Local Garden Manager Shares Tips for Battling the Bindweed Beast

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Trinidad Coloado

Mike McDaniel, Manager at Trinidad Community Garden, knows all too well the challenges that gardeners face when dealing with weeds. Effective weed management is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive garden, as weeds compete with desirable plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight. Among the most troublesome weeds at the Trinidad Community Garden is the relentless bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), a vigorous vine that spreads rapidly and smothers other plants.

Battling bindweed is neither easy nor quick, but a diligent and persistent multi-pronged approach can significantly minimize this invasive plant’s impact.

Solarizing: Start Early

Solarizing is a crucial first step that should ideally begin the summer before you plan to use a garden space, or as early as possible. Cover the infested soil with clear plastic and let the intense summer heat bake the bindweed, effectively weakening it. This method leverages the sun’s energy to kill weeds and seeds, creating a more manageable garden area.

Sheet Mulching: A Critical Tool

Sheet mulching is a vital technique in organic gardening. It involves covering the ground with a thick layer of cardboard, thoroughly soaking it, and then building your garden beds or rows on top of it with compost, manure, leaves, and soil. This method, also known as “lasagna gardening,” smothers weeds and provides a rich growing medium for your plants.

Once your desired plants are established, mulch around them heavily with straw, compost, leaves, or grass clippings. This practice deprives weeds of sunlight while retaining soil moisture and shading plant roots.

Consistent Manual Removal

Despite these efforts, bindweed is a tough adversary and will reappear, even through the cardboard barrier. At this stage, manual removal becomes crucial. Consistently remove every hint of bindweed you see to deny it photosynthesis and starve the root system. This process requires diligence and persistence, and many gardeners report a significant reduction in bindweed after three years of continuous effort.

There is a debate among gardeners about whether cutting bindweed with scissors is more effective than pulling it out. While this method has not been extensively tested at the Trinidad Community Garden, any technique that disrupts bindweed’s growth is worth exploring.

Digging Deep: Broadfork Method

Bindweed spreads through a robust network of roots and rhizomes. In areas where weed-free maintenance is challenging, using a broadfork to loosen the soil and extract as many roots as possible is beneficial. If the soil is too infested, consider removing and replacing it to eliminate the bindweed roots.

At Trinidad Community Garden, we are experimenting with growing robust plants, such as pumpkins, on our bindweed-infested soil piles. These plants can compete with and suppress weeds, providing a potential solution for heavily infested areas.

Persistence is Key

Combating bindweed requires repeated efforts of solarizing, sheet mulching, manual removal, and soil management. It’s a challenging process, and achieving 100% success in eradication is unlikely. However, with persistence and consistent application of these methods, gardeners can significantly reduce bindweed’s presence and maintain healthier garden spaces.

Good luck in your battle against the bindweed beast. Remember, effective weed management is an ongoing process, and every effort counts.

Trinidad Community Garden is an organic farm located at Linden & White in Trinidad. Established in 2005 by Joni Steiner of Earth Mountain Education Farm and the City of Trinidad, the garden offers plots for rent and open memberships for those interested in joining our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. For further details, contact us at earthmountainfarm@gmail.com.

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