It seems like all gardeners, novice or expert, know two weeds by name – dandelions and morning glory! The morning glory plant is a very unwelcome visitor to any vegetable garden since it is so difficult to control. Have you ever wondered what makes this pretty and delicate looking plant so tough? Here are some obnoxious facts about morning glory and some tips for controlling it – I double dare you to try!
Suspect: Morning Glory or Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) Charge: Found everywhere and impossible to control!
Why is field bindweed Utah’s most hated weed?
- It is a perennial. Perennials live for three or more growing seasons so the mother plant will die-back to the ground in the dormant season and re-sprout the following spring.
- It is a vining plant. Field bindweed is sly and sneaky in the garden, twining and twirling its way around other garden plants. By the time you see it, it has oftentimes formed a tangled mess!
- It has rhizomes. What are rhizomes? Rhizomes are underground stems. They are white because they do not photosynthesize, but rhizomes have growing points (or nodes) so as you attempt to dig them from the soil, they snap easily from where?….you guessed it – a growing point!
- It is a prolific re-seeder. Field bindweed seeds remain viable in the soil for years – like up to 60 years! An average plant can produce up to 550 seeds!
- It thrives in moist soils, but tolerates dry soils too. Basically, field bindweed is one tough cookie!
So when referencing field bindweed, it is important to remove the word ‘eradicate’ from your vocabulary and replace with the word ‘control’.
Here are some tips:
- Do not allow plants to flower and seed!
- Do not leave soil bare – cover with mulch or groundcover.
- If possible, limit irrigation water to plants. Moist soils will yield more robust plants.
- Continuously cultivate soil around plants (try to dig-up rhizomes) but keep in mind it may take years to kill the plant this way.
- Wet soil before weeding – it may be easier to remove more rhizomes if the soil is moist.
- Smother with black plastic or cardboard in areas that you do not intend to plant for several years (up to 3 growing seasons).
- Treat with chemical control (possibly not an option for organic gardeners).
- Sit back and think about what a remarkable weed it is! Is a little field bindweed really the end of the world? Deep breath in and out, in and out and now relax!
Here is a great fact sheet on field bindweed from UC Davis IPM. If you do care to go the chemical route, it lists appropriate active ingredients for control. But remember, the best weed management plans are those that integrate multiple control techniques – not just chemical control. Happy hoeing!