Horsetail in garden bed

Asked April 9, 2020, 9:42 AM EDT

Hello How can I remove horsetail from a garden bed? I would rather not use chemicals if possible

Chisago County Minnesota

1 Response

Thanks for the question.

Unfortunately there is no magic bullet when it comes to eliminating horsetail (Equisetum). It releases huge amounts of reproductive spores that are dispersed by the wind. This is why it can suddenly and quickly pop up throughout your garden. It also grows from root runners that can extend outwards three or more feet below the ground surface. If you try to pull it up, you will discover that it has an extensive root system. But it also turns out that when you pull it out, you are leaving behind several root fragments that in turn generate additional plants. Unfortunately from my experience once it is present, it is very difficult to eliminate. It is largely resistant to Roundup (glyphosate) so that is not a possibility. Sometimes repeated dosages of this herbicide seem to work, at least temporarily.

While not a quick solution, horsetail can sometimes be controlled by eliminating top growth repeatedly and preventing spores from germinating. Do this by cutting off the green growth above ground on plants whenever it appears. If you are persistent and do this over a sufficient length of time (may be well over a year) the plant eventually dies out. However you will need to remove any plant tops immediately after you cut them off as they may contain spores. Securely bag these tops and put the bags in the trash.

You may get some hints from the following:

I truly wish that I could be more positive in my response but this is the reality you are facing. I know this from my own extensive efforts to eliminate it from my gardens. It is still there. I wish you the very best of luck. I have decided that it is a plant that I simply will need to live with and make accommodation for it.
Good luck!!