The horror of horsetail

Credit: Carolyn Herriot

This means that horsetail spreads underground and above ground, probably the reason it’s ranked as one of the world’s five worst weeds!

Horsetail thrives in wet places, such as shallow ponds, ditches, marshy areas and moist woods. It thrives in low pH, low oxygen and low nutrients. Moist and boggy soil provides all three of these conditions, but dry soil which is poor quality, compacted and acidic, can also meet these requirements.

The only way to get rid of this pernicious weed takes time and effort. Increase the fertility, improve the drainage and change the pH of the infested area so that horsetail succumbs to other plants and relinquishes its reign of terror.

Control methods:

  • Dig a ditch for improved drainage to the area
  • Apply dolomite lime. Water it in well.
  • Wait two weeks and fertilize by spreading compost and manure in a layer 5cm (2 inches) deep.
  • Repeat again the following year if necessary. Gradually you will see an improvement, but it can take up to five years!
  • In April chop off any pinkish-yellow pointed domes on top of the spikes of horsetail, as these heads contain millions of spores, which will blow into the garden and become new horsetails! Do not compost them. Rake them up and dispose of them.

Do Not:

  • Pull the stems- this multiplies the problem underground.
  • Dig out the roots – they resprout.
  • Cover with black plastic, horsetails thrive under it.
  • Cover with bark mulch – a perfect blend of acidic, moist and airless which horsetails love.
  • Spray with weed killers, only the top growth will die, the rest will regrow.

The folk names, scouring rush, bottle brush and shave grass, allude to this plant’s practical use as a fine grade of sandpaper. It has been used to file stone, polish wood, and scour cookware. Medicinally it’s a useful plant too. Of all known herbs, horsetail contains the highest amount of silica, important for healthy hair, skin, nails, and connective tissues throughout the body. Since ancient times horsetail has been used to heal wounds, treat urinary infections and strengthen bones.

Recipe for Relief for Rheumatism:
Steep100g of horsetail in hot water for an hour, and add to the bath. It helps ease the pain of rheumatism.

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