While milk thistle products are becoming more and more widely available, it is a very tolerant and easy herb to grow, which makes growing milk thistle at home a great idea! It’s seeds require little care and the plant can be grown in a wide range of settings.
Considerations Before Growing Milk Thistle at Home
Before you start growing milk thistle at home in your garden or yard, be sure to check the below warnings as they will save you a headache or two… or even some hefty fines.
Milk thistle might be illegal in your state!
Check with your local cooperative to ensure it is not banned. Some states, including Washington state, recognize the plant as a “Class A Noxious Weed”. This means that although you can find milk thistle in gardens, it is illegal to buy or sell the plant in the state of Washington. Other states also have restrictions, such as Arkansas and Oregon.
Milk thistle is a weed
Even if you live in a place where you can grow milk thistle at home, be warned: Milk thistle can quickly spread all over your yard, and neighboring yards as well. But there are steps you can take to contain the spread.
Milk thistle is toxic for livestoc
Milk thistle can also be toxic to livestock, as such you will want to make sure to take care in planting it outdoors if you live on a farm or have livestock.
Steps for Growing Milk Thistle at Home
The milk thistle plant will grow well in most environments. For optimal growth conditions, find an area that drains well and is about 54 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Planting the Seed
To grow milk thistle at home, you will need to find a large area to spread the seeds. The best time to plant milk thistle is the spring or fall. Here are a few tips on planting the seeds in your garden:
- Prior to planting the milk thistle, you can soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. This will help accelerate its growth.
- Since it grows in clumps, it is recommended that you space the plant about 30 to 36 inches apart for the proper room for growth
- Place the seeds shallowly and at a depth of about a quarter of an inch.
- Milk thistle prefers dry conditions and is a drought tolerant plant. This makes growing milk thistle at home easy and great for your garden as it is easy to take care. That said, be careful not to over water the seeds.
- If you would like to increase the seed production, you can choose to fertilize the milk thistle plant with nitrogen and potassium – any generic fertilizer should do the trick.
- To prevent re-seeding, you will need to mulch around the plant.
Harvesting the Plant
The seeds from the milk thistle plant are the main item harvested for use. Milk thistle benefits are associated with lower blood pressure, healthier skin, liver function and much more.
When the milk thistle plant has fully grown, you will know which seeds to harvest because the most mature because they turn brown and are protected a circle of hairs that appears as white fluff.
When the plant flowers it is covered with seeds. To harvest the flower:
- Cut the dried blossoms off the plant from the base of the head of the flower about one inch of stem. This can also be done by hand but it is recommended to wear thick gloves as the plant will have sharp thorns.
- Put the flower in a paper bag and keep it in a warm place for a little over a week to allow to dry.
- Once dry remove the seeds from the head of the flower — you can put them in a burlap sack and shake it to do this.
- Separate the seeds from the unwanted chaff
That’s it, you’ve grown and harvested your very own milk thistle seeds. Now store the milk thistle seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until you will use them.