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Horsetail is a valuable plant for many gardeners, which is used for a variety of purposes due to its properties. However, it can happen that the horsetail plant (bot. Equisetaceae) spreads too much, crowds out other plants and becomes a weed. If that's the case, many gardeners want to get rid of the cat's tail, but it's not that easy. Because chemical agents are poorly suited to combating the rhizome-forming geophyte, it is home remedies and classic garden care steps that are effective against the plant. Especially in sunny and warm areas, the plant often spreads widely, as it is a true sun worshiper. But you can take advantage of this, because the field horsetail is tackled primarily by changing its current location.

7 home remedies to fight horsetail

Horsetail is a stubborn growth that is not easy to combat. The reason for this is the rhizome, which can spread rapidly within a short time and, especially under favorable conditions, become one of the predominant "weeds" in unkempt gardens. If you want to tackle this, there are several "home remedies" that you can use. Some of these are actually just classic care measures, because horsetail rarely or not at all settles in a well-kept garden. The following home remedies will help with an infestation:

Winter Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale

1. Remove rhizomes

Removing the rhizomes by hand is the best, but also the most physically demanding solution. This measure is always linked to a soil improvement, because compacted soils or soils plagued by waterlogging are the ideal location for the robust horsetail plants. For this reason, by digging up the site, you can not only remove the annoying rhizomes, but also incorporate fresh substrate and a drainage material such as sand. The following points explain this process a little more clearly:

  • dig up effectively in young specimens
  • extremely strenuous and time-consuming for older people
  • digging up the earth with spades and shovels
  • Expose rhizomes
  • remove by hand
  • alternatively use scissors or saws
  • Incorporate drainage
  • incorporate fresh substrate or fertilizer

If the Katzenwedel has been in this location for a very long time, digging it up is almost no longer worthwhile. Then the only thing that helps is regularly digging up the soil and incorporating good drainage. This allows other plants to settle and drive away the field horsetail, which will no longer feel comfortable in this location anyway.

2. Hot water

Yes, hot water is a classic in the garden and can be used just as effectively against horsetails. You simply have to pour boiling water over the visible parts of the plant. These are then received and can easily be removed. However, you must combine this measure with the removal of the rhizomes, otherwise the plant will keep growing new stalks. For young plants, however, boiling water can work if it destroys the rhizomes that are not yet so strong. However, this is not so easy to see, as they reach quite deep into the ground.

3. Liming

Since field horsetail does not tolerate lime, you can make life difficult for the plant simply by watering it with calcareous tap water. Nevertheless, tap water has only a minor effect on the robust cat wag. You should therefore add lime to speed up the effect. Just bring classic garden lime periodically at the site and the plant will wither over time. However, be careful not to use this method if there are lime-sensitive plants such as rhododendrons in the immediate vicinity.

4. Apply fertilizer

Since the Katzenwedel is an indicator plant, you can assume that your soil may not only be compacted or low in lime, but low in nutrients. Horsetails thrive in poor soil and for this reason it has proven beneficial to enrich the soil with enough fertilizer to make the site unpalatable to the plant. For this purpose, the following fertilizers are best established:

  • composted horse manure
  • mature compost
  • horn shavings
  • bone meal
  • artificial fertilizer (containing nitrogen)

You need to enrich the soil at the site of the field horsetail with these fertilizers and before long you will realize that the plant is not doing well. The excess of nutrients eats away at the crop and the additional tillage allows you to remove some of the rhizomes.

5. Mowing

Proper mowing is one of the best-known methods of permanently removing unwanted weeds from the lawn. This prevents the plant from receiving enough light and being able to grow vigorously enough to spread further. This method has been used for years to keep the lawn free of weeds and unwanted plants. However, you cannot just pick up the lawnmower and get started right away. The following points will help you to take effective action against the growth in your lawn:

  • mow every eight to 14 days
  • water thoroughly while waiting
  • there must be a closed lawn cover
  • never mow shorter than four centimeters
  • four to eight centimeters are recommended
  • Simply leave the grass clippings where they are needed
  • repeat all summer
  • sow in autumn

The reason for this cutting height is the amount of light. The taller the blades of grass, the less light reaches the young horsetail plants and they cannot really sprout effectively. Over time, they wither away and are simply removed when mowing. You should therefore never mow shorter than four centimetres, otherwise this effect cannot work. If your lawn still needs some nutrients, you can simply leave the grass cuttings. This also causes a lack of light for the herbs.

6. Regular pruning measures

What many people forget is the independent propagation of horsetails via spores. Since they have no flowers, shoots are formed, from which spores are released in spring from March to April. You must take care of this in order to prevent further spread to other places. Although the propagation via spores only happens annually, even distant corners of your garden can be reached. To prevent the plant from spreading via spores, do the following:

  • choose sharp scissors
  • cut all specimens generously back to the ground in spring
  • dispose of the shoots on the compost
  • alternatively in household waste
  • just to be on the safe side
  • It is best to cut back again in summer and autumn
  • do this as thoroughly as possible
Spores of the giant horsetail

You cannot get rid of the existing field horsetail with this measure. To do this, protect the rest of your garden from the aggressively spreading plant. This is important, because this is the only way you can avert the horsetail invasion in the long run.

7. Create shadows

As simple as it may sound, shadow works very well against field horsetail sprout. The reason: the plant needs a lot of sunlight to thrive and quickly dies due to a lack of light. So if you have the opportunity to provide shade for the infested area in the garden, you should do so immediately. In particular, a sudden loss of sunlight hits the plant hard and you can use it to stem the spread and then get the rhizomes out of the ground.

Very rarely does it happen that horsetail pushes its way between flagstones or paving stones. If this is the case, you can effectively remove them superficially with a flame-flame tool. Otherwise, you should be very thorough with all of the above methods, as even small mistakes or carelessness will lead to the spread again. The stubborn growth is not to be trifled with, especially if you have neglected your garden for a long time. You will achieve the best result if you combine several of the home remedies mentioned above. An example:

  • boiling water
  • dig up the ground
  • Incorporate drainage and fertilizer
  • provide shade

This combination works wonders in the long run. Although field horsetail cannot be defeated immediately, the robust plant can be defeated with patience.

tip: If you decide to use an herbicide instead of the home remedies, you will not enjoy it for long. The products are effective on the field horsetail, but only on the part above the ground, while the rhizomes can survive and sprout again suddenly.

Avoid certain home remedies

There are other classic home remedies that have been used for decades to combat field horsetail. However, due to their side effects on soil quality, these are strictly controlled or just plain forbiddento use them for private purposes. We're talking about:

  • salt
  • vinegar and vinegar essence

In itself, there is nothing wrong with using these products on your own lawn or in your vegetable patch. Nevertheless, these affect the soil so severely that many sensitive plants can no longer be planted there for years. Examples would be:

  • Strawberries (bot. Fragaria)
  • Rhododendron (bot. Rhododendron)

Likewise, the use of salt and vinegar is prohibited on all surfaces that you do not use for gardening purposes, such as your terrace or paved paths. Since these do not allow them to seep into the ground, the home remedies get into the sewage system and are therefore prohibited by law on these surfaces. Its use on your lawn or vegetable patch is not against the law, but it is not recommended in any way if you intend to continue using the soil there.

tip: There is also a potential hazard from using vinegar and salt as weed killers in relation to groundwater. If you control sprawling horsetail specimens with vinegar or salt with high levels of these agents, they can seep into and contaminate groundwater.

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