Help! I'm losing battle with Equisetum

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by Chrissie1976, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. Chrissie1976

    Chrissie1976 Member

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    Can anyone give me any advice as to how I can get rid of that pernicious weed Equisetum, (Horse or Mare's Tail), please? It is rapidly taking over my garden, happily growing through the weed barrier membrane I laid, and the layer of gravel on top of that. The soil is fairly heavy clay. My neighbour has some growing up between her block paving. She tried a herbicide, I'm not sure which type, but think it may have been a systemic one. I told her to crush the plant first, because of the silica, and she did have some success, albeit temporary, in taking off the top growth. But it obviously didn't reach the roots, as it keeps reappearing. I know it is impossible to dig out, so at the moment I am just removing stems manually, working on the assumption that if I can stop it getting any light it's bound to die eventually. But I can't keep up with it. It's getting worse every year. If some sort of hard landscaping, for example resin bonded gravel, could stop it in the paths, I could perhaps then manage to keep on top of it in the flower beds. But I don't want to waste money paying someone to lay the paths, if it is still going to get through and ruin them.
    No wonder it's been around for millions of years! It's a survivor. I'm beginning to think that in another million years it'll be the only plant left in what used to be my beloved rose garden. I'd welcome any success stories. Thanks.
     
  2. Yo_Jo

    Yo_Jo Active Member

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  3. Chrissie1976

    Chrissie1976 Member

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    Thanks for the advice Yo-Jo. Also, thanks to everyone who posted advice on how to solve this problem. Perhaps if I try all of your suggestions in a concerted attack I might get rid of, or at least control, this pernicious weed. Out of interest I looked at gardens in the village where I live as I walked up the road. It seems to be pretty widespread in this area. I saw it growing through tarmac and cracks in concrete paths, and it is coming through my neighbour's block paving. The soil is quite heavy clay around here, so I wonder if horsetail likes this type of soil. It's great for roses, but hard work to cultivate. I have a large garden which is becoming too much work for me now. I plan to have more hard landscaping put down and have mostly raised flower beds. If I work plenty of compost or good topsoil into the beds it should improve drainage. As well as making life easier for me, it may also help to get rid of the horsetail, (fingers crossed).
     
  4. Yo_Jo

    Yo_Jo Active Member

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    I thought I saw one post that recommended full strength vinegar to bust out those weeds.
    Incidentally, I didn't know what horsetail was until this last weekend when I saw them on the side of the roads and trails on a small Island off the Vancouver coastline and one of the other posters ID'd it.
     
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  5. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    For clarification - Horsetail.

    Mare's-tail (Hippuris vulgaris) is a completely different wetland plant, found in lakes and pools.
     
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  6. Yo_Jo

    Yo_Jo Active Member

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    Two different plants that might use the same common name. Michael has a point there...maybe a photo will help clear it up.
     
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  7. Weed destroyer

    Weed destroyer New Member

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    The only effective way is to dig up your plants and use a steam machine with a ground penetrating nozzle. This cooks the soil to high temperature. Killing all weeds including horse tail. Before replanting check every plant for even the smallest amount horse tail roots. Otherwise it will spread out all over the garden again.
    Good luck this is a big job.
     
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  8. Chrissie1976

    Chrissie1976 Member

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    Thanks to everyone for your advice. Michael, thanks for explaining the difference between horsetail and mare's tail. I've always thought of it as Equisetum or horsetail, but some people referred to it as mare's tail, so thought I might be mistaken. If mare's tail needs wet soil, then it's definitely not mare's tail, as the soil is bone dry at the moment, and it's still flourishing! My soil is clay, so don't think it's lacking in nutrients, and the pH is neutral to slightly alkaline. As the cell wall contains silica, and it seems to be doing so well in surrounding gardens too, I wondered if likes the high silica content of the clay. So, adding more organic matter might help, but I'll need a lot! Vinegar has been recommended by several people. Perhaps acidifying the soil this way may inhibit the uptake of silica. I don't know. Chemistry isn't my strongest subject. I asked a nurseryman for advice, and he recommended glyphosate, but it'd cost a fortune to spray it all. One reply mentioned 2,4,5, D, but I don't think it's available in the UK any more, because of the health risk. I don't really like using weed killers anyway, and definitely wouldn't use 2,4,5,D, even if it was still available. It is growing up through other plants, but isn't as prolific there as it is on paths etc., so ground cover might be part of the answer. Weed Destroyer, you weren't joking when you said it would be a big job. To make matters worse, I've developed a problem with my spine, and back pain has drastically reduced the amount of time I can work in the garden, as well as my ability to do heavy work. So I don't think I could eradicate it in the whole garden using heat, but might try it on smaller flower beds. Seems I have 2 choices. My preference would be to have more hard landscaping put down, and have raised beds, which can be enriched with compost and some good, loamy topsoil. Would need to pay someone quite a lot to do most of that work! So it would have to be done in stages. The other choice is to move house, but that seems a bit drastic, and I don't really want to move. Think I'll start by covering worst areas with a strong membrane to cut off the light. Later, when I can afford it, I'll pay someone to lay more hard landscaping. I'll also try the vinegar idea on a small patch to see what happens. Thanks again to everyone who replied, and I'll need that good luck, Weed Destroyer!
     
  9. Sulev

    Sulev Active Member

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    You can suppress equisetum by mechanically weeding out any growth, that appears form the ground. It must be done as soon as you notice a new sprout. Few months of the first year is the hardest fight. Afterwards it will be more easy, but you must be consistent and thorough. After two years there should be only few horsetails remaining and suppressing them would be much easier.

    My garden has sandy soil, that stayed as a fallow for several years, and then horsetails occupied the area. Their main rhizomas lay 40-50cm down the surface and it's hard to acces them. But they usually die out after few years, if to remove repeatedly every single green piece of the plant as soon as it appears above the ground. I know, they regrow rapidly, especially in the beginning of the fight.
    When I dig my cucumber bed in the spring, I dig ca 50cm deep trench for laying horse manure and green fuel for heating the bed, and then I see, what is the situation with horsetail rhizomas. On the third year after starting tillage of the fallow these horsetails rhizomas deep in the ground are mostly dead.
     
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  10. Chrissie1976

    Chrissie1976 Member

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    Thanks for the advice, Sulev. It seems that this pernicious weed is very opportunistic. It must be, to have survived millions of years. Your soil sounds nothing like mine, so it doesn't appear to have any preferences in that area. Any plant will die eventually if all green parts are denied light, and your method has worked on this principle. Think I'll have to use a combination of light depriving methods to achieve some control. Cover as much of the worst areas as possible, where there are no other plants, such as paths. Then, while lack of light is doing some of the work for me there, I can concentrate on removing stems from other areas. If we have some rain, (please let us have some rain!), my soil will be a little less like concrete, and I might even be able to dig out some of the rhizomes, thereby weakening it further. I could add organic matter as I went along too. Think this sounds as though it will be a lot easier for me to do than a complete overhaul, as I can do it in stages, by removing as many stems as I can manage, whilst keeping an eye out for any new growth that appears in areas I've already cleared. In the meantime, I can save up for that hard landscaping. I have a large garden, limited funds, a bad back and I'm not young any more. So I was feeling a bit miserable, wondering if I would ever be able to regain the nice garden I once had. But your message cheered me up a little, thanks. While I realise that there will still be a lot of work involved, it made me feel that there might be life after horsetail after all!
     

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