by Adam Pasco

We recently asked Gardeners' World website and magazine readers around the UK to nominate their worst weed. One weed, it seems, crops up everywhere...

Bindweed flowerWe recently asked Gardeners' World website and magazine readers around the UK to nominate their worst weed. One weed, it seems, crops up everywhere, topping the list in many regions: bindweed. (Readers in Scotland and northern England gave 'pride of place' to other weeds - more of which later.) 

Why has bindweed become so much of a problem? 

Like many, many others, I have some bindweed in my garden. It crept through from a very elderly neighbour's garden some 10 years ago, and is a devil to eradicate. The problem with bindweed is that it gets into flower borders, where its thick white roots mingle with those of perennials and shrubs, making it very, very hard to dig out. 

I've tried to remove bindweed, but even the tiniest piece of root left in the soil can sprout a shoot and become a strong new plant. A few years ago, in a desperate effort to get rid of both bindweed and couch grass from the border, I dug out all the plants and virtually sieved the soil clean of every last filament of weed root I could see. It was a lot of work, and has certainly reduced the weed problem, but not got rid of it altogether. 

Now I try to carefully study my border every week in search of any sign of these perennial weeds. I trace any shoot I spot down to the soil, then excavate to carefully dig out all of the roots, without breaking any off.

Yes, bindweed is a pretty weed, and I'm sure some people are quite happy to let it grow in the belief that this is really a glorious flowering climber (which it is). The only thing they don't appreciate is that bindweed has a mission … to invade, occupy, and overtake! 

Bindweed may look lovely in the countryside, but it's not a garden plant to be encouraged. 

And just for the record, the No.1 weed in Scotland is ground elder (with bindweed in 4th place after dandelions and horsetail), and bindweed came 2nd to dandelions in northern England. Full results of our survey of weeds and other garden problems can be found in the August 2009 issue of Gardeners' World Magazine.

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Talkback: Bindweed
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Gardeners' World Web User 10/08/2009 at 16:14

Yes - I do agree that bindweed is very pretty in the hedgerows and a nuisance in the garden - but the main problem around here in North Yorkshire is the invasion of Himalayan Balsam. It flowers late in the season so the jury is out on whether or not it stifles too many of the earlier wild flowers. Luckily, bees seem to like it despite its (to us)awful smell! It's pretty, but nearly as pretty as willow-herb which it does seem to be strangling.

Gardeners' World Web User 11/08/2009 at 11:53

The bindweed in Scotland mainly has pink flowers and looks glorious in full flower on road and rail embankments so perhaps this is why it is more tolerated. i believe this is the time to paint the flowers with a glyphosate solution to get rid of it.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2009 at 12:09

I have both ground elder and bindweed and having tried to garden without successfully getting rid of either I tend towards ground elder being the worst, it goes through grass, and hoggin paths, and in my light soil its roots break more when being pulled up than bind weed. But I still haven't got on top of them, and have to dig up plants every other year to remove the invading roots from their root balls and replant them - consequently I can only garden with tough plants in the first place!

Gardeners' World Web User 13/08/2009 at 20:12

I have bindweed coming through from next door and it "attacks" the rhododendrons. All I do is keep a good eye out for it. From the other neighbour its Mind your own business. Its only a little garden but oh how I'd love neighbours who care!

Gardeners' World Web User 13/08/2009 at 21:38

I have been battling with my neighbour's bindweed for over 40 years - if only my neighbour would do the same! I shall be painting the leaves growing up a wire mesh fence again tomorrow as the weather is forecast to be fine and sunny for at least two more days down here in Hampshire.

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