Invasive bindweed, here is how to get rid of it. Most of all, don’t just pull!

Bindweed, how to get rid of it

Like quackgrass, field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) belong to this category of weeds that are hard to get rid of. Vigorous and fast-growing, bindweed winds and twines around plant stems, climbs up fences, creeps along the ground in vegetable gardens… And it teases the gardener with its pure white or pink flowers!

To go further:

So, what is bindweed exactly?

Some will tell you that bindweed has a certain charm with its pure white or pink flowers and its twining stems that twist around anything that happens to be nearby. Ephemeral, single-day flowers, very melliferous feed bees, bumblebees, and hoverflies, which are very useful in vegetable gardens for pollination.

Description of invasive bindweedThis may all be true, but above all else, bindweed has the annoying habit of overrunning everything it comes across, be it fence or plant. It often ends up completely smothering plants, killing them off in a single season! Moreover, bindweed diverts nutrients and water, depriving its neighbors.

Bindweed is a creeping perennial that is part of the Convolvulaceae family, with deciduous foliage. It has a network of underground rhizomes that resists cold weather very well. In winter, foliage dies off but the plant, underground, lies dormant. In spring, it resurfaces, more vigorous than ever before!

Bindweed usually grows in compacted soils that have high levels of nitrogen. It is therefore considered a bio-indicator plant, useful when trying to identify the soil in a given location.

Things that don’t work against bindweed

Bindweed has deep roots that easily spread thanks to buds that give new shoots. In addition, seeds scatter by wind, overcoming every obstacle. It’s safe to say that the soil of your flower beds, borders or vegetable garden can quickly get overrun with this weed.

Avoid these mistakes bindweedTo avoid aiding its spread, it’s vital to know the following:

  • Don’t work the soil with a tiller which will cut the roots into various sections. Each one turns into a new plant!
  • Don’t spade the soil for the same reasons.
  • Don’t yank at bindweed by hand, breaking the stems. Roots will stay in place and be harder to remove later on.

So how do I get rid of bindweed?

Several methods are available:

  • Bindweed, steps to remove itPull it out with a spading fork or a broadfork, also known as a grelinette, to tease roots out of the ground by lifting the soil. Don’t go too fast to avoid breaking the roots. You’ll likely need to repeat this, at the end of winter’s, for several years!
  • Weed by spraying with pure white vinegar. This is effective if bindweed has crept into cracks in pavement and walkways. (Warning: kills all plants).
  • Remove stems before flowers appear to prevent seed dispersal. But bindweed continues to multiply via its rhizomes
  • At the base of a hedge, place a dark, thick tarp, completely sun- and water-proof, to eliminate bindweed within a few months. This technique is known as solarization, and in a nutshell, it deprives bindweed of light… and water.
  • Remove young seedlings as soon as they appear with a claw that allows you to remove the deep roots
  • Natural herbicides based on pelargonic acid prove quite effective on bindweed but it will also affect vegetables, flowers and perennial plants.
  • Thick mulching or mulching fabric slows growth but does not eliminate bindweed. It does make soil softer, which helps in pulling the roots out.

Natural tip to contain bindweed: you can let it grow along a fence or post inside your chicken coop, mixed with morning glories (Ipomoea indica). Morning glory is a non-invasive bindweed variety with large blue flowers. Chickens will peck off any shoots that try to spread out from that little island in the center. They’ll also eat up most of the seeds that fall to the ground. The melliferous flowers will attract insects for the chickens to feed on all summer long, and stems coiled in the mesh wire will provide shade. In fall, you just remove dry stems.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Aaron Volkening, CC BY-NC 4.0: Donna Pomeroy, CC BY-SA 2.0: Ryan Hodnett; Pixabay: Alicja Juskowiak

Written by Pascale Bigay | Writing is woven into Pascale's life, the threads of which also include nature, botany, gardening... That's why her words share such an immersive experience, a fascination with the simple discoveries of garden life, wonderful ornamental plants, tasty veggie-patch fresh recipes and the occasional squabble with her chickens...