Getting Rid Of Goat Heads – A Complete Guide

If you have goat heads in your garden, you’ll most likely know about it. Goat heads are also known as the Devil’s Weed, and it’s not difficult to see why. This weed is invasive and can be found pretty much anywhere in the world.

They aren’t good for your pets and children if they are in your garden either. It’s hard to get rid of them, but if you know what you’re doing then these weeds can stop being a nuisance in your life for good. 

It’s actually pretty simple to get rid of goat heads – all you need is some good weed killer! Then give them a couple of days to wither away and they’ll be out of your hair.

If the plants or seeds are mature, you may need to take a slightly different approach.

Start off by getting a flame weeder and burning the plants off. Then, remove the seeds and dead plants from the area using a spade and then get rid of them.

Get some mulch in order to stop any seeds that you may have missed from germinating. Finally, get some pre-emergent herbicide and spread it around the area to stop the weed from growing again.

Of course, this guidance isn’t comprehensive. You are also going to need to figure out what weed killer spray will be the best to use, when you should be using the flame weeder and how you can get rid of the goat head problems for good. Thankfully, we’ll cover all of this and more in this article. Just read on! 

What Goat Head Actually Is

It’s pretty easy to know what goats head weeds are if you’ve stepped on one before. It can be harder to figure out what they are if you are trying to identify them though. Here are just a few of the key characteristics that you should look out for. 

  • They grow flat along the ground and will branch out from a root in the center
  • Tends to create small yellow flowers with five petals
  • As the flowers grow, they become irregular shaped fruits that look spiny
  • Eventually the pods will try out and grow little thorns. They look a little like goats heads when they are held up – they hurt to step on! 

The plant can actually look quite attractive, and this can often mean that people don’t always recognize that they are actually dealing with goats’ heads. Eventually one of them can stick in your shoe, they may puncture your tires or they may even end up hurting your feet. In short, they’re a nuisance.

These vile plants are perennial weeds that can be very invasive. They are incapable of handling strong cold weather conditions. When it gets warmer though they will come back with a vengeance.

This kind of weed is thought to have been native to Southern Europe. There’s a good chance that they came over to North America thanks to early settlers bringing over wool. It is thought that this wool was rife with goat heads.

These plants are sometimes known by a few other names too, including:

  • Cat’s Head
  • Caltrop
  • Tribulus Terrestris
  • Devil’s Thorn
  • Devil’s Weed
  • Sticker Vine
  • Puncture Vine
  • Tackweed

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter what you call it. These weeds are not good to have in your garden. If you want to protect yourself and your family, it’s imperative that you get rid of all traces of the plant from your yard.

How To Remove Goat Head Weeds

You will most likely find that mowing the lawn will get rid of most weed species, but you won’t be able to with goat heads because they will simply grow back once again as soon as the seeds begin to germinate. 

You could try to uproot them from the ground, but you most certainly aren’t going to get results by doing so. All they are going to do is keep on growing from whatever remains of the deep taproot still living underground.

Your choices vary depending on the growth stage and the size of the weeds. Here are a couple of suggestions that you can use, however.

Get a High Quality Weed Killer to Manage Younger Weeds

If you want to manage goat head weeds that are still rather early in their lifespan, a weed killer spray can be a good choice. These are chemical control methods that are perfect for stopping goathead weeds in their tracks before the seeds start to be produced.

It’s worth noting that it will take longer to see results with certain weed killers, and that’s okay. Others will work pretty much straight away. If you want to manage the problem effectively though, you should use the weed killers listed below:

  • Post Emergence Herbicides – these are designed to kill the plants before they even reach maturity. They don’t work well on seed pods, however.
  • Residual Weed Killers – If you want long lasting control over the weeds in your garden, pre emergent weed killers are a necessity. These will help to ensure that seeds don’t germinate. They are often capable of killing fully grown plants too. It can sometimes take up to a month for them to completely kill plants that are fully grown already, but they will remain on the surface for months after you have sprayed the formula. This is great as it will help you to control the weeds throughout the whole season.
  • Selective Herbicides – if you want to target a particular species of weed, then selective herbicides are a good choice. Of course, it’s important to note that they don’t always work as fast as other kinds of herbicides. In fact, you may find that it takes around 6 weeks to see any results, and this is especially the case when it’s very cold outside. These are a good choice for larger yards where it’s inevitable that they will be in contact with grass. This is because it won’t kill your grass – just the weeds.

Since weed killers are toxic in nature, you should definitely be very cautious. Make sure that you are wearing a good pair of gloves when you are applying weed killer to your lawn.

It’s also worth noting that there are some kinds of weed killer sprays that will kill pretty much all plants, and this goes for your grass too. For this reason, it’s imperative that you assess the label before you spray your yard to ensure that the rest of your lawn and plants are well protected.

Using the Burning Method

If you have a propane torch then the flames will burn at 2000F. This is certainly going to be enough to kill any plants or seeds that may rear their ugly heads.

You should get a propane tank that’s eco-friendly in order to give power to the burner. In fact, farmers have used these flames for decades in order to manage weeds. It’s a very effective method of managing goat head issues.

If you are working in larger areas like open fields then it’s best to opt for a handheld flamethrower. This is because they are usually much easier to store and carry.

Some farmers have also mentioned that the carbon emissions can be quite beneficial to the soil. In fact, plants generally tend to perform well on soils where flame weeding has been performed, especially in comparison to other sections of the yard.

Of course, this method is not without its problems. Namely, this kind of method won’t discriminate between the plants that it kills, making it unsuitable for lawns that have been pre established. The exception to this is if you intend to completely start anew. 

If you do find that your yard is completely stuffed with goat’s head weeds, then this is a good way to get rid of the weeds completely in a whole area.

Naturally, you need to be cautious when using a method like this. You need to be especially wary when the weather is windy or dry as you could run the risk of starting a fire. Make sure that you are watching carefully when using this method, and have a hose nearby if something does catch fire.

It’s also worth speaking to your local fire department as they can tell you where you can use burning in your county or city, or whether you are going to need a permit in order to do it. If the area is dry then you should avoid using a propane weed burner. Likewise, avoid using this method when it’s very hot outside.

There are a couple of things that you will need to do when you have finished with the burning process.

Get Rid of the Dead Weed and Put Something Else In Its Place

When the plants have died after the burning is done, get rid of them from the yard. Get a rake and pile the debris together. Shovel the debris into waste bags in your garden. You can also use a big wagon or a wheelbarrow.

Be careful to ensure that the waste is disposed of in a place where the weeds aren’t going to grow. For instance, you could use a dumpster. There’s always a chance that some of the plants may have survived.

If you plan to use your hands instead, be extra cautious and use some gloves to protect your hands – these weeds can be sharp.

Next, make sure that the yard is well prepared and ready for planting another thing. For instance, you could plant grass. This will help to keep the yard occupied so there’s too much competition for the weed to grow. Some types of grass like St Augustine grass are capable of effectively competing against goat heads because the grass grows so quickly and uses too much of the nutrients in the soil.

Till, Add Landscape Mulch and Fabrics

In order for goat head seeds to actually sprout, they have to have 1-2 inches of soil. To stop them from sprouting, you should till the soil around 6 inches deep. This way you are burying any seeds deep in the soil so they will have a hard time trying to germinate.

Put some water permeable landscape fabrics over the top of the freshly tilled soil. This will stop the seeds from germinating while also letting the water trickle through the soil effectively.

Make sure that the fabric is covered with a mix of mulch and soil as this will stop any rays from the sun from getting to the seeds. It will stop any insects getting in too, which is useful.

This can cost a lot of money though so perhaps it’s not the best choice if you are trying to get rid of weeds in a larger area.

Pre Emergent Herbicides

These weed killers get rid of seeds as soon as they begin to germinate. They’re ideal for larger areas, but they can sometimes get rid of grass seeds too. For this reason, you shouldn’t use them three weeks before you start to seed your lawn.

If you are going to use these herbicides, don’t seed your lawn until six weeks later to keep your lawn looking luscious and green.