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How to get rid of bindweed

Bindweed is a pesky weed that can cause problems in your garden. If you have signs of it, read on to discover how to get rid of bindweed.

Is your garden full of white trumpet-like flowers? Are they cropping up at a terrifying rate? In that case, you just might have a bindweed problem.

Bindweed is a perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in gardens. And unfortunately, it’s hard to get rid of. But don’t worry, here, we’ll show you how to get rid of bindweed once and for all!

What is bindweed?

Bindweed, also known as ‘poor man’s lily,’ is a perennial weed, meaning it comes up every year.

It’s loved by bees and the larvae of convolvulus hawk moths but not so much by household gardeners.

Why? Well, this fast-growing weed can quickly take over your garden if left unattended, choking your garden plants, stunting their growth and even killing some smaller plants completely.

That said, although bindweed can be a real pain, the good news is that it can’t damage the foundations of buildings like Japanese knotweed can. Phew!

Signs that you have bindweed

There are two main types of bindweed:

  • Hedge bindweed(calystegia sepium). This is the better-known and more problematic kind of bindweed. It has delicate, twisting stems and big white trumpet flowers. Its roots can grow over a metre a year and its stems can reach metres high
  • Field bindweed (convolvulus arvensis). This is the less vigorous kind of bindweed, although it can still be problematic, especially on bare soil. It is smaller and has small pink or white trumpet flowers

If you see trumpet flowers quickly multiplying in your garden, that’s a sign that you have bindweed. You’ll need to take steps to either remove it, or simply control this fast-growing weed. That way, you can quickly prevent it from taking over your garden and causing problems.

Getting rid of bindweed

Getting rid of bindweed

So, you’ve identified bindweed in your garden and now you want to get rid of it. We’re going to be honest, it’s not a straightforward task.

As a perennial weed, bindweed is long-lived and difficult to kill completely. This is especially the case when it’s growing alongside your other beloved garden plants, as its fast-growing root system will grow straight through their roots.

Not only that, but these roots are brittle and snap easily. This makes it hard to remove the whole root system – and any remaining bits that are left will grow into new bindweed plants!

There are two main approaches to getting rid of bindweed:

  1. Chemical
  2. Chemical-free

Until recently, going down the chemical route and using glyphosate to kill bindweed was a given. Glyphosate is a systemic weedkiller that is known to successfully kill bindweed and prevent it from returning again.

However, in 2015, the World Health Organisation flagged that it is linked to various human cancers, leading many UK councils to ban it for municipal use. As such, although the weedkiller is still legal in the UK, many gardeners are now turning to chemical-free options.

How do I permanently get rid of bindweed?

The only surefire way to get rid of bindweed completely and prevent it from returning again is to use glyphosate. There are many weed killers on the market that contain glyphosate, such as Roundup Ultra.

Here’s how to permanently get rid of bindweed using this systemic weedkiller.

  • Read the safety instructions carefully. Glyphosate has been linked to several human cancers
  • Wait until the bindweed starts flowering in summer through to early autumn
  • Apply the weedkiller to the leaves of the bindweed by spraying or spot-treating individual weeds, depending on the weedkiller
  • Make sure that the weedkiller doesn’t get onto any other plants. Where it’s growing among other plants, unwind the stems or put canes in the ground for them to twine up. Then, spread them on bare ground to spray them, leaving them attached at the roots

The bindweed will absorb the glyphosate from the leaves and eventually, this will kill the plant, including the roots. Just bear in mind that glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it’ll kill any plant it touches – so, it’s really important to keep it away from your other garden plants, unless you want a completely barren garden!

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How to get rid of bindweed organically

If you’d rather not use toxic chemicals – or your council has banned glyphosate for municipal use – you can attempt to get rid of bindweed without chemicals. It will take longer, but the results could well be worth the wait.

There are a few different methods that you can use.

1. Starve it of light

The easiest way to kill bindweed without chemicals – as with all perennial weeds – is to starve the plant of light. All plants need light to make food. So, without it, even the most vigorous of weeds will eventually die.

Simply get hold of some suitable material – like weed membrane, black polythene or even old carpet. Weigh it down or bury the edges to keep out the light. Then, wait for 12 to 18 months for the bindweed to succumb completely.

Just bear in mind that this method is unlikely to work if your bindweed is established in beds and borders. After all, you don’t want to deny your beloved garden plants light too!

2. Dig out the roots

In beds and borders, your best bet for getting rid of bindweed without using chemicals is to dig out the roots.

Make a start during winter to early spring, before the plants start growing. Use a fork to avoid breaking up the roots. Then, continue to dig up any seedlings as soon as they appear, digging up as much of the root as you can.

As you know, bindweed roots are very brittle and any little piece of root left in the soil will grow into a new plant. So, it’s important to try to remove every last bit. Otherwise, you’re likely to need to continue this process for several seasons before you get rid of the bindweed completely.

Once you’ve removed the roots, you can burn them or dispose of them in your garden waste collection. Never put them on a home compost heap as the roots will survive and you don’t want to be spreading those around your garden after working so hard to remove them!

How do I permanently get rid of bindweed

3. Weaken growth

If you’re not able to dig up bindweed roots (for example, your bindweed is located in a densely-populated flower bed or it’s the height of summer), you could just resort to weakening your bindweed to prevent it from getting out of control – as opposed to getting rid of it completely.

To do this, you can cut the stems as close to ground level as possible, or pull off shoots. This will weaken the bindweed and stunt its growth.

Alternatively, you could use homemade weed killers (such as a mix of 1 part baking soda to 2 parts vinegar) or weed burners. These won’t kill the roots, but they will kill top growth and weaken the weed, helping you to keep your bindweed under control so that you can live with it – or, until a time when you’re able to eradicate it completely.

You can also stop your bindweed from spreading by using weed barriers like root barriers, edging boards or mulch.

How much does bindweed removal cost?

Don’t have the time to painstakingly eradicate your bindweed yourself? Then why not get a professional to get rid of the bindweed for you?

A professional gardener will typically charge you around £150 to £250 per day for weeding. However, your total cost will depend on a number of factors, such as how much bindweed there is in your garden, how established it is, the removal method used and your location. Our guide to the cost of weeding goes into more detail.

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