General Discussion:

hordes of horsetails

Messages posted to thread:

13-May-02 04:27 PM EST 5a   
osborne13-May-02 07:34 PM EST   
13-May-02 08:05 PM EST   
osborne15-May-02 08:43 PM EST   
18-May-02 12:50 PM EST   
Jo Ann Schewske23-May-02 11:13 PM EST 5a   

Subject: hordes of horsetails
Zone: 5a
Date: 13-May-02 04:27 PM EST

I swear I only turned my back for a season and now there is a rising tide of horsetail invading perennial beds, lawns...everything. Mixed metaphors aside, how do you control this pest. Obviously digging out does little to discourage it as I carefully emptied one of the beds two years ago, screening those very long roots and doing rather a creditable job of it. The horsetail was only encouraged. Any suggestions...this plant is really super invasive.

Subject: RE: hordes of horsetails
From: osborne
Date: 13-May-02 07:34 PM EST

I was lucky, mine was just a minor infestation and I was able to eradicate it by constantly (i.e. at least once a week) hand-pulling it until it just gave up. I still keep my eyes peeled for any reoccurence.

Your problem sounds like it's a lot more extensive, so I checked some of my references. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a sure-fire cure but maybe the following will help:

- It prefers dry and poorly drained soils . . . if this is your situation, can you change it?

- Keeping it cut back will eventually weaken the root . . . would it be feasible to keep your grass cut really short?

- Amusingly, Marjorie Harris's "Favourite Garden Tips", which is usually such a help, says nothing about eliminating horsetails but rather provides a recipe for using it to prevent powdery mildew and fungus! I don't know if that means that she has just learned to live with and love her horsetails or if she has to raid someone else's garden when she wants to prepare her recipe.

Now for the bad news:

- One source I read says that there is no effective chemical weedkiller.

- Apparently horsetails spread by spores as well as rhizomes!

The good news is: There is no better way to commune with your garden and to feel like you've accomplished something useful, than to put in a good session of weed-pulling. I find it quite therapeutic in small doses.

Good luck.

Subject: RE: hordes of horsetails
Date: 13-May-02 08:05 PM EST

There's communing with nature and there's holding impassioned monologues the subject matter of which should shrivel the horsetails. You're absolutely correct about the poisons...loathe though we are here to use any chemicals, we actually painted an entire bed, anointing each individual horsetail with round-up. Last laugh was not mine. Plucking seems to encourage multiple side growth. However, if that's the best shot, I will shoot it.

Subject: RE: hordes of horsetails
From: osborne
Date: 15-May-02 08:43 PM EST

Okay, call me crazy, but since I was at the Civic Garden Centre, to pick up my garden tour tickets, I popped into the library & did a little more research . . .

- rolling the lawn crushes the stems, you have to repeat weekly, to weaken the rhisomes

- Mark Cullen says "Killex" will work, but repeated applications are necessary. I don't know what it does to the lawn.

- smothering for an entire season, e.g. with cardboard. This isn't suitable for lawns either.

- overplanting with nasturtiums apparently also smothers them and is more attractive than cardboard.

This plant is really amazing! It has medicinal properties, is absolutely pre-historic and is rich in silica. They used it for scouring pots, polishing pewter and wood finishes on furniture. I gained respect for it doing the research . . . not that I'm going to stop pulling it every time I see it!

Subject: RE: hordes of horsetails
Date: 18-May-02 12:50 PM EST

I had little idea I was hosting such an unique and multi-faceted...not to say persistent guest. I have to credit both its tenacity and its P.R. This last cold wet week has just seen my friends thrive...which puts to question the dry, poor soil part. All hearty chuckles aside, I find it strange that so few other gardeners seem concerned or even aware of what awaits them. I will continue pulling what I can and rolling the rest. I remain impressed, but not comforted, knowing I have probably cornered the market on free range silica.

Subject: RE: hordes of horsetails
From: Jo Ann Schewske (
Zone: 5a
Date: 23-May-02 11:13 PM EST

I too have a problam with horsetail, We planned our gardens and dug out the existing soil and replaced it with good topsoil, the first season no problems but the people behind us just moved in and horsetail was all over the place on their lot, he didn't spray and it is now invading the section of garden that backs his lot. It has invaded the new sod he laid. I tried pulling for the last two seasons and seemed to get alot more than I originally had. I purchased weed out and hand sprayed every one I could find about 2 weeks ago and they are dying. But I was told it would take about two weeks to really work as it works better in the heat and it's been so cold lately. Also yes they invade by long runners as well as spores. Apparently the mother who releases the spores looks a little different so if you can get them early, it should help. Watch it though because if you don't keep them in check they will invade your grass and you'll have disaster, because you'll kill the grass where you sprayed. I'll let you know if I have had success as the season progresses. Wish me luck. The biggest problem for me is I don't think my neighbour is going to do anything about it in his grass, So I will probably have the problem forever. What if I dig down and put some type of barrier between my lot and his to check the runners, does anyone have any suggestions about what I could use?

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