The Q&A Archives: Garden overrun with bindweed

Question: My garden is overrun with bindweed. Is there an organic way to get rid of it? Brian Duane Englewood, CO

Answer: Bindweed spreads from seeds and roots, but it's the roots that cause the most problems. Like quackgrass, every piece of root left in the soil after tilling can sprout a new plant, says James Ells, vegetable crop specialist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. There's no easy way to get rid of it. There are, however, ways to control bindweed without using herbicides. Bindweed is resilient. The only way to beat it is to deplete energy reserves stored in its roots. This means removing every last trace of the plant, waiting 10 days or so and doing it again, and again, as many times as necessary. Pull sprouts by hand or use a long-handled hoe or weeder. Ells recommends a thorough cultivation and then covering as much of the area as possible with black plastic. Even bindweed will eventually die if deprived of light. Some organic gardeners faced with aggressive weeds use flamers, or propane torches on long handles. Several kinds made for gardeners are commercially available. Whichever method you use, be consistent. It might take three growing seasons to remove bindweed from your garden.

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