This next weed is a doozy. Encountered by most I know and hated by them, too.
Bindweed (Convolvus arvensi) is well known for its extensive root system. Ya know, those roots that go so deep you can never get to the bottom of them, so when your pulling it breaks off and you feel slightly defeated? Ya, those.
It also spreads quickly along the ground and is a fantastic climber. It seeds readily and spreads vigorously by its roots.
It’s been known to strangle your desirable plants and smother out your low-growers.
It tightly coils itself around anything it can find making weeding tedious.
Boy howdie. That’s a list of irritating features! So, why should anyone love this weed?
Thinking again about the problem being the solution, let’s take a different look at its growth habits.
Bindweed, like any other persistent ground cover, has one main purpose. To quickly and thoroughly shade the soil. Mother Nature does not like her soil bare. I suppose you can call her modest? Or maybe, like me, she burns easily!
Bindweed also has strong, deep roots that can break up compacted soil and allow water to penetrate once the plant dies back.
So, if you look at bindweed as a workhorse plant helping to better the soil, you understand why it’s there.
Awe, that’s nice. It’s helping, BUT you still want it to stop growing in your garden so the beauty of your landscape can shine through. Right?
The best way to eliminate bindweed is to do the work it’s designed to do yourself. Shade the soil and decompact it.
Shade the soil with lots of mulch. Wood chips, compost, leaves, straw, etc. If you have bare soil, cover it thickly. 4-6″ is a minimum. Overtime you will need to add more as your soil biology will break it down.
Decompaction is tricky. I, personally, practice no till gardening. Deep mulching builds the soil life and I let the soil build itself naturally and aerate. This can take longer, so if you must break the soil, I recommend a broadfork. You can also use a spade to loosen, BUT DO NOT TURN OVER, the soil. Turning over and tilling the soil only temporarily decompacts. In the long run, it hurts the soil structure and you lose nutrients. Not to mention, a no till method is far less work.
Now that you’ve mulched, and possibly forked the soil, you will see bindweed emerge. There are a lot of roots down there. So stay persistent. Pull them as soon as you see them. And over time, you’ll weaken the roots until it dies. Also you’ll build the soil humus with lots of mulch and compost and bindweed will no longer be needed. This can take several growing seasons, but you should notice a decrease sooner.
If you have an area that is extremely full of bindweed, you can add a layer of cardboard under your mulch. You gotta love lasagna gardening!
Why using herbicides is counter productive
The easy, quick fix to killing bindweed is using herbicides. It’s very attractive because you don’t have to do a lot of work. Just fill a sprayer, walk around spraying the bindweed and you’re done.
Have you ever noticed that the weeds never stay away for long? You are now committed to applying herbicides indefinitely. Do you know why?
It’s simple. By simply killing the weed with herbicides does not do anything to solve the soil problem they germinated to fix. In fact, it compounds the problem. Now, you not only have bare soil baking in the sun, but you’ve killed any soil biology you may have had that was working to aerate it. Bare, lifeless soil becomes MORE compacting causing MORE bindweed.