BindweedPosted By: rocket veg Category: Pests and Diseases
I’ve made the most of recent dry days and lovely sun to sort out the plants in my fruit cage. I began the task of pruning them before Christmas, finished it in January and then decided to give the plants a treat by adding a layer of home-made compost, gently forked into the surrounding soil, only to discover a profusion of snaking white bindweed roots – horror!
Never believe a gardener who claims to have no bindweed. It’s a plant skilled at lying in wait until the time is right to put in an appearance, the first shoots poking their heads above ground when the temperature rises is spring.
There are two varieties of bindweed – ‘hedge’ (Calystegiasepium) and ‘field’ bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). Both are climbing plants with trumpet shaped white flowers and root systems which stretch deep, deep into the ground. Both are characterised by the speed which they put on growth, especially during warm, damp weather. As the name indicates, bindweed uses other plants as a support, twining around the stems. If left unchecked, bindweed will smother plants, stunting growth and inhibiting flowering and eventual fruiting. In the World of Nasty Weeds, bindweed is first among equals – a true thug. Ignore it at your peril.
Controlling bindweed by digging
Dealing with bindweed is easier said than done. It’s relatively easy to pull off the stems, leaves and flowers, but tackling what lurks beneath the ground is another matter. Digging up bindweed roots can be very satisfying, first loosening them with a fork and then easing them from the soil until – just as a lizard sheds its tail to escape a captor, the bindweed root snaps off, leaving its tip behind. Bindweed is very adept at regeneration from the smallest length of root which is why it is nigh on impossible to eradicate, but do your best to remove new growth by digging up the shoots when they first appear.
If like me you have an infestation of bindweed among established plants – such as fruit bushes – hoeing on a regular basis to cut the growing tips off as they appear will keep the bindweed beast at bay.
Using weed killer
Some of the stronger, systemic weed killers are claimed to kill bindweed. If you go down this route, be aware that weed killer will need to be applied when the weed stems have a good show of leaves and there is always a risk that any spray drift will affect nearby plants, so apply with care.