Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Miss Marple's Mystery

“Miss Marple bent down on the terrace outside the French window and delt with some insidious bindweed. It was only a minor victory, since beneath the surface the bindweed remained in possession as always.” -Miss Jane Marple (Agatha Christy’s “Sleeping Murder”)

Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is a native of Eurasia and was first documented in the US (California) in 1884. By the first quarter of the twentieth century, field bindweed was proclaimed the worst weed in California and many of the western states. Field bindweed has been given many names including perennial morning glory, creeping jenny, bellbine, sheep-bine, and corn-bind. And a few that I won't mention used by gardeners weeding a patch.

The root system has both deep vertical and shallow horizontal lateral roots. The vertical roots can reach depths of 20 feet or more. When it travels on the ground it will send roots and stems out forming a new plant.

A hardy perennial, it spreads from the extensive rootstock as well as from seed. An average plant produces over 550 seeds. Sixty year old seeds have been shown to germinate.

Control of field bindweed is not easy, and it cannot be accomplished with a single treatment or in a single season. Effective control requires prevention of seed production, reduction of stored carbohydrates by deep tillage of the root system, competition for light from other plants, and constant vigilance in removing top growth. Pulling before it reaches over 6 inches in height is prudent but only one step.

The principal pollinator is the hawk moth. There are several herbal uses but from what I've read, I'd steer clear of all of them.

It will vine over bushes and ornamentals until it crushes or shades them to death. The best time to use Roundup is in the fall when the plant is storing up nutrients. At that time, Roundup goes to the roots. It is one of the first plants to sprout in the spring so a larger area could be sprayed.

If it is growing among/on evergreens or perhaps tomatoes, find where the vine emerges from the ground and break it, leaving it to die on the plant. Than, as it emerges from the ground again, paint Roundup on it with a brush/sponge.

Note: Garden variety Roundup is a contact hericide and must touch the leaves/flowers to be absorbed and go to the roots. It does no good to spray an area of ground if it doesn't touch the leaves. Caution should be used when spraying as it kills ALL plants sprayed.

Eventually, denying the plant/flowers (IE: seeds), sun and nutrients, plus herbicide use will kill that plant. Once infested, it is almost impossible to totally rid your yard of the vine. Especially if a neighbor's yard or field has an infestation. Do not compost vines or flowers.

A farm field heavily infested with bindweed will generally get less dollars per acre at sale.

Miss Marple knew her bindweed and the very mention in an old story - in another country lets us know how durable this insidious weed has been and still is. As expert, Sam Montana, said, "Good luck in your efforts to rid your yard of bindweed and may the force be with you."

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