Keep yer damn morning glories off my lawn
July 11, 2014 8:24 AM   Subscribe

The neighbors' morning glories are growing under their fence into our yard, and driving me nuts. How can I fend them off?

We rent. Our neighbors have a wood fence along the property line, with morning glories growing all over their side. The problem is that the roots of the morning glories go under the fence, and grow all over our yard. Relations between the landlord and these neighbors are terrible, and though we haven't gotten involved, they aren't friendly to us either.

Our landlord strung up some chicken wire to train the morning glories to grow up, but it's not well supported since it can't be fastened to their fence, and it sags and is ugly. More importantly, that's the sunniest corner of the yard and I would like to grow flowers there. Flowers that are not vines. The vines strangle everything out. Pulling them up as they appear is an endless task - the things grow FAST.

I have a vague idea in mind of hammering some sort of steel edging barrier into the ground along the fence, to block the roots, then putting down landscape fabric or black plastic or something, and cutting little holes for each of my plants. I don't love the idea of using pesticides, because we have little kids, but my inner evil self would delight in spraying the damn things with Roundup. (Would that kill their plants? Would I get in trouble if it did?)

I would love to hear suggestions on how to proceed, help filling in details, recommendations for specific products (I have a Home Depot and a nice garden center within range), and potential pitfalls.

posted by telepanda to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was just going to recommend a barrier like you mention -- just go down a foot or so on your side of the fence (you can read up on the depth of the roots on these guys) and you should be good to go on your side. I'd then take down the chicken wire, if it's not supported -- that was a reasonable effort to get lemonade from an ugly fence and friendly flowers, but on its own it adds nothing.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 8:30 AM on July 11, 2014

There's a reason morning glories are called bindweed as well. If it's coming up from the ground, you can try fabric and mulch. If it's coming through the fence/over the fence, you can try to seal the fence, but that may not work well. The real answer may be the elbow-grease answer -- keep pulling/cutting the vines that come over. Note that if you live in a zone where they go to seed (vs being perennial) they will cause you no end of problems from all the seeds.
posted by k5.user at 8:32 AM on July 11, 2014

Roundup. Only partially kidding. I let my wife plant the damn things three years ago. I'm still killing and uprooting shoots.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:01 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would just use Roundup. Only spray on the ones on your side of the fence. Let God sort 'em out.

Roundup is not especially toxic to humans or animals once it dries. So you'd just have to keep the kids and pets away while the stuff is still wet on the leaves and while you're actually spraying.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:27 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another Roundup option is to cut the vines off then (ideally) paint or spray the cut ends of the vines--the part going into the ground. Painting the ends will be much more work, but will limit everyone else's exposure (other plants, kids, pets, etc.)

Of course also carefully read and follow the label directions.
posted by sevenless at 9:46 AM on July 11, 2014

The only real answer is weeding and installing a physical barrier so the roots can not spread. Also make sure to cut all the flowers off before it self-seeds.

Don't buy Roundup! Vinegar, salt or boiling water will kill any plant just fine.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:35 AM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest good edging, so I agree with you on that plan.

A less toxic roundup alternative is Burnout organic weed killer, which uses citric acid. It works best on young/small shoots, so pulling up/covering the plants first.

Also pesticides don't kill plants, herbicides do. Sorry, it's a pet peeve. /pedantic
posted by medusa at 10:44 AM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hack everything down to the ground once and then spray with a mixture of 1 gallon of vinegar, 1 cup of salt, and 1 TBSP of dish soap. Repeat if anything tries to grow back.

It's a foliar agent, it'll just desiccate the existing weeds (and unwanted morning glories are the weediest of weeds), so you should have no issues planting things in their place if you wait a couple of weeks.
posted by lydhre at 11:10 AM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

You might want to weigh the tradeoffs of how much time and effort you're willing to invest in battling the morning glories. Also consider that the salt, vinegar and dish soap mix isn't entirely benign. Round-up has a half life of 47 days, salt won't break down - it just has to be carried away, dissolved in water. The vinegar and salt are not target specific. They not only will kill the morning glories they will make the soil toxic to worms and beneficial bacteria in the soil. Vinegar isn't selective, it works to kill plants by lowering the pH of the soil to the point that the plants can't survive in it.
posted by X4ster at 12:28 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Invest in a WeedEater (string trimmer - mine is Black & Decker, which comes with two batteries), adjust it to work as an edger, and just go down the row with it whenever you notice the bindweed coming back.
posted by mmiddle at 12:39 PM on July 11, 2014

He wants to plant other stuff there; I'm not sure that literally salting the earth is a good option.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Bindweed can be really really hard to kill. Pulling it out won't stop it; I've tried the pulling it up method more than once and it just doesn't work.

I'm not one to jump the gun on suggesting herbicides, but Roundup is a reasonable option here.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:16 PM on July 11, 2014

Don't buy Roundup! Vinegar, salt or boiling water will kill any plant just fine.

ha ha ha

Good luck.

This particular area is marked on the map as morning glory (field bindweed) hell. Nuke 'em, put down a barrier--I recommend 6 inches of concrete--and then watch 'em pop back up again.

If you never want to weed the buggers, your best bet is to sterilize the ground, put down barrier cloth and mulch, then plant flowers in containers.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:01 PM on July 11, 2014

Nthing RoundUp, it's the only way - be aware it works during photosynthesis, so don't do it when it's rainy or cloudy - you want full sun hitting the doused leaves. You will need to do this every few months or so depending on how much of the vine you can get.

Signed, Someone Whose Neighbour is Also Growing That Devil Weed Along The Fence.

PS, don't salt; it messes up the soil something fierce and will take ages to wash up. RoundUp has a somewhat overblown reputation, it's very good at what it does.
posted by smoke at 4:45 PM on July 11, 2014

I'd be worried that using Roundup would kill the vines on their side, if they share a root system, and if relations are already tense, it certainly won't improve anything. What about putting in a raised, contained bed in that spot - then you can grow what you like in that spot, and hopefully block the morning glories as well.
posted by thylacinthine at 5:24 PM on July 11, 2014

Or maybe Bio-barrier - also used for weed control.
posted by rudd135 at 6:45 PM on July 11, 2014

I'm gonna go another route - can you build up? How about a raised bed or large planters? I wouldn't hesitate to round up, vinegar and rip out any and all vines that come creeping through. If you want to plant veggies, leave room on all sides for tending. If you just want some pretty plants or flowers, planters would look pretty great. Plus, you could take them with you when you go.

I'm not sure what the chicken wire plan was all about. You can't hang something on the fence? Why? I don't know if morning glories climb... If so, maybe just some nails and string and train them right back up the other side. Eventually the whole fence will collapse but you'll likely be long gone by then. :)

As other's noted, be targeted where you spray or salt that you're not harming good growing space. Right up next to the fence is unlikely to be a good spot for much but, be cautious.
posted by amanda at 8:38 PM on July 11, 2014

Just spray their side over the fence when they're not home with RoundUp or an atrazine based herbicide. I'm not usually a proponent of ANYTHING Monsanto makes, but if the weed is that big an issue to you it may be worth it. Morning glory is damned hard to kill. If you pull any of it up do not take any of the vines elsewhere on the property; they will root and grow and spread and be nasty. They can spread via rhizomes, which you can think of as underground vines. Their underground systems can go as deep as twenty feet down so unless you're pulling out a backhoe to make this barrier it may be a waste of time.
posted by ZaneJ. at 4:14 AM on July 12, 2014

Is it truly your neighbor's fence? Most fences are dually-owned by both parties, and if this is the case then you can do what you want on your side.

I don't envy you this problem, though. Morning Glory is a B to get rid of. I'm afraid that week-whacking the shoots that come over to your side would just spread the evil vine. Using round-up on your side, also would ultimately kill their side, as well, and I could see that not ending well.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:21 AM on July 12, 2014

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