You Bet Your Garden

Is horsetail invading your garden?

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July 28, 2012 — Although you can use it to scrub pots and pans, few gardeners sing the praises of the weed known as horsetail. Mike McGrath takes a close look at this unusual plant. Plus your fabulous phone calls.

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Question of the Week

Mike: I’ve been an organic gardener since before you started editing ORGANIC GARDENING magazine. (McG here: that was back in 1990. ) But now I’m so bothered by a weed called horsetail that I’m thinking about giving up gardening! I have already mowed over my perennial garden because of this weed and sifted the roots out of the soil by hand. (Not easy for a lady approaching 70.) Now that my new plants are in, I go out daily and pull, pull, pull. This weed is the worst I’ve ever dealt with. It spreads underground and via spores. I have read that I might be able to get rid of it if I solarize my soil for one summer, but I have a beautiful, productive asparagus patch as well as rhubarb and blueberries in the area. I went to my extension service for advice; they have the same problem in one of their gardens! I’ve tried cardboard, newspaper and multiple types of deep mulch without any luck. And this weed seems to love weed block, sending out its invasive roots along the edges and poking through the fabric in less than a season. I garden in cool USDA Zone 5 and have a nice sandy loam soil supplemented annually with home-made compost and purchased lobster compost. I use liquid fish fertilizer when needed and water deeply and infrequently. If you have any ideas about how to get rid of horsetail I would really love to hear them. Get the answer »

Photo by Flickr user joysaphine



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