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.
It grows up in the most inconvenient places, like smack in the middle of the creeping 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.
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
- Bindweed 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
- Amazingly, a major anti-cancer drug is derived from bindweed. I am not making this up.
Which is why I’ve generously opened our back yard to all scientists who need more bindweed samples.
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.
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 the plants. 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 weed 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.)
Happy hoeing from your Gardening and Weed Expert,
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