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How do you manage a garden with horsetail. I have a large lawn and flower beds. I want to create vegetable patches but am concerned that it will be taken over by this horrible horsetail weed! Any advice would be appreciated.


(North Yorkshire)

I think this has come up before and as I remember the collected wisdom amounted to a regime of spraying with glysophate and digging up the roots. So dig first and spray when the marestail emerges and is actively growing. Luckily I don't have any problem with this particular weed.


Horsetail is a born survivor, having been around since the dinosaurs. It contains a lot of silica in its stems, which makes it difficult for weedkillers to penetrate. The trick is to damage the stems and then to spray. Continued digging it up does weaken it as well. So a 2 pronged attack. 

punkdoc wrote (see)

he trick is to damage the stems and then to spray. Continued digging it up does weaken it as well. So a 2 pronged attack. 

Spot on.

For a veg patch I would not want to use herbicides, so if you have a problem with Horsetail then sort that first or build a raised bed.


Get a pair of those body exfoliating gloves from the shower gel section in your supermarket (only £1). Wear them over a pair of rubber washing up gloves, dip your hands into your glysophate weed killer. Rub the weed killer into the horsetail foliage. You need the horsetail to be growing quite strongly before putting the weed killer onto it.

Horsetail will just grow up through a raised bed


Thank you for the advice. My lovely dad has made me a raised bed so will get cracking this weekend

Pull Pull and Pull again. As soon as you see it pull it up, this seems to have worked for me.

I was told by a professional gardener the only solution is to move! I was given it with a plant by a friend, yes we are still friends! as recommended keep at it you can't win but can keep it in check. Happy gardening when the sun shines!



I once read that the roots of maretail have been measured to 300m , yes 3 hundred,  no typo: that's how they survived the ice age. Good luck with digging it up. I'd go with bruising and glyphosate.


We have this all over our lawn and garden. First, they are not called marestails when they are on land, they are called horsetails. They are two different types of plants. The roots go far deeper than any herbicide will be able to reach. Glyphosate won't work. Glyphosate actually encourages field horsetail by eliminating competing plants. Horsetails love poor drainage, low oxygen, and acidic soil. You need to improve your soil by applying lime. After AT LEAST two weeks, apply horse manure. Then some nice compost. I've tried killing them with industrial grade vinegar (20%) but, like anything applied to them, it will only kill the tops and do nothing for the roots (which can go as far down as 7 meters...or over to Japan). Also, it acidifies the soil. Covering any parts of your garden with membrane or plastic will just make the roots really happy without the oxygen and horsetails will pop out everywhere along the sides. Don't do it. That's what the previous owner did here. You lift up the sheet of plastic and it is nothing but horsetail roots under there. They don't like shade so you can crowd some of them out with taller plants. From March to May you must be very vigilant and pull out any female (asparagus looking) horsetails as soon as possible as they spread thousands of spores everywhere. Do not till as it will make things worse. Every bit of root will regenerate into a new plant. We need to realise that they may never, ever fully go away. They take a lot of silicone from your soil so you can compost them after drying them out in order the replace the silicone. Try to improve your drainage by sloping the land away from your property and adding some ditches for the water to flow down. Whew. So, that is what I know. Some simply say it is best to pull out what you can and then just deal with them. The roots go so far down that they don't compete too much with plants for nutrients (allegedly) and the best thing to do is encourage them to move along by improving the soil. Very hard to do if your neighbour has them. I've just dug out our entire lawn and will do my first lime application tomorrow (weather permitting). I'll try to come back and let you all know if this works.

Garden Maniac

Hosetails - Dig them up - it doesn't stop it, but it culls it for a period of time - be prepared to do this perpetually though!! I have tried to live with this problem for 45 + years, since a child!  Whenever it makes an appearance, do away with it. Once it's there, it revels in the space and won't go -  you just move it on.  I've even tried membranes / paving over it and digging out a whole driveway- it just comes back to the side - all you do is move the problem. That's not to say persistence doesn't work - in the short term....I'm just prepared to do battle now every year. 


..a soul destroying can only live with it I think and try not to let it dominate your gardening life...those spore carrying tubes are quite the ugliest... thing it doesn't appear to appreciate is deep shade and competition, therefore extensive ground cover can help... one plant that gives me some respite is Geranium macorrhizum... especially the variety 'Bevans'.... it has really large leaves, is semi evergreen with an indefinite spread, and creates dense shade underneath...  and importantly, is in active growth very early before horsetail gets going... it does suppress the weed somewhat, which is forced to circle it mostly, although still some appears in the middle during the summer... but it does help give the gardener a rest, as this Geranium is much like an aggressive weed in itself, but a welcome one... I use it extensively - have to... it's the only ground cover plant I know that offers some relief...

Thanks Salino. My next question was going to be which sort of plant ground covering for competition works best. Now that I've dug out some roots, I might have some time before they come back up.


no ground covering plant "works best" it's still there. !!!!

A few people in other forums swear by 2 inches of manure. My house is going to stink, but after the past three days of root pulling, I want to do anything I can to discourage these things.

So I think the plan now is...dig roots down to the clay. Try to work some gravel into the clay (I have a lot around the garden that I need to get rid of as they have plastic and more roots below them), apply lime, add a layer of gravel. Then manure two weeks later, then topsoil, then turf and some plant ground cover around the sides where I'll try to plant some vegetables.

Other forums have also suggested growing turnips to discourage the roots. I hate turnips. You have to grow them close together though, which means harvesting the greens only. I'll try some sunflowers in front of the sunny fence as they like to pop through right from under the fence. Then lime again this fall. I don't know if it will work or not, but failing that...I don't know.




No tilling?? EEK! I'm going to have a bumper "crop" of horsetail this year me thinks!


autumn dh , forgive my being stupid, by how does growing turnips have any effect?

I just answered this on the other post, so if I post a reply here I will be called a WUM.

Anyway, allegedly the turnip produces an allelopathic substance the rhizomes and roots do not like. The only thing is, they need to be planted thickly. So thick that they probably won't be great for eating because they may not grow bulbous enough. You can harvest the tops though.

I'm going to try it in one part of the garden to see if it works. Just like all of the other options though, it may take up to 3 years.

I was planning on making a pea teepee for my son so the turnips will go well with that I suppose.

For those that do the digging, don't dig in the spring, it invigorates them. Dig in the fall.

Just for info, I live in southern Germany and have horsetail (Schachtelhalm) on my allotment. An older lady, who has the next-door allotment, advised me to just keep pulling them up and make a fertiliser from them (like Monty's nettle fertiliser). It works a treat.

Cover with much dead soil from old pots. Then in a few weeks you can reach through the light soil (1-2 feet?) so easily and pull up handfuls of thin roots. I came across this solution accidentally -obviously. Am going to try using grass cuttings on another site. Will lay this deep but lightly. (Where can you buy dead soil?) Brian