How to combat Horsetail

How to combat horsetail is often a question asked many growers and gardeners. Horsetail (often referred to inaccurately as mare’s tail) has been plaguing gardens and allotments since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. They crop up along the side of railway tracks and soon spread from garden to garden. Their roots are deep and prolific and the plant itself can lay dormant in your soil for a number of years. Below are some ten strategies you can use to tackle this terrible weed!

how to combat horsetail weeds

10 Ideas on How to combat Horsetail

If found, dig out and tackle straight away and do not delay…

Horsetail roots go down as far two meters in some cases, so the deeper you dig the better. Getting as much of the root out is crucial when trying to keep horsetail under control.

If found – never put it in your compost heap – burn it

According to the RHS horsetail can persist for a number of years. Because rhizomes lay dormant for a number of years, they’ll quite happily survive in a compost bin, until you empty out your compost bin into your borders.

Once removed, plant something in that space – horsetail doesn’t compete well in the shade

It’s very difficult to get the whole plant and root structure out of the ground, it’s inevitable you’ll miss a bit. Once dug out, plant something else into the ground such as marigolds or dahlias to take up some of the moisture and create shade.

If you suspect it’s coming from a neighbour, try and place a physical barrier in the ground between you and them

More often than not the source of your horsetail infestation comes from next door – and it’s not their fault! If you have a border, bury some slabs or wooden boards around the edges – if you have a garden it may be worth taking a look at some fencing.

Lay Heavy duty matting for a year or two to restrict light to that area

If you have a large area that’s covered in horsetail – it can be back breaking work to dig this out manually. You’re better off covering the area with heavy duty black matting and leaving the area for a year or two.

Use any weed killer that contains glyphosate

Any weed killer that contains glyphosate will damage horsetail, both the tops and the roots. Like most weed killers apply directly to the plant over a number of dry days for maximum impact.

Apply white distilled vinegar

If you’d rather not use a chemical to combat horsetail – white distilled vinegar is a great alternative. Because vinegar is an acid, it’s non-specific as to what it will kill. You may need to check the condition of the soil by running a soil test once you’ve got to grips with the horsetail infestation.

Keep your soil a good condition overall – apply manure and lime

Well drained, weeded and fertilised soil will pay dividends when keeping control of not just horsetail… Good soil also means you’ll get a good return.

Plan your attack – see PhilG2’s three year approach here

Horsetail can often take years to combat – click on the above link to see how you can plan your attack against horsetail. Together with the points above – we’re on a winning streak.

Turnips are said to keep horsetail at bay

This thread here has some interesting (all be it experimental) points about plants that you can grow to combat horsetail.  Turnips in particular were used back in 2008!

Good luck folks – if you have any other tips please do let me know how to combat Horsetail!


One thought on “How to combat Horsetail

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