7 Ways to Politely Discourage Bindweed in Your Garden

Bindweed at Happy Simple Living blog

Let’s talk about bindweed.

Here at the urban homestead, we have some spectacular patches of bindweed. The weed seems to especially enjoy growing in the vegetable gardens, but it also likes to twist its tendrils around the flowers and choke them when I’m not paying attention. It climbs up fences.

Bindweed at Happy Simple Living

 

It grows up in the most inconvenient places, like smack in the middle of the creeping wooly thyme.

Bindweed and wooly thyme

 

Give it the slightest little space, like the 1/4 inch gap between the raised garden and the paving stone, and it will creep in like a bad boyfriend.

Bindweed grows at the Happy simple Living blog

What’s the deal with bindweed, anyway? Why is it such a pesky weed?

Well, garden trivia enthusiasts, allow me to share…

8 Fun Facts About Bindweed

  • Sideways Cadillac at Happy Simple Living blogBindweed has a fancy side. It also goes by the names of “Wild Morning Glory” and “Creeping Jenny.” No offense to my readers named Jenny.
  • Field bindweed produces a tap root which can penetrate up to 10 feet in depth. So to get to the end of the root, you’ll simply need to dig a hole in your garden roughly the depth of a Cadillac. Is that going to be a problem?
  • The multiple roots that grow laterally from the tap root can extend as far as 30 feet. To put this in perspective, imagine George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Henry Cavill, Jon Hamm and Gerard Butler lying head to toe in your garden. Isn’t it helpful to have visual references?
  • Bindweed can serve as a host for several viruses that affect potatoes, tomatoes and other crops.
  • As you probably know if you’ve tried to pull it, bindweed stems break easily. When fragmented, the underground plant parts will produce new, adorable little infant plants.
  • One plant can produce as many as 14 precious little shoots in one year, each of which grows 1 ½ to 4 ½ feet in the first season.
  • Each plant is capable of producing 25 to 300 cute little seeds.
  • Due to an extremely hard seed coat, the seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 50 years. It’s sobering to realize that my bindweed seeds will likely outlive me.

Whew, that’s one feisty weed. So naturally, I wondered if this tenacious weed could have any lovable qualities. If you share the view that each and every living thing on earth has its place and purpose, you’ll probably smile when you read about one of bindweed’s most important roles. Allow me to present:

1 Cuddly Fact About Bindweed

Which is why I’ve generously opened our back yard to all scientists who need more bindweed samples.

Free bindweed at Happy Simple Living

That’s just the kind of selfless, philanthropic person I am.

Aside from finding willing takers or digging to China to reach the end of your bindweed roots, what’s an organic gardener to do?

Readers EcoCatLady and RZG123 asked for my advice about dealing with bindweed on my frugal gardening post How To Avoid $100 Tomatoes, and I’m glad they did because it made me feel, for a few moments, like Dear Abby or Dr. Phil. My readers think I know about such things! I thought to myself. It was a delicious moment that ended too soon after I decided that I, a Gardening and Weed Expert, should probably go water my parched garden. Which is when I discovered that a new plant had quietly begun its sneaky, determined climb to overtake the garden faucet.

bindweed growing at happy simple living blog

Time’s a-wastin,’ my friends, and your bindweed has probably grown another ten feet while you’ve been reading this blog post. So without further adieu, I present you with:

7 Fun Ways to Control Bindweed

  • Discourage it young. Young seedlings can be destroyed when cut several inches below the soil. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the weeds are pre-teens.
  • Get heavyhanded with mulch. Bindweed likes sunshine, so mulch can discourage it.
  • Till it. Hoeing, digging, or tilling more mature field bindweed every one to two weeks for several seasons can reduce plant vigor.
  • Torch it. Some gardeners have had luck zapping bindweed with a weed torch, which sounds kinda fun. It’s a propane tank with a little torch that burns up the weed.
  • Attack it. My sister, who has a small farm and very green thumb, told me about bindweed mites – blessed little bugs that eat bindweed. Some states have programs where you can obtain the mites for free; check with your county extension office.
  • Fry it. Eileen, a moderator at GardenStew, has a unique way of dealing with the weed. She reports: ”I push short lengths of garden cane into the soil next to the shoots and wrap the stems around the canes. This stops the bindweed from entwining itself around other plants. I then cut off the bottom of 2 liter plastic water (or juice) bottles and remove the cap. I pop the bottle over the cane and bindweed and spray into the neck of the bottle with a concentrated salt mixture. I then replace the cap. Before you know it the plant has shriveled and died as the heat in the bottle ensures the salt burns it very effectively.”
  • Embrace your bindweed. Train it to grow on topiary forms, and tell your neighbors it’s your prized Creeping Jenny. (Sorry again, readers named Jenny.)
How about you? Is bindweed a problem in your garden, and have you found an organic way to control it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Happy hoeing from your Gardening and Weed Expert,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

26 comments to 7 Ways to Politely Discourage Bindweed in Your Garden

  • How well-written – better than bindwind deserves! Good news about the anti-cancer properties.

    Now, to gather my salt (maybe w/vinegar?)and that bottomless popbottle….

    Any chance the rabbits will devour it? Or that it will reach up and trip them? Can always hope……………..

  • For better or worse, in No Cal we don’t have many weeds this time of year. Unfortunately, we haven’t had much rain either. Pros and cons no matter where you live!

  • Thank you soooo much! I’m kinda thinking that perhaps I need to explore the nuclear bomb option. 🙂

    My problem is that the previous owners of this house never watered, and I, ahem, don’t do such a good job myself, so the bindweed is firmly established throughout the entire yard. I’ve had moderate success by digging up the turf – digging at least a foot down and removing as much of the roots as possible. Then I plant either vegetables (in back) or low water plants (in front.) Of course it still comes back, but it’s much more manageable.

    I’m thinking the bindweed mites might be my solution – I wonder if they eat other plants too. I think I’ll do some research. And the weed torch sounds incredibly satisfying… that might be worth it even if it all grew back – at least you’d have the satisfaction of watching it go up in flames. Burn suckers, BURN!!!!!!

    Anyhow, thanks so much for this post… at least I have some new options to try in the endless battle of the bindweed!

  • p.s. Got any tips for the dreaded Chinese Elm, the “chelm” as we call them… I’ve tried EVERYTHING!

  • One of the best things I’ve read for yonks – and yes, you guessed it, I have a garden choked with bindweed. Over the years I’ve given up expecting to get rid of it, now I just set myself challenges to see how long a tendril I can pull out, or accept weeding as a meditative practice. But I like the ‘frying’ idea – just to add a little drama to proceedings. Thank you!

  • I have something similar in my yard, but not exactly that. It is also a creeping \ covering vine, but it roots itself every 2 feet or so, then sprouts out again from there. And it is fairly thin, such that it breaks when you pull it. Very hard to get rid of. I’m going to try some of these ideas to get mine under control.

  • Hmm – nasty stuff isn’t it? Nature is pretty powerful really. 10 feet down and 30 feet along. Mind you the burning trick sounds neat. We haven’t had it much over here – yet!

  • I don’t think it’s bindweed, but I have some sort of choker vines that are always wrapping around my trees in the backyard. There are annoying and seem to wrap their way onto everything. I’m always hacking them down.

  • Mousefeathers

    When Life gives you Bindweed make BindweedAide!!! I Love Field Bindweed!!!! You are going to think I am crazy but I have 3 Russian Tortoise and they can’t get enough of it. They eat every leaf and flower and only leave the stringy part. So Sadly my yard is Void of any Dandelion or Lovely Field Bindweed plant and I must go forage for my Tortoise in other places. 2 other benefits of Bindweed is its a wonderful Bee Forage Plant for producing Honey and the flowers smell wonderful! This was pointed out to me by my 9 year old Daughter. The flower smells like a Faint Honeysuckle. I would love to put them in a Carrier Oil. I now look forward to Bindweed in my yard. Signed Sadly Weedless in Colorado

  • Oh Mousefeathers, I would love to give you all my bindweed. Having just figured out what it is today, I am even more discouraged about getting it out of our yard. Silly question, but has anyone decided to just give up and embrace it as a groundcover? I’ve considered this, as we have a dichondra lawn, but maybe I’m just crazy.

  • Cindy Huffaker

    If I find bindweed growing in concrete cracks I spray weed killer on – straight and undiluted. It NEVER comes back.

  • C.M

    We’ve all but given up on bindweed erradication, it has taken over the property. It came as a “gift” with a cheap aeration treatment for the sad looking lawn. After years of pulling, spraying and stomping on it we look at it more philosophically. Bindweed is not trying to choke our plants, grass, trees, flowers, shrubs on purpose, it is only trying to get ahead in life at ALL costs. We
    still make futile attempts to not let it infest the neighbor’s yards; for the record, nothing worked ever!!

  • Mary Hutchison

    You can use an organic vinegar wweed killer if you spray it on the bindweed when it is in active growth. I have tried to mulch to prevent it but it still grows through the mulch but it is easier to pull that way as the mulch keeps the ground moist so the weed pulls easy. If you till it out of the garden you need to try to get as much of the the weed and roots raked out of the soil and burn them as even just as small portion of the root can regenerate new growth or baby plants that grow extremely fast kind of like Kudzu in the southern states which can grow at least a foot a day easy covering anything it grown by. With persistence you can slow it but you can’t let it go or it will come back just as bad or worse. I did learn something from the blog I didn’t really know before that the roots run that deep but I’m not really surprised. I wonder though if you get the roots pulled out clean down to one foot below ground if the soil will block out the light like a mulch and keep the roots below that level from regrowing? I do like the method of the plastic bottle method for killing the weed think that might get down to the bottom of the main root to kill it especially if you get it in late season before it goes dormant. Happy Gardening!

  • Monica Hellweg

    I researched this online earlier and will try boiling vinegar – a combination of two recommendations. I would love to attached my picture of the greatest infestation of bindweed but I don’t see it gives me that option. But I think also I might try just burning it as recommended here. It covers my burn pile already. And yes free bindweed to all who want it!

  • franki

    mine of course grows at the base of the rosebushes 🙁

  • Geni

    Control bindweed?

    HAHAHAHAHA

    Dust off and nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

  • Carla Inman-Martin

    I am trying to cover it with card board. We get a lot of heavy card board. I have tried the boiling water with dish soap to make it stick. It kind of worked.

  • Carla Inman-Martin

    I am thinking of putting hogs to dig up the roots?

  • Philippa

    I am experimenting with Tagetes Minuta (Mexican Marigold) which apparently has roots which exude a chemical toxic to bindweed – I have grown the plants from seed and am waiting for a sunny day (here in the UK that’s quite rare!) to plant them out. I had a good go at the shrub beds at the weekend and got as much root as I could out – it looked like spaghetti there was so much of it! Am hoping now the roots are a bit damaged they might succumb more readily!

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