Weedy Wednesday - Bindweed
The first plant in our Wednesday Weed series is bindweed. Possibly the most persistent weed in the garden.
In this weekly series, we take a quick look at common garden weeds. How they grow, what benefits they bring to the garden, and how to manage them. Organic growers recognise the importance of these native plants. Insects and birds need the flowers and seeds – gardeners, cooks and herbalists can harvest some nutrient rich foliage.
We hope that this snap-shot view of bindweed, dandelion, nettle, bramble, thistle, goosegrass, plantain, fat hen, dock and yes, even ground elder, will help you to live with them. We also give advice on how to compost weeds. You may not love them, but you certainly won't be tempted to reach for the toxic weed-killer.
Bindweed Calystegia sepium
What: This persistent and perennial weed is easily recognisable by its white trumpet flowers and copiously leaved fast growing tendrils. It likes to climb up fences, fruit trees, and any plant – always seeking the light and twining anti-clockwise.
Habit: Flowers from June to October. Relatively few seeds are produced, however they remain viable for up to 4 decades when buried in the soil. It is the distinctive white rhizome system that allows the plant to extend its range in all directions – sometimes as far as 30m2. (A quick word on the difference between roots and rhizomes. Roots are the plant’s anchor, they are fibrous and pull up moisture and nourishment from the soil. Rhizomes are underground stems. They generally grow horizontal, often just under the soil, sprouting roots and shooting up new vertical stems as they go. Plants use them to store energy.) The plant dies down in autumn and the rhizomes overwinter in the soil.
Benefits: Hedge bindweed has medicinal uses as a laxative. Bees enjoy the flower pollen, and the larvae of the convolvulus hawk moth feed on the leaves. The roots can be soaked to make a liquid feed.
Controls: Because bindweed shoots can develop from fragments of root, rhizome or the plant stem, it is very hard to eradicate bindweed. Frequent and very thorough digging will help, by removing and destroying all parts of the plant (do not put on the compost heap). A thick mulch can weaken the weed – perhaps the most effective method being to put a layer of compost or well-rotted manure under a black membrane which suppresses the light. After 6 - 12 months, the soil is so well structured that it is easy to pull out the weakened shoots.