Chemical-free ways to eliminate field bindweed

  • Bindweed’s flowers, with their pink-striped undersides, are pretty, but the weed is very difficult to get rid of. Bindweed can twine its stems around garden plants, killing them. Bindweed’s flowers, with their pink-striped undersides, are pretty, but the weed is very difficult to get rid of. Bindweed can twine its stems around garden plants, killing them. Photo: Pam Peirce

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Image 1 of 1 Bindweed’s flowers, with their pink-striped undersides, are pretty, but the weed is very difficult to get rid of. Bindweed can twine its stems around garden plants, killing them. Bindweed’s flowers, with their pink-striped undersides, are pretty, but the weed is very difficult to get rid of. Bindweed can twine its stems around garden plants, killing them. Photo: Pam Peirce Chemical-free ways to eliminate field bindweed 1 / 1 Back to Gallery

Q:My backyard is being overrun by field bindweed. I’ve tried digging it out, but not only are its roots devilishly deep, it seems that a new plant can generate from the tiniest scrap of root I leave behind.

Would it work to cover it with black plastic weighted down at the edges? Would that take months or years to work, and wouldn’t it just send up its sprouts outside the tarped area?

I’m very reluctantly contemplating Roundup, but this is an area that I want to use for vegetables and I don’t know how long it would take for the soil to be safe for them. (I’ve read that Roundup is not as safe and biodegradable as it’s portrayed.)

What about burning up the emerging shoots with one of those little torches?

A: Rare is the California gardener who will never encounter field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). If you are hoping to get rid of this very common weed, as in never again see its little arrow-shaped leaves blighting your garden, you are in for some serious effort.

This weed, like perennial garden flowers, builds up a root system that lives from year to year. The roots, though thin, run all over the place. They tend to go straight down for 6 inches or so and then run horizontally, connecting many above-ground plants.

If you try to dig it out, but miss pieces of root, these can indeed resprout to form new plants. The leafy stems grow quickly, blanketing the ground or twining up to several feet tall on plants, fences, trellises or other upright structures. They kill other plants by blocking them from light.

Field bindweed flowers look like small white morning glories, with pink markings on petal undersides. Gardeners sometimes find the flowers pretty enough to be lulled to inaction until it’s too late for easy control.

The best control would be to pull out any small bindweed plant growing from a seed that found its way into your garden before it could form all those stringy roots, but you, like most who have this weed, have missed that opportunity.

For established bindweed, some gardeners depend on pulling off the tops repeatedly. If you can pull any leafy stems by the time they are 3 inches tall, the plants will eventually die. This strategy can be combined, especially in a vegetable garden with its ever-changing plantings, with digging for roots whenever you’re preparing the bed for a new crop. (I use a shovel with a 2-foot handle, so I can work sitting down, rather than repeatedly digging and stooping.)

You might be able to kill the weed with solarization, spreading clear plastic, not black, over the soil for six weeks or more during summer’s heat. (You might get enough hot weather to solarize soil in Berkeley, but not near the coast.)

To solarize, water the soil thoroughly, then put down one or, even better, two layers of thick, clear plastic. Fasten the sides down with rocks or bricks. If you have to piece the plastic together, use glue intended for that purpose. The minimum area for a good success rate is 6 by 9 feet.

You probably don’t have enough warm weeks left to solarize this fall so will need to wait till next summer to try. (The plant is dormant in winter, giving you some respite.)

Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is not registered for (meaning not legal to use around) food crops. It can last in soil for up to a year. While it isn’t highly lethal in an acute poisoning sense, it can have many ill effects on your health. If you wish to avoid polluting pesticides, you can select from ones based on soap, citric acid, or strong vinegar and clove oil. Any of these will require several applications to kill this weed.

I do not suggest a flamer, because of fire hazard, but a new tool based on infrared heat is as effective, less of a fire hazard, and considerably more fuel efficient. You can obtain one from Forevergreen Chemical Free Weed Control (www.chemfree-weedcontrol.com, or (604) 534-9326). It’s pricy, at $250 plus shipping, but thereafter will control weeds for about 2 cents per 100 square feet, taking about 1 1/2 seconds per weed. Still, the vendor thinks you’d have to go after the same bindweed plant two or three times, at weekly intervals, to kill it. (By the way, you don’t have to burn up the weeds, just wilt them with the heat.)

Bidding farewell to the dreaded bindweed

“It is considered to be one of the most noxious weeds in the world because of its yield-robbing practices in crops such as wheat, potatoes and legumes (beans and peas),” he said.

Spreading by seed and through a deep, extensive horizontal root system, field bindweed seed can persist for many years in typical garden soil. “Although its roots can grow deep, most of the horizontal roots colonize the upper two feet of soil,” Hulting said. It tolerates poor soils but seldom grows in wet or waterlogged areas.

“The lack of effective herbicides and soil cultivation in perennial crops, gardens and flower beds results in rapid build up of the species,” Hulting explained.

But strategies to curb this botanical trespasser do exist. Mowing isn’t one of them.

Bindweed grows along the ground until it contacts other plants or structures and spreads over anything in its path. Much like pole beans, bindweed’s stems rotate in a circular pattern until they attach to a solid structure (fence posts, other plants). The stems wrap around the object as it grows.

If you want to avoid using herbicides to control field bindweed, plan to pull out or plow up all the bindweed for three to five years, Hulting advises. Persistence and dedication are needed to get rid of bindweed; roots left in the soil after cultivation will regenerate in about two weeks.

Be prepared to pull it all up every three weeks. Repetitive cultivation throughout the growing season for at least three years should deplete the root system and provide control.

“Use the deepest cultivation implements available, such as a garden fork,” Hulting said, “and be aware that root fragments as small as two inches can generate new shoots. Make sure as much of the root system becomes desiccated as possible.”

Glyphosate herbicides (such as Roundup) are an option, as long as you can keep the herbicide spray or drift away from other plants in your yard. These herbicides are absorbed by foliage and move throughout the plant to kill roots and shoots. The best time to control bindweed with glyphosate herbicides is when the plants are flowering.

Repeated applications of herbicide will be necessary to control bindweed. Its root system can be so immense that not enough herbicide can be absorbed with a single application.

“In addition, the texture of field bindweed leaf and stem surfaces forms an effective barrier to absorption and translocation of many herbicides,” Hulting explained. “Use repeated applications, but allow the plant to grow and produce flowers before each subsequent application.”

Identifying field bindweed can be tricky. Its arrow-shaped leaves grow opposite each other along each stem. When juvenile stems are broken, they exude a milky sap. The flowers are white to pink and trumpet shaped, and produce indeterminately throughout the year.

For more information on how to identify and manage field bindweed, check out publication PNW 580, Field Bindweed Biology and Management, in the OSU Extension Service online catalog.

Also, the Oregon Department of Agriculture has an active and ongoing biocontrol program for large acreage infestations of field bindweed. Visit the ODA biocontrol website.

How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Field Bindweed

Revised 10/11

In this Guideline:

  • Identification
  • Life cycle
  • Impact
  • Management
  • About Pest Notes
  • Publication
  • Glossary

Field bindweed.

Field bindweed seedling.

Field bindweed climbing up the stem of a shrub.

The root system of field bindweed can reach depths of up to 20 feet.

Field bindweed (left) and the larger flowers of western morningglory (right).

Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is a native of Eurasia that first was documented in California in 1884 in San Diego. By the first quarter of the twentieth century, field bindweed was proclaimed the worst weed in California and many other Western states. It most likely arrived in the United States as a contaminant in farm and garden seeds. However, because of its flowers and climbing nature, some seeds were probably planted as ornamentals, as a ground cover, in hanging baskets, or on trellises. Field bindweed has been given many names including perennial morningglory, creeping jenny, bellbine, sheepbine, and cornbind.

IDENTIFICATION

The first two leaves (cotyledons) of a field bindweed seedling are nearly square with a shallow notch at the tip (Figure 2). Plants that arise from rhizomes (underground stems) lack these seed leaves. The first true leaves are arrowhead shaped and have petioles (leaf stems) that are flattened and grooved on the upper surface.

Mature field bindweed plants have arrowhead-shaped leaves that can be 1/2 to 2 inches long, depending on environmental conditions. Mature leaves at the base of the stem are larger than the young leaves at the stem terminal. The flowers are trumpet shaped, white to pink, and 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.

Field bindweed is a prostrate plant unless it climbs on an object for support. It often is found growing on upright plants, such as shrubs or grapevines, with its stems and leaves entwined throughout the plant and the flowers exposed to the light. Under warm, moist conditions, leaves are larger and vines more robust than under drought conditions.

The root system has both deep vertical and shallow horizontal lateral roots. The vertical roots can reach depths of 20 feet or more. However, 70% of the total mass of the root structure occupies the top 2 feet of soil. Most of these lateral roots are no deeper than 1 foot. Experiments on bindweed have shown that its root and rhizome growth can reach 2 1/2 to 5 tons per acre.

In contrast to field bindweed, the ornamental annual morningglory (in the genus Ipomea) has a larger (2-inch wide) and more showy flower that can be white to blue or purple; it also has a thicker stem that is sometimes hairy and heart-shaped leaves that are 1 1/2 inches wide and 2 inches or more long. The two species are easy to distinguish from each other.

LIFE CYCLE

Field bindweed is a hardy perennial found throughout California below the 5,000-foot elevation line. It spreads from an extensive rootstock and from seed. Most parts of the bindweed roots and rhizomes can produce buds that can create new roots and shoots. Roots capable of budding are found to depths of 14 feet. Fragments of vertical roots and rhizomes as short as 2 inches can form new plants (Figure 7). Lateral roots serve another important function. About 15 to 30 inches from the parent plant, a lateral often turns downward, becoming a secondary vertical root, and sends out both roots and shoots from the turning point. By this means a single field bindweed plant can spread radially more than 10 feet in a growing season. This extensive underground network allows for overwintering without foliage, and it can persist for many years in the soil.

One to four dark brown seeds (Figure 8) are produced in round, smooth, 1⁄4-inch capsules. An average plant produces about 550 seeds. Within one month after forming, the seed coat matures and becomes impervious to water. Seed that is 60 years old has been found to be viable. Once the seed coat is weakened, the seed will germinate at temperatures of 41° to 104°F.

Drought tolerance is a characteristic of field bindweed. In California, it seems to prefer heavy clay soils rather than sandy soils. When water is withheld, bindweed competes better than most other plants. If an area is well watered, some ornamentals might compete better than the bindweed; however, in most cases, bindweed will flourish and twine up plants. In the landscape, field bindweed will survive with sprinkler or drip irrigation. If there is no summer water, the plant reduces its seed production first and then reduces growth and leaf size, but it still will produce some flowers and seed.

IMPACT

Field bindweed is one of the most persistent and difficult-to-control weeds in landscapes and agricultural crops. It has a vigorous root and rhizome system that makes it almost impossible to control with cultivation between desirable plants or broad scale tillage alone; in fact, it often spreads the infestation. Its seed has a long dormancy and can last in soil for up to 60 years. It has a climbing habit that allows the plant to grow up. In addition rhizomes have the ability to penetrate through fabric, plastic, and other barriers. Field bindweed also is very drought tolerant and once established is difficult to control even with herbicides.

If field bindweed is present, land is devalued and the weed precludes planting of many vegetable crops.

MANAGEMENT

Control of field bindweed isn’t easy, and it can’t be accomplished with a single treatment or in a single season. Effective control requires prevention of seed production, reduction of stored carbohydrates by deep tillage of the root system, competition for light from other plants, and constant vigilance in removing top growth. Application of herbicides, which reduce bindweed growth and kill germinating seedlings, can also be part of an integrated pest management program.

Prevention

Three practices can reduce the possibility of introducing field bindweed—purchase and plant clean seed and ornamental stock, remove any seedlings before they become perennial plants, and prevent any plants from producing seed. If topsoil is introduced to a site, it should be free of roots, rhizomes, seeds, and other bindweed propagules. It is important to control new infestations when they are small, because spot control is the least expensive and the most effective strategy.

Cultural Control

Experiments in some annual and perennial crops have demonstrated the effect of shade on bindweed growth. In these studies, alfalfa, cereal grains, sorghums, and corn partially reduced bindweed growth. Shade from shrubs and trees also should reduce growth, especially if there is another planting under the trees and the bindweed isn’t allowed to climb above the foliage of these plants.

Seedlings of field bindweed are easy to control with cultivation, but only for about 3 to 4 weeks after germination. After that, perennial buds are formed, and successful control is much more difficult.

Cultivation or hoeing has been partially effective in reducing established stands of field bindweed. Cultivate about every 2 to 3 weeks and repeat whenever necessary. In conjunction with cultivation, withholding water to dry the site might help to reduce the perennial population in a summer season, assuming the roots have not tapped into deep moisture.

Landscape fabrics such as polypropylene and polyester and other mulches such as black plastic or cardboard have been effective for bindweed control if no light is allowed to reach the soil and the plant. The edges of the fabric must overlap so that the bindweed stems can’t grow between the sheets and into the light. If holes are made in the fabric or plastic for plants, however, bindweed can also grow through these holes. A landscape fabric placed over soil then covered with bark or other plant-derived product (e.g., organic matter) or rock will likely keep field bindweed from emerging. It might take more than 3 years of light exclusion before the bindweed dies. Once landscape fabric or other mulch is removed, new bindweed plants might germinate from seed in the soil; be sure to monitor the site and control any new seedlings. Complete death of the plant under the mulch takes 3 to 5 years.

Chemical Control

Herbicides have been relatively effective for suppression of bindweed, but have not been very effective for eradication (Table 1). If herbicides are used, supplementing them with appropriate preventive and cultural controls has the most success in eradication.

Turfgrass areas

In turfgrass areas field bindweed normally isn’t a problem because frequent mowing reduces its vigor, though once established it will persist. Mowing the turfgrass won’t get rid of established bindweed. Bindweed often will flower above the turf. For control, products containing 2,4-D and/or dicamba have been effective without injuring the grass turf. More than one application will have to be made during the summer growing season.

Ornamental areas

In ornamental landscape settings, field bindweed grows between and up through the canopy of plants. For control, products containing trifluralin, oryzalin, or pendimethalin applied before emergence will reduce perennial shoots and control the germinating seedlings, but they won’t kill established bindweed plants. In open areas where there are no desirable plants, glyphosate (e.g., Roundup and other formulations) using a 2 percent solution is effective when bindweed plants are actively growing with no moisture stress. Glyphosate takes 2 to 3 weeks, depending upon the temperature at treatment, to kill the top growth, but it is effective, even though eradication isn’t always possible. Glyphosate doesn’t have residual activity, so repeated applications are necessary. It won’t affect germination of field bindweed seed, so new seedlings will have to be controlled with mulch, preemergent herbicides, or persistent cultivation.

Some people have used a 2 percent solution (volume to volume) of glyphosate to paint the leaves of bindweed in shrub areas, but if you try this be sure not to allow the herbicide to touch mature leaves or green bark of ornamental shrubs or trees, or injury can result. To reduce the chance that glyphosate will contact desirable plants, place the bindweed vines on newspaper before painting the leaves. Once the glyphosate solution has dried on the bindweed leaves, the newspaper can be removed. Any regrowth of the field bindweed must be re-treated. Using a shield such as cardboard or wood is advisable while spraying herbicide treatments near ornamental plants.

If an area infested with bindweed is to be planted, irrigate the area to make the bindweed grow well, then treat the field bindweed with glyphosate before planting. After planting, use an appropriate preemergent herbicide or mulch and continue to control any seedlings or regrowth from the previously treated plants.

Table 1. Summary of Herbicides for Use Against Field Bindweed.

Site Material Applied to soil before seeds germinate? Applied to actively growing plants? Available for homeowner or professional use?
turfgrass 2, 4-D no yes Found only in combinations for homeowner use.
dicamba no yes Found only in combinations for homeowner use.
ornamentals glyphosate no yes Readily available for homeowner use.
oryzalin yes no Some products available for homeowner use; some for professional use only.
pendimethalin yes no Readily available for homeowner use.
prodiamine yes no Readily available for homeowner use.
trifluralin yes no Readily available for homeowner use.
orchard/vineyard glyphosate no yes Readily available for homeowner use.
trifluralin yes no Readily available for homeowner use.
noncrop areas dicamba no yes Found only in combinations for homeowner use.
2, 4-D no yes Found only in combinations for homeowner use.
glyphosate no yes Readily available for homeowner use.

Orchard and vineyard areas

In orchards or vineyards where bindweed is growing beneath the branches or canes, glyphosate can be applied safely to the bindweed under the woody crop plants without injuring them, as long as tree suckers or low hanging branches aren’t sprayed. For best control, apply glyphosate to the bindweed in fall when the bindweed is actively growing; however, spring treatment has the additional benefit of reducing seed production, vigor, and spread of the plant. Generally, additional applications need to be made when the bindweed regrows.

Seedlings must be controlled with mulch, tillage, or preemergent herbicides before they become established plants. Repeated cultivations are required to prevent bindweed from reestablishing. Because the seed lasts such a long time in the soil, control practices must be conducted continuously. See the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for grapes or specific tree crops for more information on managing weeds.

Noncrop areas

In areas outside the landscape or orchard, cultivation and herbicide treatment can be used. If herbicides are to be used, treat the bindweed plants before they are drought stressed. Use a translocated herbicide, such as glyphosate, or a combination of glyphosate and dicamba, in areas where its use is allowed, when the plant is actively growing. There is a plant-back interval to crops based on the crop to be planted. Re-treatments will be necessary to control both established plants and seedlings. If possible, grow a competitive planting of other plants to reduce field bindweed growth and a crop that has herbicides available to use.

WARNING ON THE USE OF PESTICIDES

Bell, Carl, 1990. Non-Chemical Control of Field Bindweed. Calif. Weed Sci. Conf. Proceedings. 42:74–77.

Holt, Jodie. 1990. Field Bindweed—Biology and Distribution. Calif. Weed Sci. Conf. Proceedings. 42:64–67.

Mitich, L. W. 1991. Field Bindweed. Weed Tech. 5:913–915.

Mitich, L. and G. Kyser. 1990. History and Taxonomy of Field Bindweed. Calif. Weed Sci. Conf. Proceedings. 42:55–65.

Swan, D. G., and R. J. Chancellor. 1976. Regenerative capacity of field bindweed roots. Weed Sci. 24:306–308.

Weaver, S. E., and W. R. Riley. 1982. The biology of Canadian weeds. Can. J. Plant Sci. 62:461–472.

PUBLICATION INFORMATION

Pest Notes: Field Bindweed
UC ANR Publication 7462

Produced by UC Statewide IPM Program, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

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Bindweed History

Field bindweed, also called perennial morning glory, has the scientific name of Convolvulus arvensis and is widely considered to be one of the most invasive and destructive weeds in cropland and gardens. It was first found in Virginia as early as 1739 and is thought to have originally brought to Kansas and the Midwest from the lower Volga region in Russia, hitching a ride in the oats and wheat brought by immigrants starting new lives. It and its close cousin hedge bindweed (Convolvulus sepium) are both perennials, reproducing from both seeds and shallow creeping roots which make control and eradication much more difficult than if it was an annual.

Bindweed has been so pervasive that in 1937 Kansas wrote official legislation outlawing field bindweed – among a number of other persistent weeds – requiring farmers to use every effort to remove them from their fields and state agencies to do the same with public lands. Several Midwestern states followed suit and adopted this legal approach, approving and vigorously promoting an “eradication through poisoning” approach. As you might assume, all of these laws and efforts were unsuccessful. Perhaps the legislators forgot, if they ever knew, that Mother Nature rarely obeys mankind’s laws.

Bindweed competes very aggressively with adjacent crop plants for water, nutrients, and light, reducing crop yield and quality as well as interfering with harvesting by intertwining with crop plants and clogging up farm equipment – thus giving its name of “bind-weed”. In farming, bindweed infestations can reduce grain crop yields by 20 – 50% and row or vegetable crops by 50 – 80%, with similar reductions in the home garden. This is not a weed to be taken lightly!

Identification and Growth

Bindweed Wrapped Around Morning Glory

It is pretty easy to identify field bindweed and its several cousins. If you’ve ever grown morning glory, then you are already familiar with what bindweed looks like because they are in the same family – Morning Glory. Bindweed has narrower leaves and smaller flowers than Morning Glory, as can be seen in the photo of bindweed vine wrapped around morning glory, and the photo at the top of the article. It is a low growing, drought tolerant with medium green narrow arrowhead-shaped leaves on vigorous vining slender stems. The flowers are funnel-shaped with colors from white to pink. The flowers produce small round capsules with 1 – 4 seeds in each, which can survive in the soil for up to 50 years due to their exceptionally hard and durable seed coats. There is a long central taproot on each plant that can drill down as far as 20 feet or more for moisture that develops numerous lateral roots, mostly in the top 2 feet of soil. Field bindweed reproduces from seed and from buds that form along the lateral roots, sending shoots up to the surface which then become entirely new independent plants. Lateral roots can spread about 10 feet per season, sending up new shoots along the way.

Invading Bindweed

The most common identification is when a gardener realizes there is a mat of green vines that are taking over a section of the garden or yard, or is climbing up the trellis or wall in the case of hedge bindweed. Early in the morning there will be hundreds of small, pretty flowers opened up that will attract a person’s attention.

Early warm weather wakes bindweed up and it grows until the frost or cold stops it in the fall. Extreme heat, drought, and cold will slow down or kill off the top growth, but the underground roots and shoots will go dormant, waiting for enough moisture or better weather to re-emerge. The root systems can spread up to 10 feet per growing season, or by the lateral roots and buds being broken up and re-distributed by tilling. Seed is often spread from irrigation water runoff, birds eating the seeds and depositing them elsewhere, on the feet of gardeners, dogs, and other animals and on the wheels of wheelbarrows, tillers or other machinery and vehicles.

Control Methods

When researching how to control bindweed, the most commonly recommended method is to spray it with a persistent herbicide like glyphosate (Roundup) or worse, but then turn around and caution that care must be used around vegetable or other food crops.

Please understand, we very strongly do not recommend this approach, as is often creates more problems than it solves.

The second most common prevention recommendation is to make sure to avoid bringing in soil, seed, hay or animal feed that has the seeds, buds or pieces of the lateral roots in them. This is somewhat obvious, but too many times the first sign of having a problem is when the little flowers have bloomed and it is way too late for prevention.

The folly of using persistent, petrochemical herbicides to control most weeds – but especially bindweed – is apparent when looking at the multiple mechanisms it uses for reproduction – seeds, buds, lateral roots and the shoots they send up, as well as the vast amount of seeds that can stay dormant for several decades, just waiting for the right soil conditions. Sure, spraying will knock the above ground growth back, but the next season it will be back from all of the different angles it uses to survive, so more spraying is needed. Meanwhile, the spray is also knocking back the exact plants you want to grow and it isn’t beginning to touch the seed or root reservoirs in the soil!

Another common but misguided approach is to use a mixture of vinegar, Epsom salts, and dish detergent. This doesn’t work any better and may wind up killing more plants that just the weeds. Vinegar – whether household strength or the much stronger agricultural vinegar – is an acid and affects the above ground green growth. It will kill that off, but not touch the underground roots, seeds or shoots. It also changes the pH of the soil, potentially creating conditions for worse weeds to come in. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate, supplying elemental magnesium for the soil microbes to work with and sulfur, which again lowers pH and is a nutrient building block. Dish detergent is a “spreader/sticker” which coats and covers the surface of the leaves, suffocating them. Unfortunately, it can also suffocate beneficial insects, earthworms and the leaves of nearby plants you want to keep.

It is initially easier and much simpler to just spray the weeds, but that quickly becomes a slippery slope as the weeds you are trying to control grow more abundant and you start to notice other invasive weeds appearing that weren’t there to begin with. If you want to get ahead of the weeds, you must understand how they grow, spread, reproduce and the soil conditions that allow them to flourish.

Compare spraying increasing amounts of herbicides multiple times each season to an initial learning curve, some soil improvements and watching as the unwanted weeds start to retreat year after year, while your garden or farm grows stronger, healthier and produces more food that tastes better. Which road do you want to go down?

In looking at methods of controlling bindweed, we need to step back just a bit to understand more of why this, or any other, weed establishes itself in the first place. Contrary to much of the commonly spread information today, weeds don’t just “happen”; they are in a certain place for a very specific reason – the conditions are “just right” for them to grow there.

Weeds are an indication of what is going on with the soil and its fertility, both right and wrong. They show the progression of the soil, whether the fertility and biological diversity and health are improving; or if it is in decline. Very much as a pond will go through several generations of different species of plants until it is filled in and becomes a meadow; or a grass pasture will gradually fill in with a progression of woody shrubs and eventually trees, weeds will have a progression of species that tell the story of improving or failing health of the soil where they grow.

This information is by no means new, untested or untried. It has simply been swept aside in the race toward industrial agriculture shortly after World War II using leftover nitrogen and phosphorus stockpiles from explosives manufacture. This chemical race also happened to home gardening, unfortunately. Dr. Carey Reams and Dr. William Albrecht were some of the last and greatest researchers into the relationship between healthy soils, healthy plants, and healthy people, which naturally extends to the study of weeds in relation to soil conditions. Much of their work is more than 50 years old at this point and is only becoming more proven as more research and testing is done in soil health. One of the best books that we always recommend to anyone wanting to start gaining a better understanding of how and why weeds work is Weeds – Control Without Poisons by Charles Walters, the founder of Acres USA magazine.

The appearance of weeds doesn’t always mean bad things are going on in the soil. For instance, moderate lambsquarter and pigweed are an indication of good soil structure and fertility is good, crops will thrive and insects will generally stay away. They can be managed with light tilling of the top two inches of the soil within one to two days after the weeds have sprouted.

Two Adjacent Raised Garden Beds

What bindweed says about the soil conditions when it appears is that the soil is out of balance, with pH issues and stuck or incomplete decomposition of organic material accompanied by excess heavy soil metals such as magnesium and potassium. There is usually an accumulation of dry and dead plant matter that can’t finish decomposing, creating the right conditions for bindweed to flourish. Most often, the soil is low in humus materials with low available calcium and phosphorus. pH can be either excessively low or high and the soil structure can be clay or sandy.

This is easily seen in the photo above. The near bed was treated with compost and a top dressing of wood chips last fall, while the bed in the background had flowers in it, was not cleaned out for the past couple of years and had little to no compost amended to it. The near bed has a few shoots appearing, but the background bed is over-run and won’t be able to be planted this year.

Bindweed Sneaking In

There are two different, proven methods of stopping and controlling bindweed without using herbicides.

The first method is using weed cloth to block any sunlight from reaching the bindweed plants, much like my article Stopping Bermuda Grass in the Garden.

This method can work if you take care to overlap the shade cloth, avoiding any gaps where the roots will come through. It normally takes about 4 – 5 years to make the roots go dormant, lose their stored energy and then finally rot.

The challenge in trying to shade bindweed out can be seen above, where the bindweed is sneaking in where there is a gap between the weed barrier cloth and the metal raised bed – possibly less than a 1/4 of an inch!

Bindweed Lateral Roots

When the weed barrier is pulled back, it is easy to see the lateral roots running along the bed to where the gap allowed them to put a shoot up and survive.

Bindweed Long Lateral Roots

Moving around to the long side of the raised bed – about in the middle of a 15-foot long bed – we found another shoot poking its head up and pulled the weed barrier fabric back.

This is what we found – a series of lateral roots that had followed the joint of weed barrier fabric and raised bed, poking shoots up wherever it could. These lateral roots went to the shoot in the above two photos.

Handfull of Lateral Roots

Here is what over 10 feet of lateral bindweed roots look like. What we’ve discovered is that when we installed a heavy and fairly non-porous weed barrier fabric several years ago and then put several inches of wood chips on top is that we were creating the perfect environment for bindweed to encroach underneath the weed fabric and pop up in our raised beds.

For most of our beds, this isn’t a serious issue as they are rich and well composted with a fertile and biologically active soil which seriously deters the growth mechanisms of bindweed, so we just see them popping up just inside the raised beds and nowhere else.

The second method involves improving the soil by adding missing or low nutrients, adjusting pH and adding well aged, rich compost to jump-start the decomposition process again.

This short-circuits the growth pattern of bindweed and will soon start to rot the roots and shoots. A complete soil analysis from a professional soil lab is the correct way to determine what nutrients are needed and how to adjust the pH of your soil. There are a number of very good ones, but the two that we know and are familiar with are Crop Services International and Texas Plant and Soil Lab. Either one is excellent and will help you determine what nutrients are needed and in what amounts.

Successfully controlling bindweed depends on several factors that are unique to each garden or farm. Your soil’s pH, mineral levels, clay or sandy based soil and whether you have wet or dry organic matter that is stuck in its decomposition will all determine what nutrients and approach to use. The complete soil analysis from a professional soil lab will provide you the information needed to make the plan to begin reversing the encroachment.

Bear in mind that no single weed species grows independently of all others, they will grow in groups and communities; much like companion plantings of flowers, veggies and herbs do. As you begin to learn more about what different weed species prefer and the conditions that they need for growth, you’ll start to see that groupings of particular weeds mean very specific things related to soil health and fertility. They will indicate exactly what is right or wrong with the soil and what is in excess or lacking. Then you can make the corrections and watch them leave, followed by others that are much less difficult to deal with and indicate a much more fertile soil.

This may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but when you take a step back and realize how much you’ve learned about gardening or farming since you first began, even if it’s only a short time – then you can see how much this knowledge will benefit both your soil and you with fewer weeds, pests and more abundant, healthier plants and veggies, herbs and flowers.

Bindweed: A noxious weed that’s difficult to kill | The Kansas City Star

Bindweed Submitted

From Dennis Patton:

Like most gardeners I have a strong dislike for weeds. They create more work and rob our plants of much-needed nutrients and water. But like many things in life not all weeds are created equally. By that I mean some weeds tend to be more of a pain in the backside than others. Some weeds are easy to eradicate while others are next to impossible.

One of the worst to deal with is field bindweed.

Field bindweed produces an almost delicate looking vine with arrow or shield-shaped leaves. It can be seen vining along the ground in gardens or the lawns. It can also be seen winding its way up fences and your favorite plant. Sometimes it is almost hidden until it burst into flowers. Bindweed has trumpet-like flowers that bloom in pink or white, resembling that of a small morning glory.

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The vining weed is best known for its ability to multiply. Field bindweed is a non-native plant that spreads to smother or out-compete millions of acres of Kansas crops. Its spread did not stop in the country farm fields. Bindweed has adapted to city life and can be found in many lawns, gardens and landscape beds. In fact, in Kansas bindweed has been placed on the noxious weed list —a list that only includes the most damaging to crops and difficult to control

Bindweed can form tangled mats, run along the ground, twist and twine around other plants, plus climb up and over all kinds of things. Each plant can produce up to 500 seeds that remain viable for 50 years But, bindweed’s real strength is underground, where the vine’s roots grow deep while also extending out far enough to reach from one landscape into neighbors’ yards. A break in or bud on those lateral roots can produce another plant.

This isn’t a weed you can control by hand-pulling unless you’re willing to devote years or your entire life to the task. Trying to hoe it up simply helps bindweed spread.

The recommended control in landscape beds and vegetable gardens has been glyphosate (Round-up type mixtures). Glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide that kills any green plant tissue it touches. When treating in shrub borders and gardens spray on a still day. It might be a good idea to put up a cardboard shield to protect the desirable plants from any drift. A word of caution — do not use glyphosate in a lawn as it will kill your grass.

Controlling bindweed in a lawn is a little easier as removing a broadleaf weed from a grassy lawn allows the use of more chemical options. Combination products containing 2, 4-D, dicamba and MCPP (Trimec) have proven to be effective as well as triclopyr. Another product on the market contains the active ingredient quinclorac. This product is often used in combination with other herbicides. Quinclorac is very stable and does not break down in grass clippings. So if you use this product do not catch the clippings for compost or mulch. It can also damage tree and shrub roots so avoid application within the dripline of any tree or shrub.

Looking for an organic option to control bindweed? Well “good luck” is probably the best response, but solarization can be attempted by covering the area with clear plastic and letting it bake for two months during the heat of summer. This may reduce the amount but will not eradicate. Remember seeds can live for 50 years.

The best approach to combatting bindweed is to stay ahead of its spread. The more it becomes established the harder it will be to control. So it goes without saying, repeated applications will be necessary. Best of luck with your battle in fighting this noxious weed as it is one the most difficult to kill.

Angel’s Trumpet, Trumpet Flower, Horn of Plenty

Angel’s trumpet, also known as trumpet flower or the horn of plenty, is a tropical native that has long flowers (up to 10 inches and 4 inches across the face). It is related to Jimson weed, and, like its cousin, contains a poisonous alkaloid called hyoscyamine.

Description of Angel’s Trumpet: Angel’s trumpet will grow 3 to 5 feet tall and has oval leaves up to 8 inches long with toothed margins. The flowers have 5 large lobes with pointed tips. Flowers are mostly white; but there are yellow, blue, and red forms too. Double-flowered varieties that contain duplicates of the flowers inside the spreading face are also available.

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Growing Angel’s Trumpet: Angel’s trumpet grows well in any good, moist garden soil in full sun. They’re very tender — so plant them out after all danger of frost has passed and the ground is warm. Prune freely to shape plants. To prolong bloom, remove the flowers as soon as they finish blooming to prevent seed formation. In frost-free areas, they can be overwintered outdoors. For overwintering indoors, move container plants to a cool but frost-free location and keep barely moist until spring. In late spring, cut back the plant and resume feeding and watering.

Propagating Angel’s Trumpet: By seed. Start seeds indoors 8 to 12 weeks before planting out. They germinate in 8 to 15 days at 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds may be saved from blooming plants for replanting the following season.

Uses for Angel’s Trumpet: Because the trumpets hang down, it is of great advantage to plant them where they can be seen at eye level — on slopes, beside upward-leading paths, or as raised container plants.

Angel’s Trumpet: Brugmansia saueolens has richly scented, white, lily-like trumpets that hang down. The flowers are intoxicatingly fragrant in the evening. Charles Grimaldi is floriferous, with cantaloupe-orange flowers. Sunset has peach-color flowers and variegated foliage. Snowbank has white flowers and creamy variegation. Brugmansia sanguinea produces the same type of flowers in orange-red. It is perennial, sometimes producing flowers the first year.

Related Varieties of Angel’s Trumpet: The Ballerina series provides double flowers in white, yellow, and purple.

Scientific Name of Angel’s Trumpet: Datura metel

Datura is a variable group of plants.

Datura are herbaceous annuals and short-lived perennials in the tomato family (Solanaceae) with a confused taxonomy and disputed origin because of their extensive naturalization through temperate and tropical regions world-wide. Of the eight or nine species in the genus Datura, many naturally exhibit extreme variability in foliar and floral characteristics and many are very similar in appearance. Depending on the conditions a plant is growing under, the size of the plant, leaves and flowers can range from very large to very small – which has led to many “new species” being described that are later found to be simply variations that developed in different locations due to the conditions.

The flowers of most Brugmansia are pendant trumpets.

Even one of its common names, angels’s trumpet, is confusing as that is also used for the closely related genus Brugmansia, a South American group differs that from the genus Datura by having woody stems, pendant flowers and seed pods that need to be broken open. Other common names for the genus include devil’s trumpets, moonflowers, and thorn-apple, with the name jimsonweed referring to D. stramonium (a common weed in pastures, roadsides and waste places throughout much of the world including the US and southern Canada) and horn-of-plenty applied to D. metel.

Datura growing wild in Southern California.

The greatest diversity of species occurs in Central America and Mexico, suggesting this as the origin of the genus, but there is ample evidence that these plants were used culturally both in the New World and in Asia as sacred plants for many millennia (at least 3,000 years) for their power to induce visionary dreams. All Datura plants contain a number of alkaloids, especially in the seeds and flowers, that are toxic, narcotic and hallucinogenic. The toxicity depends on the age of the plant and growing conditions, making the use of the plants as recreational drugs (and even for medicinal or religious use in traditional cultures) very hazardous, with serious illness or death a possibility from accidental or intentional ingestion. They are also poisonous to cattle, horses and sheep. The cultivation of Datura is banned in some states and municipalities.

An ornamental cultivar of D. metel.

Of the nine species of Datura, only two of these herbaceous annuals/tender perennials are commonly used as ornamentals. D. inoxia, native to Central America, Mexico and the southwestern US, is the most common, along with D. metel, native to southeast Asia. The weedier D. stramonium, native to North America with smaller flowers and tooth-edged leaves, is occasionally offered as an ornamental. Even the tender perennials are fast-growing so are easily grown as seasonal annuals from seed in the Midwest.

These shrubby, sprawling warm season plants tend to grow fairly large in a single growing season. D. metel has a mounded habit and can grow 2-3 feet tall and at least as wide, if not up to twice as wide under ideal conditions and a long growing season. D. stramonium generally gets 3-4 feet tall and wide, but often flops under its own weight. D. inoxia has a more upright habit with a regular branching pattern and can get up to 5 feet tall. The gray-green to dark green alternate leaves up to 10 inches long and 4 inches wide have a lobed or toothed margin. Their surfaces are either smooth (D. metel in most cases and D. stramonium) or downy (D. inoxia). The coarse-textured foliage is foul smelling when handled and the sap can cause a skin rash in sensitive individuals.

Datura plants are shrubby and spreading (L) with leaves that vary in color from medium green to gray-green and with entire to lobed or toothed margins (C and R).

The large, erect, trumpet-shaped flowers range in color from pure white to pinkish purple, but some species have flowers that are bright golden yellow or red-purple, and some have double or triple blooms. The petals are fused to form a funnel with 5 or 10 lobes. The furled, cigar-shaped flower buds unwind after dusk (vespertine) and the flowers remain open until about noon of the following day when the petals begin to decline. The flowers exude a pleasant honeysuckle-like scent, especially at night, which attracts night-flying sphinx moths which are their primary pollinators. The flowers may also be visited by honey bees and other insects. Plants bloom continuously from summer until frost.

Flowers are followed by rounded fruits that are walnut-sized capsules that are knobby (D. metel) or covered with sharp and spiky spines at maturity (D. inoxia and D. stramonium). The capsules split open when ripe to release the numerous flattened tan or brown seeds that are similar in appearance to stout tomato seeds. Unless the seed capsules are removed before maturity, the plants tend to self-seed and can become invasive. Seeds remain viable for years.

Fruits are rounded capsules (L and LC) that split open when ripe (C) to release the numerous seeds (RC and R).

The large, coarse foliage of datura contrasts well with many other plants with fine or medium texture.

Daturas tend to be large, sprawling plants with a coarse texture, so they are best suited as specimen or background plants in mixed or annual plantings. If possible, place them where the fragrance of the dramatic flowers may be enjoyed. Those with white flowers are a natural choice for the moon garden as they are most fragrant in the evening. The bold foliage contrasts well with short ornamental grasses (such as shorter annual or perennial Pennisetums or ruby grass) and annuals with fine or medium foliage and lots of flowers, such as Profusion series zinnias or petunias.

The large white flowers are ideal for moon gardens.

Grow datura in full sun and well-drained soil (it will grow in partial shade, but will be leggier and have fewer flowers). It is drought tolerant once established and thrives in almost any type of soil, but the plants are most impressive when grown in humus-rich loam with regular moisture.

Datura grows quickly and needs plenty of room.

They need plenty of room and will quickly grow to fill an area of several feet once the weather gets hot so place them accordingly. They may be grow from seed sown outdoors after the last frost or started indoors 6-8 weeks before the average date of last frost and planted outdoors after all threat of frost has passed (and after acclimating the young plants to outdoor conditions).

Datura grows quickly from seed, often in dense groups when self-sown (L), producing narrow cotyledons (LC) and then rounded leaves (RC and R).

Although they can be grown in large containers, they are generally best grown in the ground because of their size. They rarely need pruning, although stems can be cut back to shape the plants. Staking may be necessary for some plants. They have almost no pest problems, but may be infested with whiteflies, mealybugs and spider mites.

There are several cultivars and hybrids of datura (but often the species is not included when offered for sale or the same variety is listed under different names, including species names that are not scientifically accepted) including:

  • ‘Purple Ballerina’

    D. inoxia ‘Missouri Marble’ has variegated foliage (tinted pink with white margins), purple stems, and white and violet-purple mottled flowers that may be single or double.

  • D. metel ‘Aurea’ has yellow flowers.
  • D. metel Ballerina Series has swirled flowers in shades of purple, yellow and white on more compact plants.
  • ‘Black Currant Swirl’ (and other names including ‘Double Purple’ and ‘Purple Hindu’) is a double or triple hybrid or variety of D. metel with flowers that are dark purple on the outside and white inside that remain open during the day but are not very fragrant.
  • D. metel ‘Flore Pleno’ has double white flowers.
  • Golden Queen’ is a hybrid with double, lemon-yellow frilled flowers.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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The Datura plant is a native to South, Central and North American regions. A large plant typically characterized by pale, grayish-green leaves and white, trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in the night.

The Datura finds itself commonly associated with plant names and similar species such as Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) or the Devils Trumpet, but with a marked difference.

While the Brugmansia or Angel Trumpet plant have downward-facing trumpets, the Datura flowers point upwards, facing the sky.

Plant experts define the plant as having remarkable flowers shaped like a large trumpet 6-8 inches in diameter, tinged with either a snowy white or with dark, royal purple. The surrounding bluish-grey foliage makes it unique from other plant species of its group.

The lush, heavy bloom of the Datura is quite unmatched and a magnificent sight to see; its exceptional beauty makes it popular among garden enthusiasts and landscapers alike.

Several species of Datura interest plant lovers. The Jimson weed or the Datura stramonium grows alongside roads and pastures all over North America. It goes by various names such as the Devil’s Trumpet plant, Thorn Apple, Stinkweed, Devil Weed, Hell Bell, and the Datura Moonflower. Classified as an annual the Jimson weed produces purple or snowy white blooms.

There’s also Datura discolor, or the Desert Datura growing in northern Mexico and Arizona’s Sonoran Desert regions. The feathery white flower features a complementary purple throat. The Sacred Datura found anywhere from Mexico through California and on to Oklahoma; its white blooms sport a slight tinge of pink on the inside and an equally slight bluish tint on the outside. The Asian Datura (the Datura metel or purple datura) with many color varieties – purple, white, yellow, white and purple and sometimes even twin flowers.

Other species include: datura inoxia

The following round off more known Datura names:

  • Horn of Plenty
  • Downy Thorn Apple
  • Indian Apple
  • The Floripondio

Caring For The Datura Plant

Almost all members of the genus Datura are hardy perennial plants which can usually grow as an annual plant. The United States Department of Agriculture lists the Datura in hardiness zone 5 to 7 as an annual, and hardiness zone 8 to 10 as a perennial. Planting Datura requires full sun coupled with moist, rich, well-drained soil. As a tropical species, they thrive in the warmer months and don’t take kindly to frost and winter months. If left by themselves in winter, the every datura leaf will drop and the plant most likely dies.

Datura plants will benefit from extra water during the growing season; the soil should stay moist. In the winter months, drastically reduce watering but not to the point the soil completely dries out. Come winter season the Datura may go deciduous. Pot them in a light well-drained soil. A weak liquid plant food could encourage blooming.

Frost and cold pose the only “growing” weakness of this otherwise easy to grow plant. The Datura can tolerate poor soil conditions and survive even a little drought. In partial shade, it may become leggy and not produce many flowers. They resist the majority of pests.

You may also like –> Red Angel Trumpet Brugmansia Sanguinea

Datura Flower Propagation

Propagate with Datura seed pods or side shoot cuttings (like Brugmansia). However, most gardener’s normally buy the Datura as a plant and transfer them into their own garden.

The Datura grows aggressively, repot each spring season into a larger pot with similar soil types. A full-grown Datura can reach heights of 8′ feet tall, making it difficult to manage repotting. Scrape off the top inch or two of soil and replace with fresh soil. You may also add time-release fertilizer at this point.

Starting From Seeds:

After collecting the datura seedlings from brown seed pods, scarify them by carefully scraping the seeds with a knife. This will help the germination process. Afterward, soak the seeds in thermos with warm water for 24 hours.

Place the datura seeds in a tray with a thin vermiculite or compost layer. Give them enough light and heat while keeping them moist but not soggy. Check the seeds daily for three to eight weeks and see if they have germinated.

Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep indoors around mid-March. Transplant seedlings to the garden about May 10, four feet apart. Remember the juice from the plant is poisonous. More below.

Datura Plants A Toxic Beauty

Datura owners will certainly appreciate the full, fantastic blooms on the flowering plants sitting in their garden, but beware as its beauty comes at a price. Datura plants as a whole are very toxic when consumed. Both man and animal alike will find the leaves, seeds, and attractive blooms all poisonous.

Stories about Datura poisoning in areas where they thrive are a bit saddening but true. You’ll have to put up a protective fence to keep your children or beloved pets away once you decide that the advantages far outweigh the Datura plants lethal disadvantages.

Datura species contain tropane alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. Alkaloids, a diverse group plant metabolites with compounds including hallucinogenic substances such as opiates.

Rumors of the Datura plant’s toxicity is part of what makes it a potent hallucinogenic, used as a drug. This misinformation plays a large part in people wanting to try and smoke the Datura for its supposed effect.

All levels of consumption with no known “safe level” for humans or animals exist when eating the Datura. There are not more digestible forms and no known method of extracting the hallucinogenic properties of this plant.

In growing Datura plants, everyone in the household needs to know of its toxic properties. Datura plant owners should make it clear that all parts are poisonous and can prove to be fatal when eaten. In other words, do not even attempt to consume! The one who tends it should also be mindful in wearing gloves all the time.

Principal Datura Species

DATURA (dah-teu’-rah) – A genus of annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or trees, belonging to the Nightshade Family. They are mostly coarse, strong-smelling plants, but a few are grown for the sake of their large white trumpet flowers. They are of easy cultivation, some being treated as tender annuals. The woody Datura species are propagated by cuttings.

Datura arborea is treelike to 15 ft., with soft-hairy leaves to 8 in. long, and white green-veined flowers to 9 in. long.

cornigera grows to 4 ft., and almost entirely covered with soft down. The leaves are chiefly at the ends of the branches, and the white or creamy flowers are very fragrant at night. The floral lobes are terminated by a long spreading or recurved point.

Datura metel (known to many gardeners as Datura cornucopia) is an annual to 5 ft., with large often double flowers, whitish inside and violet outside, with a purple calyx.

Datura Metel Illustration from L’Illustration Horticole 1895

stramonium (Thorn-apple, Jimsonweed) is a tropical annual to 5 ft., naturalized in parts of this country. It has erect white or violet flowers and a very prickly fruit.

suaveolens, tree-like to 15 ft., is often grown in pots under cover, and frequently confused with Datura arborea. However, it has larger and smoother leaves and distinguishing sweet-scented flowers to a foot long, with an inflated calyx.

inoxia – native to central and south America

Datura wrightii or sacred datura classified as a deliriant and an anticholinergic.

I am reuniting myself with bindweed. Or, put another way, bindweed has been reuniting itself with my garden. I’ve always had a bit; it comes under the fence from the neighbour’s plot and pops up to say hi when I least want to converse with it. It’s taking over the bottom of the garden, creeping around the apple tree and weaving itself into every nook and cranny, as if to say, “Well, it didn’t look as if you minded me coming in.”

Hedge or greater bindweed, Calystegia sepium, barely needs a description. It’s a twining plant that wraps itself around anything it can to see the sun. Once it finds sunshine, it sends out large, white, trumpeting blooms that are very pretty. But it binds, often creating a rope of numerous stems twisted together and doesn’t give up until it has smothered whatever it clambered over. If left unchecked, it will outcompete even large shrubs and small trees for light, weakening them within a season. The roots can grow up to three metres long and the seed (though thankfully not often produced) can persist for 30 years in soil.

Beastly bindweed. Still, it’s very satisfying to tease out those bootlace-like roots and marvel at its adaptability. I like the way the roots near the top of the soil can so quickly become stolons, or runners. They zoom along the surface until they hit something to climb, at which point they put down a new root system and shoot up.

Those white, knotted roots that grow deeper are rhizomes. Fragile and brittle, each fragment is able to start life on its own. On the whole these roots don’t go much deeper than 30cm into the soil, though they can weave themselves through other roots spectacularly well, making it very hard to eradicate them. Often the only way is to dig up both bindweed and perennial, and then carefully tease out the white rhizomes.

Forking bindweed out is the only way truly to get on top of it, and you have to sieve carefully for broken fragments. Persistent pulling of the stems will weaken it somewhat. Others swear by weed-suppressing membrane. For them, I have one word: stolons (see above).

There’s also the trick of allowing the bindweed to grow up bamboo canes placed judiciously along the garden and then spraying it with the weedkiller glyphosate, but in my experience bindweed can often outgrow any glyphosate damage, and yellowing foliage on bamboo canes looks awful. You’ve merely polluted the soil, when digging it up would have made more sense.

It is tempting to want to get hold of the top of the growth and pull, but if your bindweed is growing up something living – a perennial, say – you’ll merely strip that of its leaves and everything will look sad. Either patiently unwrap it from its host or tug it from the base and allow it to die off naturally.

The best way to dispose of bindweed, once gathered, is to rot it down in a bucket of water and slosh that over the compost. Or add it to your council’s green waste as the composting system will get hot enough to nuke it. Put bindweed in your own bin and it will just have a field day.

• The picture on this article was changed on 6 June 2017 to one that is of hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium, rather than field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, as an earlier version had.

How to kill Bindweed.

  • Watch for Bindweed appearing and growing in your garden, pulling it up doesn’t work, the bits of root you leave will sprout and produce new growth. You could try digging deep enough to get to the bottom of the root system, making sure you remove even the tiniest bits of root.
  • Continually cutting the weed of at ground level can work by eventually starving the plant of light and draining energy from the root. This could take forever though.
  • Covering the Bindweed infected area with sheets of black plastic to starve the plant of light and drain energy from the root eventually kills it, but once again this could take a long time and you will need to look out for and deal with shoots appearing from the edges of the plastic sheet.

What’s good about Bindweed?

Nothing, but grudgingly I suppose I quite like the delicate flowers which give of a soft fragrance and are Bee and other insects friendly, On the other hand, so are the plants and flowers it will eventually kill off and replace with a suffocating tangled mess of vine! Kill it and control new growth.

The only sure way to control it is to kill the whole plant including the green and the roots, contact type weedkillers kill the leaves and stem, but leave the roots alive, to grow again.

Convolvulus

Options

  1. Cut down and paint stump (all year round): Weed Weapon Invade Gel. – It is best to apply the gel immediately after cutting (within 15 seconds) – so cut paste, cut paste…..
  2. Cut vines at waist height (summer-autumn) and spray foliage below: Weed Weapon Extra Strength – for best results ensure full coverage. Follow up 2 weeks later to check that slashed stems have not re-sprouted, if they have do 1 or 2.
  3. Hand pull, dig out roots (all year round). Dispose of roots at a refuse transfer station or bury deeply.

Large Areas

  • Weed Weapon Extra Strength should be sprayed on large areas* of bindweed, taking care not to spray desirable plants. Weed Weapon Extra Strength is a systemic herbicide and will kill right down to roots. Well established bindweed like convolvulus may take several treatments to kill all root systems and rhizomes or spot treat as below.

*Cut vines at waist height (summer-autumn) and spray foliage below; the more of the weed that is sprayed the better the control will be.

Spot Painting

  • Creeping and spreading weeds can be controlled without risk to surrounding plants and without digging out difficult root systems using Kiwicare Weed Weapon Invade Gel. You may want to cut the weed back leaving only a few (at least 20) leaves at the bottom close to the roots, in this case also treat cut ends.
  • Paint as many leaves as possible on both the upper and lower surfaces with a good coat of Weed Weapon Invade Gel. Rhizomatous, grass and single location weeds can also be spot treated by painting brushing gel over leave surfaces. Leave weeds to absorb and trans-locate herbicide into roots.
  • Ensure treated leaves do not contact desirable plants. Death of weeds may take over 14 days.
  • Spot treatments can be carried out at any time but work best during vigorous growth in spring and autumn. Do not use when rain is due within 12 hours. If new growth is seen, re-treat the new growth.

Preventing Growth

  • Weed Weapon Preventer can be used in areas where weeds have been cleared to prevent germination of seeds and growth of bulbs in the soil. This is useful when areas have been cleared for planting.
  • How to Get Rid of Weedy Vines

Bindweed Control – How To Kill Bindweed In The Garden And Lawn

Any gardener that has had the displeasure of having bindweed in their garden knows how frustrating and infuriating these weeds can be. Controlling bindweed can be difficult, but it can be done if you are willing to take the time. Below, we have listed some different ways how to control bindweed.

Identifying Bindweed

Before you can get rid of bindweed, you need to make sure that the weed you have is bindweed. Bindweed (Convolvulus) is often called wild morning glory because it looks like morning glory. Bindweed is a climbing vine. Normally, the first signs that you have bindweed will be thin thread-like vines that wrap themselves tightly around plants or other upward objects.

Eventually, the bindweed vines will grow leaves, which are shaped much like an arrowhead. After the leaves appear, the bindweed vine will start growing flowers. Bindweed flowers are trumpet shaped and will be either white or pink.

How to Control Bindweed

Part of why it is so hard to get rid of bindweed is that it has a large and hardy root system. Single attempts to remove bindweed roots will not be successful. When controlling bindweed, the first thing to remember is that you will need to make several attempts of the bindweed control method you choose several times before you can successfully kill bindweed.

Organic and Chemical Approaches for Bindweed Control

Both boiling water (organic) and non-selective herbicides (chemical) can be used to get rid of bindweed. Both of these options can kill any plant where applied. These methods are ideal for areas where bindweed is growing but there are no other plants you wish to save. These would be areas like driveway cracks, empty vegetable beds and vacant lots.

To use boiling water to kill bindweed, simply boil some water and pour it on the bindweed. If possible, pour the boiling water about 2-3′ beyond where the bindweed is growing so that you can get as much of the roots as possible.

If you are using an herbicide, apply it heavily to the bindweed plant and re-apply every time the plant reappears and reaches 12 inches (30 cm.) in length.

Repeated Pruning to Kill Bindweed

Another popular method for controlling bindweed is to prune the vines back to the ground repeatedly, whenever they appear. Take a pair of scissors or shears and snip the bindweed vine off at ground level. Watch the location carefully and cut the vine back again when it appears.

This method forces the bindweed plant to use up its energy reservoirs in its roots, which will eventually kill it.

Controlling Bindweed with Aggressive Plantings

For as stubborn as bindweed can be, it has a very hard time competing with other aggressive plants. Often, bindweed can be found in poor soil where few other plants can grow. Improving the soil and adding plants that spread densely will force the bindweed out of the bed.

If you have bindweed in your lawn, dethatch the lawn and apply fertilizer to help your lawn grow more compactly, which then makes it far more difficult for bindweed to grow.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are more environmentally friendly.

Battling Bindweed in your garden?

Along with summer in an English garden comes weeds. And if there’s one weed that you don’t want in your garden, it’s Bindweed.

Bindweed actually has quite a pretty, white, trumpet-like flower but it is a brute of a plant. An invasive vine, once established it’s extremely difficult to get rid of. It out-competes your garden plants and reduces plant yield. It forms an extensive root system of creeping underground stems (rhizomes) that can go 5m or deeper into the soil. The Bindweed stems creep along the surface of the soil, climbing fences, other plants and whatever else they encounter, forming dense, tangled mats.

Entwining its way around your prized plants, bindweed will eventually strangle them or can get so heavy that eventually it will drag the plants over.

So how do you get rid of, or at least control, this dreaded garden killer.

Non chemical control of Bindweed

If the area that is infested is open ground, eg an unplanted allotment, apply sheet mulch (cardboard and wood chips) and give it a few months for the underground stems to come up to the surface. Then using a fork loosen the soil and pull all the visible stems and roots out, starting at one end and working your way across systematically to be as thorough as possible. Once you’ve removed as much as possible then mulch thickly again. This process might have to be repeated again next growing season.

If the bindweed is present in garden beds and is entwined with other plants you first need to unwind it, but be careful as pulling and tugging can damage your good plants that you are trying to save. Unwind it as far to the base as you can and then loosen the soil around where you find the roots and remove as much as you can with a fork. Then BE PERSISTENT, keep pulling it out when you see it. DO NOT let it flower. Seeds can remain dormant in the soil for up to 20 years, but you can keep it under control if you keep removing it as you find it. If you can keep removing the foliage above ground, you’ll force the plant to use up its energy reservoirs in its roots. The roots will begin to starve which will eventually kill it. After 2-3 years of ruthless weeding you should be able to almost eradicate this plant

Continue to remove even the smallest of bindweeds before the roots have developed and do not put removed weeds in a compost heap, as they will regrow from even the smallest section of root.

Chemical Control of Bindweed

Glyphosate is the best chemical form of control. It’s a non-selective weedkiller applied to the foliage, where it is transported throughout the weed to the roots. (e.g. Westland Resolva and Doff Super Strength Glyphosate)

As the stems of bindweed typically weave their way round other plants, unfortunately it’s often difficult to apply spray weedkiller or you would kill off your plant. A spot weedkiller such as Round Up Gel can be used. Dab it onto as many leaves as you can then leave it to be taken down to the root system. Try and trace the leaves down to ground level just above the soil and coat those liberally with the gel – that way the chemicals will make their way down to the roots and kill the weed quicker.

If you have large areas of bindweed that are away from beds then you can spray indiscriminately. It is usually more effective when the weed has reached the flowering stage, but can be effective well into the autumn. Early spring applications are generally less successful. Spraying in the early evening is more effective than spraying during the day.

Controlling bindweed can be a long and difficult process, but it can be done if you are willing to take the time.

If you need help on choosing the right weedkiller for the job, staff at Henry Street Garden Centre will be able to advise you.

Great bindweed

Botanical name: Calystegia sylvatica

Overview

This clambering weed with long vines has been known as greater bindweed in the past, and also incorrectly called convolvulus. It is very commonly found in home gardens, roadsides and waste areas, with the distinctive large white trumpet-shaped leaves making it easy to spot from a distance. Great bindweed has been particularly troublesome recently where attempts have been made to establish native plants into waste area, especially along streams as part of creating riparian strips to protect waterways, as it often grows over the newly planted shrubs and smothers them, blocking out light (see lower photo). It is a deciduous species, which means it dies back in winter to the extensive rhizome system underground. So spraying out an area in winter when it is dormant means the weed will be poorly controlled, then it comes back again in spring.

Distinguishing features

The stems of great bindweed can reach many metres in length, twining around surrounding vegetation for support. It has heart-shaped leaves up to 18 cm long and the white flowers can get up to 8 cm in diameter. Each flower produces only one or two large seeds, but these seeds can form new plants should the weed be successfully killed off with herbicides. It can be confused with other weeds. Pink bindweed (Calystegia sepium) looks much the same except the flowers are mainly pinkish with some whiteness. Many bindweed plants with pink flowers are a cross between great bindweed and pink bindweed, and have flowers that are paler pink with more whiteness. The bracts at the base of the flower in great bindweed overlap more than in pink bindweed. Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) also has white, trumpet-shaped flowers, but these tend to be smaller than great bindweed (about 3 cm diameter), and the leaves are slightly different in shape and smaller too (usually less than 4 cm in length). Pink bindweed is native to New Zealand, and another couple of native bindweeds that look similar are shore bindweed (Calystegia soldanella) and New Zealand bindweed (Calystegia tuguriorum). Shore bindweed is quite small and is mainly found by the sea, has pink flowers with white stripes, kidney-shaped leaves and no twining stems. Likewise the white flowers of New Zealand bindweed and its leaves are smaller (less than 4 cm long) than those for great bindweed.

Control

Because of its extensive underground rhizome system, good control of great bindweed will only be achieved if herbicide can be translocated sufficiently down into this system. We have recently conducted and published research on the control of great bindweed. As the weed sends sugars from its leaves down into the rhizomes in autumn ready for winter dormancy, we feel that the best time to spray great bindweed foliage initially is in autumn. Of the various herbicides we used to control this weed, we found the best products were a 2,4-D/dicamba mix (eg Banvine, Yates Woody Weedkiller) and a mixture of triclopyr, picloram and aminopyralid (Tordon Brushkiller XT). We generally found glyphosate, metsulfuron and clopyralid to be much less effective, though aminopyralid (T-Max) showed some activity. Herbicide treatments made in autumn didn’t give total control with any of the herbicides, but the plants made a full recovery if left until the following autumn to respray, so we consider the best strategy is to spray once in autumn, then follow up on any regrowth in spring. As all of the herbicides tested will be damaging to young shrubs in riparian plantings, we only sprayed 90% of each vine to simulate not spraying parts covering native plants we wanted to keep alive. If all of the plants had been sprayed, perhaps a higher level of control would have been achieved.

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