/ or pre planting natives) we move them around to where ever we need work done.

    Hope this helps I could go on for ages but I get bored typing. Just remember, you just have to out compete it.



    Oh yer, making your soil more alkiline will reduce fireweed growth apparently, I am generally against radical shifts in pH as there are greater implications for soil life, but it may be worth trying as a first step before soil imporvment?? the biodynamic B500 soil conditioner may be of value to you also to activate your soils, no point if you use sprays though. All food for thought, please let me know how you go.


    mark wmark w

    well two years later, i’ve got the sheep. only 17 head on 150 acres, but it’s a start. They definitely eat the stuff and the seed. although the don’t destroy the plant. Still, the competition they offer the weed is a lot more than it gets from any other creature.

    (They also seem very contented. the 8 ewes have produced 14 lambs this spring.)

    I also applied a lot of lime and dolomite as per the swep laboratroy recommendations. I’ve heard teh calcium helps, but there is nothing about this in the DPI type\ag science kind of literature.

    I certainly have a lot less fireweed than i had last year, but there is still more than i want. I’d say I’m winning the battle, but the war is still raging.


    Well done Mark -what a champion effort – you have my deepest sympathy, I have a similar problem with hoar hound and lazy neighbours …


    There is a place in Tasmania called Golden Valley and its riddled with the cousin of the Fireweed, the Ragwort. Acres and acres of the stuff. I’d rather get rid of those than blackberries or gorse bush anyday. Blackberries and gorse are way too prickly! and hard to be rid of.



    We had a very bad fireweed infestation at our last property, near Cooranb*ng. We spent 2 hours on our hands and knees clearing a 300m track from the house to the dam. After that we just kept widening the path by pulling out 300 plants a day, every day between the autumn and spring equinoxes. 300 plants a day took about 15 minutes for one person. I found that fireweed doesn’t spread all that far from the parent plant, and most of the spread is downhill. Although it looks like the seed would be wind spread, most of the spread is by water. Start at the highest point of your property and gradually work down the slope from there and you will eventually bring it under control. Took me about four years to get it to a manageable level, and each year saw a huge improvement.



    bluezbandit wrote:

    There is a place in Tasmania called Golden Valley and its riddled with the cousin of the Fireweed, the Ragwort. Acres and acres of the stuff. I’d rather get rid of those than blackberries or gorse bush anyday. Blackberries and gorge are way too prickly! and hard to be rid of.


    But the gorse is looking particularly pretty at this time of year!! Best crop I have seen in years around here …:lol::lol:


    😮 have you tried pigs? If ever I want an area cleard I make a small fence 3m by 3m & put a pig in it. After the area is bare & the soil turned I move it to the next 3by3, they remove it all from the roots up. 😆

    mark wmark w

    i have just got a few pigs but i think the the alkaloid in fireweed would be toxic to them as it is to most animals. Also, disturbing ground causes massive fireweed outbreaks, as i have just discovered along a new line of planted trees. the three inch high fireweed seedlings are as thick as grass in some patches.





    Good luck on your continuing war with the fireweed.

    I worked with those alkaloids for a while. I’m pretty sure that pigs are one of the species more suspeptible to pyrrolizidine alkaliods. So you are doing the right thing keeping them away from it.

    Sheep are less affected but are still likely to end up with liver problems in the long run from the alkaliods. But you probably know that already anyway.


    Hi,I have a small patch of fireweed on my seven acres and it is at the flowering stage. I am going to pull it all out, store it in a container till it is ready to be burnt, then I am going spread the ashes over the area. This is called “peppering”.

    I am also going to add calcium (lime) and copper to the soil as fireweed indicates a need for calcium and copper in the soil.

    I will let you know how my idea went.


    Oh I so agree about the aching back! 🙁 We only have 2.5 acres of paddock and so i am often out there of a weekend morning with a chook food bag in one hand pulling fireweed. Keeping stock off it isnt an option however our one cow doesnt overgraze it. We have just had the paddocks slashed and there is a thick layer of cut grass so hopefully that will help suppress the wretched stuff. I tried dolomite on a large patch of thistles and it seemed to work- they just grow along the fenceline now. i have absentee owners on one side as well and they have all manner of weeds growing which then seeds my place. 👿 A tree barrier sounds like a good idea.

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