Unwanted cacti are a scourge and a nuisance. They can seriously harm children and pets, besides reproducing like rabbits and then competing for sometimes limited water resources against other more desirable plants in your backyard. Yet getting rid of them is more difficult than you might suppose. These pesky desert-loving plants flourish in impossibly hostile weather environments and conditions. They are able to outlast even the most difficult and challenging of droughts, thanks to their waxy, thick stems.
You must follow one of two methods fairly strictly if you really want to see the cacti destroyed effectively. Otherwise, they will just re-grow and spread on like wildfire just to spite you. You have two choices to defeat the evil interlopers. You can either remove them physically or chemically. Perhaps the best method is to combine the two means together.
Physical Removal of the Cactus
You should start out by covering the victim cactus with a big cloth or blanket. This is to help protect you from the vicious prickly needles. It’s a good idea to put on protective clothing such as thick gloves, pants and a long sleeved shirt, and knee-high boots if possible.
It is a wise idea to take down the enemy cactus with either a chainsaw or an axe, depending on its size. Once this is accomplished, it is imperative that you remove all pieces of the cactus from the ground. Otherwise, they will simply take root and start growing again. The best way is to have some boxes handy next to the cactus in which you can simply drop the various pieces you cut to ruin.
Once you have down most of the vermin cactus into tiny pieces and boxed them up, do not neglect the roots. You will have to go down several inches to the soil layers until you have found the root’s main section. With your axe, you can cut completely through the root and be sure to chop up whatever piece of the cactus is left when you pull up the root from the ground.
You should not stop there, but track down as much of the persistent and tunneling root as possible. These can easily grow a few feet along a horizontal direction, so please track it until you see the very end. Cut up the remaining root and box it up with the other cactus pieces. Remember that if you leave only a tiny part of the cactus behind, then in a matter of time your cactus will simply grow back. The plant may choose to return another day, so be prepared to repeat the physical removal process in the future until it has given up the titanic struggle against you.
Chemical Removal of the Cactus
This is probably the more fun method of destroying the invading cactus. You start with an herbicide spray that is comprised of picloram to obliterate between 76% and 100% of cacti and prickly pear. Then add in a surfactant or liquid dishwashing detergent to the herbicide mixture. You can also add in some marking dye so that you will know if you effectively covered the cactus or not.
Before you apply the herbicide, you have to wound the plant with either your shovel or your axe. Now you are ready to spray apply the poisonous solution to the two sides of the stems and pads. You can spray the cactus any time of the year, but herbicides tend not to work so well in the extreme cold or moist. You want to spray enough so that the cactus is thoroughly wet, yet there is no reason for the toxic solution to be dripping off the pads.
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