The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


bindweedThe long period of rain and a few weekends working has given the bindweed the sort of break that it needs to really romp. In fact some more remote parts of the garden it looks as if we are deliberately cultivating the weed. We have most varieties from the dinky miniature columbine to the Jack and the Beanstalk sized plants that can smother a shrub in days and have to be attacked with secateurs.

I hate bindweed. The appearance of the pretty bell shaped flowers flags the need to grab a small machete and act immediately. If the bindweed goes to seed the problem will be much worse next year.

Every spring I dig out wheelbarrow loads of its roots, dry and burn them. For a few weeks I think that I’ve finally killed it off and gradually, stop checking so thoroughly. Even though I suspect that it is silently creeping through the branches of large shrubs and twisting through the stems of plants I rarely spot it. Until, seemingly overnight, it has the garden in its grip again.

As the season progresses there is less time to deal with this bully unless it is romping towards our edible produce. But today, out in the sunshine for the first time in weeks I hacked and tugged at the jungle. I filled four barrow loads with the weed which is now drying in a large heap beside the bindweed crematorium. An incinerator for burning the most truculent weeds.

Taking a break I decided to find out if bindweed has any culinary uses. I know that ground elder, my other enemy, is edible and was surprised to discover that you can eat bindweed. This useful website explains that it can be eaten in moderation as it has a purgative effect. I nipped straight out to the garden and sampled a leaf. It was quite tricky to chose which would be the right leaf to ingest. I tried a big leaf first. It tasted quite fresh and salady initially but with a nasty burst of bitterness that lingered in the mouth. I tried a tiny leaf hoping that the taste would be milder but the same bitterness came through. If you need a purge, bindweed soup could be just the answer. The roots are edible too.

Clearing barrow loads bindweed can be satisfying only in the short term, if you ignore the roots it will grow back quickly. Many gardeners encourage it to grow up canes and then poison the lot. I’m not keen to go down the poisoning root as it’s easy to loose precious plants in the process.

Tips and tricks:

  • If bindweed has got a firm grip in your garden, don’t struggle to remove the twisting stems from your shrubs and plants. If you snip the stems near the ground it is much easier remove the bindweed when it has wilted. If you don’t have time to remove the bindweed make sure that you nip of the flowers and buds to stop it self seeding.
  • When making a new bed or replanting an old one, try a dig down to at least twelve inches. We do this twice and always find a lot more bindweed roots the second time.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Subutbiata,

    Thanks for your input. I think that I am going to have to use roundup or open up a research centre for psychedelic alkaloids.

  2. Subutubiata

    Bindweed requires ruthless, backbreaking management. Or roundup. Bastard trenching is the only long term organic solution.
    Strangely bindweed is in the same family as ololiuhqui, and presumably contains psychedlic alkaloids. Now there’s an interesting use for an otherwise despised plant…

  3. Fiona Nevile

    I agree, Rosemary, after half an hour or so spent clearing the bindweeed, I begin to feel like a character from Sleeping Beauty.

  4. Rosemary

    We have waged constant war on bindweed here for the three years since we bought this house.It is in every bed bar one and the greenhouse grows a bumper crop !! But this summer is the worst due to the rain,one day the whole family will disappear forever under this plague.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lynn,

    It is a very pretty weed so I can see why he wanted it left. There’s that boy thing too – how far will it romp if we leave it alone? Our bindweed has never got into the pond but it loves to drape itself along the trellis at the back of the pond.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    I didn’t realise that the roots go down to 14′ no wonder it is such a nightmare to eradicate.

    Hi hedgewizard,

    Glad that you are enjoying the blog. Food is a passion. On a diet this week (for the first time in years) so as to squeeze into a dress for a wedding next weekend, it’s going to be hard…

    Hi Cooking Ninja,

    Thanks for dropping by. Bindweed is a terror for gardeners, especially if it grows in between plants in borders as its roots are difficult to dig up.

    Hi z,

    It’s interesting to know that it took that long to get rid of the bindweed. Good tip, thanks for sharing.

  6. When I put up a new greenhouse, I covered the ground with black polythene, old carpet and anything else available to smother perennial weeds. I had to leave it there for two years to get rid of the bindweed.

  7. The Cooking Ninja

    Thanks for the tips. The plant looks so beautiful. It’s a shame it is such a terror for the gardeners.

  8. hedgewizard

    Great blog, Fi, and of much interest now that I have more time to cook. I love your writing style, and you seem to take after my own heart… as in, that’s breakfast over. What shall we have for lunch?

  9. Kate(uk)

    I too think it is a rather pretty weed but a complete b******d at the same time-the roots can go down 14ft, hence it’s nickname ‘devil’s guts’. I find that letting it wear itself out growing and flowering then attacking it does make it less vigorous year by year and the little pink-flowered one will eventually give up after four years or so of continual pulling up.I still wake bug-eyed in the night thinking of the year the big white one invaded my compost heap under my neighbour’s fence…you just have to keep on digging…

  10. Fiona ~ my husband loved bindweed. Seriously!! I literally had to let the evil weed creep its way to the birdhouse where the morning glory and scarlet runners are growing and it even crept its way into the pond where it wrapped itself around the water cress and water lilly. He then suggested that we kill it.

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