Gardeningfilter - Horsetail. Ugh.
July 30, 2013 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Hi folks, our garden has a moderately bad horsetail (marestail) infestation going on. I'm new to this gardening thing. So, any tips on getting rid of the stuff?

We moved in to our house a few months ago. The garden is nice and easy to maintain for a novice like myself, but there's a creeping horsetail infestation going on where the old occupants had a trampoline and it's wrecked the ground beneath it. I've checked a previous Mefi thread where there was a little bit of advice on horsetail but Google comes up with a ton of contradictory advice about managing the stuff. So, Mefites who know about these things, is there a way of getting rid of it? Bonus problem; the cat loves sleeping near that patch, so Roundup and the like are probably out of the question.
posted by peteyjlawson to Home & Garden (5 answers total)

Best answer: We had horsetail at our last house. I did a fair amount of reading up online, and the best advice I got was to go for "rhizome exhaustion"- meaning, you pull out as much as you can, as far down below the surface as you can get, then check on it frequently (daily is best, every other day ok) and immediately pull up any new shoots you see. And you do this regularly, until the rhizome has spent all its energy putting up new shoots without being able to get more energy from the sun. Staying on top of it is critical, obviously.

I will admit this took well over a year to eradicate completely. Horsetail is a giant pain in the ass. In our yard, the horsetail invasion was along the path out to my car, so the daily check was not too onerous.

No chemicals used. I never tried the boiling water thing but it's worth a shot. You gotta get the rhizomes, though, or it will just come back.
posted by ambrosia at 12:47 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Assuming you are in the Northern Hemisphere.

Any tails that come up at this time of year dont produce seeds and you can pull up. Let them get about 9 inches first and if you pull vertically and steady you will get a lump of root. This may not be any better than cutting them at ground level but it is satisfying.

If you want to use RoundUp then you need to break the waxy coat. The way I do it, though you wont find this on a bottle of Roundup and is possible hazardous, is to wear a pair of latex gloves with a pair or absorbent cotton gloves on top. I run my left hand up and down the tail to break the wax, and then dip my right glove into a container of Roundup and run it up and down the tail. Give it at least three weeks to do its thing.

Important. In Spring, some of the first tails that come up have "seed"; the seed is a fine white dust and spreads very easily. You will soon be able to spot the difference between this and regular tail as the tops are different. Dont just pull these up as it will spread the seed. I either cover with a plastic bag and then pull it up and seal the bag at the bottom, or a cover with a plastic coke bottle with the bottom cut off and then unscrew the lid and spray then replace the lid.

Best of luck, I have 1 acre of land and unchecked my tails will grow to head height
posted by priorpark17 at 8:01 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice folks. Going to try a few different things in a few areas to see which one works best for our garden, and will keep an eye out for the seed spreaders next spring. Will hopefully get on top of it eventually, but this definitely seems like it's going to be a project rather than a quick fix.
posted by peteyjlawson at 2:36 PM on July 31, 2013

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