Horsetail is a devil of a weed – when you have it….you really have it!
Horsetail or to give it its proper name Equisetum arvense is a real pain in the backside kind of a weed to get rid of.
by Gareth Austin
The main problem being its root system, the fleshy rhizome roots can over 6’ deep into soil, these deep roots mean that this isn’t a weed that competes with your garden plants for fertility and water, not this weed competes with the plants for light level, and more serious is its effect on kerbs, concrete and tarmac where it can easily appear up through cracks.
Although looked upon commonly as a weed, HorseTail is a glorious plant when growing in its normal habitat or Marshlands and swamps and for over a thousand years has been used in Medicines, and in more recent years (ie the last 200 years) it was commonly used a scrub for cleaning pots and for polishing surfaces.
As mentioned before Horsetail is a pain in the backside to get rid of. Many gardeners will try the ‘digging out’ method, the problem with this is the deep roots associated with this plant, and although yes you’ll have good success with a garden fork removing shallow roots, the chance of you removing every part of every root is very slim. The best result you can expect from this hand removal is to stunt its growth and spread.
There are two methods which work with HorseTail – Method A – Chemical application and Method B – Goats.
Method B sounds a bit crazy to some, but with changes to herbicide uses and expressions of concern about its use there are many looking at alternative methods of weed control, indeed the US Army have been using Goats for many years to control vegetation within their bases. Where goats are exposed to Horsetail they devour it, and in trials where they have grazed the area for 2 years there has been 100% mortality of the Horsetail from the site.
Alternatively there is Method A – chemical warfare.
Chemical warfare is difficult on HorseTail, its waxy outer skin makes the absorption of chemical difficult. So the first step is to bruise the foliage of the plants you are going to treat, and then the use of a Glyphosate based weedkiller applied over a number of occasions (in late summer) will severely damage the HorseTail.
I say ‘severely damage’ as sometimes the weed in your garden may be coming from wasteground or a neighbours patch, so simply treating the weed on your side will just weaken the plant and may not be enough to kill off the entire patch. Application over a number of years will be required.
For some however, the appearance of HorseTail may not be as bad as first thought, as you see HorseTail possesses great anti-fungal properties due to its phenolic composition. Put simply, it makes great fungus spray for the garden – made from 50g of dried HorseTail into 1L of water.