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Ground elder, also known as trefoil or goatsfoot, is one of the most stubborn garden weeds along with couch grass and field horsetail. Hardly any other plant is as hated by hobby gardeners as Giersch. This is due in particular to its root runners, which reach up to 50 cm deep, and the associated sprawling growth. Once spread, it is difficult and laborious to remove. It is all the more important to fight it as early and as meticulously as possible.


ways to combat

In order for girsch control to be successful in the long term, it is important to start control as early as possible. Above all, make sure to grab the goutweed at the root and remove it completely. Weeds can only be kept under control in the long term if the roots are completely removed and not just cut through. Because new plants can develop from every piece of root remaining in the ground and the goutweed can spread again. Various more or less promising methods and tools can be used to combat it.

Giersch, also trefoil or honeysuckle

Regular weeding

On unplanted areas

The most obvious and probably also the most effective method of controlling weed growth is classic weeding, especially with such stubborn weeds as weeds. It is particularly important to pull out the plants before flowering or seed formation and not just superficially, but together with the entire root. As little root debris as possible should be left in the soil, ideally none.

  • start weeding in early spring
  • as soon as fresh shoots appear above ground, remove them continuously
  • Weeding on unplanted areas is the easiest and most promising
  • Easiest to control on loosened, humus-rich and not too heavy soils
  • even dense stands can be finished off in this way
  • Meticulous work can largely prevent spread
  • always use a digging fork and not a spade
  • Spade would dismember the roots and do just the opposite
  • when weeding, work through the area in question piece by piece with a digging fork
  • Thoroughly sift out the root residue
  • Girsch roots are 2 - 3 mm thick and at least 20 cm long
  • they are brittle and reach up to 50 cm deep into the ground
weeding the garden bed

Tip: Never dispose of the sieved root parts in the compost. If the compost is applied later, you would sometimes spread the goutweed throughout the garden and ruin all the work.

On planted areas

On planted areas, for example in vegetable or flower beds, fighting girsch is a little more difficult. It therefore makes sense to thoroughly remove these weeds from the soil when preparing the bed. In addition, it can make sense to protect beds with a sufficiently deep root barrier.

This can be e.g. a fleece or foil that you bring around the bed, about 60 cm deep in the ground. Weeds that have already spread between perennials or grasses can only be removed by carefully digging up each individual ornamental plant, completely removing the goutweed and above all its roots and planting them again. The best time to do this is in spring or autumn, depending on the type of plant.

remove the basis for growth

The best way to get rid of the annoying billyfoot is to deprive it of its livelihood. Like all plants, goatfoot needs light and water to grow and thrive, so longer-term coverage can help. This can be implemented in different ways.

By covering

A cover with mulch film, fleece or bark mulch should suffocate the weeds and gradually eradicate them. This method is relatively lengthy but not 100% promising, because any seeds from the goat's foot can remain germinable in the soil for years. On unplanted areas you can lay out a film that is as dark as possible for a period of at least two years and then cover it with mulch.

On beds with flowers, strawberries or similar, a dark mulch film or garden fleece should be laid out when planting. Small holes or slits are then made in the foil, into which the desired plants are inserted. Here, too, it is advisable to cover the film or fleece with a layer of mulch afterwards. In addition to fleece and foil, conventional cardboard can also be used as a cover and also covered with mulch about 10 cm thick. After about two years, the cardboard will usually have rotted away and the girsch will also have died.

Ground elder with its small white flowers

Tip: If the cover is removed again at some point, the Girsch can settle back at any time if you don't keep up the fight with the fight. But then you could make a virtue out of necessity and use the wild herbs for delicious salads.

Through planting

Light, water and nutrients can also be withdrawn from these weeds by planting ground cover, thereby suppressing their growth. The fact that the soil is loosened up by the ground cover plants is a positive side effect. Plants that are particularly suitable for this are species of cranesbill, golden nettle, bluebells, elfin flowers, fat man, the small periwinkle, Waldsteinia and the carpet knotweed.

  • Ground covers are particularly useful in ornamental gardens, for example in perennial beds
  • dense planting with marigolds also has a strong suppressing effect
  • care for the ground cover plants accordingly for a lasting effect
  • regular cut is of particular importance
  • However, maintenance costs are limited
  • Get rid of ground elder with certain types of vegetables and herbs
  • Bush beans, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and comfrey are particularly suitable
  • barrier made of French beans to stop the spread of goutweed
  • it is incompatible with bush beans
  • Potatoes can suppress growth of goatsfoot particularly efficiently
  • Giersch is a so-called indicator plant
  • it grows particularly well on nitrogen-rich soils
  • the potato takes advantage of this
  • it has the property of extracting a lot of nitrogen from the soil
  • Potato can starve and effectively control these weeds
bed planting

Potatoes also form a dense mulch that can shade the ground perfectly. When planting a new garden, it is best to plant potatoes for a year. They take away the nutrients from the weeds and thoroughly loosen the soil. Incidentally, ground elder can also be kept away or combated with mixed cultures from vegetable beds, here too the ground is usually covered at all times.

through fertilization

As the example with the potato shows, you can also use the right fertilization to combat the goat's foot and combat it effectively. Since this weed needs a lot of nitrogen, you can make life difficult for it with special fertilizers. The main concern here is the administration of lime, in particular calcium cyanamide. However, it is essential to clarify beforehand whether this calcium cyanamide makes sense for the existing or desired planting.

Neighboring useful or cultivated plants could possibly be affected and damaged. Under certain circumstances, it can be helpful to water affected areas preferably with calcareous water and not with rainwater, of course only taking into account the prevailing or future planting.

Tip: If used improperly, calcium cyanamide can cause burns on plants. Therefore, this form of combating goatsfoot is mainly useful when preparing beds.

potato water

Fight ground elder with potato water

Potato water is an old household remedy that has already proven itself many times over. It is also sometimes touted as a true miracle cure when it comes to combating ground elder. Surely you can kill and get rid of the leaves or the above-ground parts of these plants with hot potato water. The roots are hardly damaged, let alone completely destroyed. They usually sprout again relatively quickly. On the contrary, the hot potato water can also damage neighboring plants.


chop off

Chopping off only conditionally suitable

There is often talk of regularly chopping off the areas covered by ground elder if you want to get rid of this nuisance. This weakens the plants, but only superficially and for a short time. If you decide to do it anyway, you should start in early spring, when the first small stands appear.

Don't wait until flowering. Anything else would encourage self-seeding by the girsch and possibly exacerbate the problem. The chopping must be repeated at regular intervals. This can initially reduce the infestation somewhat over time. But as long as the roots or root parts remain in the soil, these weeds will always come through.

Combat ground elder in the lawn

Giersch can usually neither settle nor spread extensively in the lawn, provided it is mowed regularly. It is important to keep the lawn short at all times. This works very well with both a conventional and a mulch lawnmower. Despite everything, it is advisable to free the area in question of existing ground elder as thoroughly as possible before laying a new lawn. Intensively used or walked on lawns can be protected particularly well from these weeds, because this plant does not like that at all. Of course, girsch can also spread to the lawn from neighboring beds or areas, but without being able to cause too much damage.

Lawn freshly mowed

Tip: Lawn strips of different widths can serve very well as a barrier against girsch. They can significantly reduce spreading to adjacent areas if they are mowed regularly.


Use of chemical sprays

A radical way to remove the goat's foot from beds or open spaces are herbicides from specialist shops. The use of such sprays in the garden should only ever be an emergency solution. It should be carefully considered and avoided if possible. The reason for this is that these herbicides can damage or even kill other plants and especially beneficial insects. Chemical agents often only kill the weeds on the surface and have no effect in the root area. Any seeds in the ground are also unaffected.

If, despite everything, you do not want to or cannot do without the appropriate sprays, you should generally use more environmentally friendly preparations. They must always be used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Several treatments are usually required at regular intervals until the desired result is achieved.

Salt and vinegar solutions prohibited

Very often you read and hear about using home-made solutions of salt or vinegar if you want to remove or permanently combat stubborn weeds such as weeds, bindweed or couch grass. It is definitely not advisable to do this, especially since the use of these agents, especially on sealed surfaces such as terraces or sidewalks, is prohibited by law. The reason for the ban is that both agents are equated with regular weed killers (herbicides).

  • Salt and vinegar solutions are applied in a highly concentrated form
  • Treatment must be repeated several times
  • Salt accumulates in the soil with regular use
  • this makes the soil unsuitable for subsequent salt-sensitive crops
  • Acetic acid is a little more environmentally friendly than saline solutions
  • nevertheless, acetic acid is not harmless either
  • regular use leads to acidification of the soil over time
  • Acidification makes, in turn, corresponding liming of the soil necessary
  • both can cause lasting damage to other plants and soil organisms

If you still want to use such means to remove the annoying Girsch, it is better not to use self-made solutions. Special preparations based on acetic acid are commercially available that can be used for this purpose. These agents are appropriately concentrated to achieve optimal effect while minimizing the risk of damaging other plants or soil organisms.

Tip: A complete expulsion of goatsfoot from the garden is usually not possible, not even with a special spray from the specialist trade. But you can definitely curb its growth and prevent it from permanently crowding out other plants.

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