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Bindweed, or bellbind, is a regular problem in gardens. This weed is incredibly frustrating for gardeners as it literally chokes fruit and vegetables. It is very difficult to control as it attempts to take over the world, or at least the garden, with its winding vines that just want to grow up everything in the garden. It doesn’t care if your ground is cultivated or not, it affects pathways, garden beds, lawns, and driveways.
This weed has rhizomatous roots which are particularly challenging when trying to remove them from the soil. These are creeping roots that break very easily. And every small piece of root that breaks off is capable of growing a whole new plant. The roots can go 10 feet deep, making it nearly impossible to dig a plant up without breaking its roots. The roots can also go 30 feet laterally — that’s the length of three cars! Each flower is capable of producing up to 300 little seeds that can remain viable in the soil for 50 years.
Aside from strangling your crops, bindweed steals nutrients from them and, when there’s a lot of it, creates damp, shady conditions that encourage pests like slugs. If you have a slug problem, check out our article on how to control slugs naturally.
Bindweed has long winding stems that can grow to 4 feet in the first growing season. Its leaves are heart-shaped, and the flowers are white or pink and trumpet-shaped, similar to Morning Glory. It grows from a tiny crack in a patio to over 9 feet in height, wrapping itself around anything in its way. Bindweed is most commonly seen between spring and autumn.
As mentioned, bindweed is incredibly difficult to eradicate naturally. It won’t be removed permanently in one attempt. But persevere, and you can prevent all your lovely vegetables from being strangled.
- Try to get the bindweed vines while they’re young. The younger they are, the easier these plants are to destroy. Cut the plant several inches below the soil. Using this method forces the plant to use up the energy reservoirs in its roots making it weak and eventually killing it.
- Protect your plants with mulch. Bindweed loves the sun, so if you surround your plants with mulch, the bindweed will find it difficult to grow and strangle your plants. A deep layer of straw is the most effective natural mulch, and has a bunch of other benefits, too.
- Tilling or hoeing the ground and removing bindweed regularly helps to weaken the plant. It may take more than one season, but they will slowly die off.
- Fire! A weed torch burns up the weed and is great fun to use. It’s simply a propane tank with a flame that burns up that dastardly bindweed. It will still reappear as the heat only penetrates so far into the soil, but it will weaken those roots.
- Bindweed mites are tiny little bugs that love to eat bindweed. In some states, you can get these little heroes for free. The mites are invisible to the naked eye and become established quickly in dry conditions where bindweed is already present.
Health Benefits of Bindweed
Despite being a pain in the garden, it is believed that bindweed has health benefits – just not for my vegetables!
Bindweed is thought to prevent the growth of tumors. It is presently being studied by scientists to see whether it has anticancer properties.
In the 1st Century AD, bindweed was used to stop internal bleeding as well as to help heal wounds.
Native Americans used bindweed to heal spider bites and to lighten menstrual flow. They also used it to bring down a fever and as a laxative.
Many people believe that bindweed is good for treating stress. It is used to calm the nerves and makes you feel at peace with yourself.
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