The worst time for a gardener to take a vacation is during the summer. Not because you’ll miss the blossoms or there are too many chores to be done; those can wait a week or two and friends can text you photos of the flowers.
No, what happens when gardeners takes their eyes off their plot for a few days is that the scourge of Western civilization takes over your yard. That scourge is field bindweed (Convovulus arvensis), the best-known and most hated weed to stalk our gardens.
Despite being a member of the morning glory family, there’s nothing glorious about it. It snakes through the garden. It entwines itself through branches, drapes itself along trellises, and coils into every nook and cranny. Nearby plants are smothered, reduced to objects of support for the cheerful-blossomed horror.
Pulling this plant results in a nightmare out of Greek myth – nodes along the roots spring up into a hydra-like mass of vines from the single plant pulled. Battles with bindweed are epic and are a common thread between gardeners.
The amount of bindweed in my perennials is not so much a nuisance as it is a coup; this plant clearly has visions of holding dominion over this garden. It lays egg-shaped capsules in the soil stuffed with eight seeds per capsule, something that has me believing those who claim this is really a creature, not a plant.
One friend suggested an approach to conquering bindweed: snip the bindweed back, leaving two or three sets of leaves, slide a coffee can with both ends removed over the weed to protect other plants around it from harm, then paint herbicide onto the bindweed. For a gardener with a lot of time and not a lot of bindweed, this might work.
I’m opting for pulling repeatedly and frequently, until the plant’s energy in the roots is exhausted and can no longer regenerate. Obviously the bindweed has the same thought, and by extending its roots 20 to 30 feet in many directions, is succeeding in exhausting me.
Stamina and dedication are required in pulling to control this plant because it must be done thoroughly, leaving no trace of bindweed growing along the 30-foot span. Any plant left on this long root system feeds and replenishes the root, supporting the birth of new siblings to resume the hostile takeover.
This is where control gets entangled with neighbor relations, because a root this long means a gardener with intent to eradicate might end up two yards down, trenching through lawns, rose beds, and children’s play boxes. Unless you want to be hauled off for the safety of the neighborhood, stick to your own yard and practice pulling or hoeing up the plants every 10 to 14 days. This will keep the infestation to a livable level, and your garden relatively bindweed free.
This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.