How to kill horsetail

Updated April 17, 2017

Killing horsetail weeds, regardless of type or temperament, is a matter of making the garden an uninviting breeding ground for this common weed. With an aversion to simple chemical destruction, the gardener must work a little harder to rid all species of Equisetum arvense. A properly maintained garden is key to killing horsetail.

Buy a soil testing kit that includes a pH level indicator to find out which chemicals, nutrients or minerals you need to create a balanced pH in your garden. As horsetail prefer low nutrition soil, this is a great way to deter growth.

Use homemade compost to infuse additives into top soil and deter horsetail and other low-nutrient weeds from growing in the first place. If you don't already have a home compost heap, start one and, in the meantime, buy a few bags of compost from the local garden centre.

Break the stem of the horsetail before spraying with nitrogen-based weed killer. Cover the broken plant with a piece of scrap cardboard and a layer of weighty mulch or soil. Composting horsetail in this manner breaks down the weed and deters further growth.

Put white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray the horsetail plant until soaked. Saturate the base of the plant with the vinegar to penetrate the soil to the roots. This should kill the individual plant without harming surrounding flowers and shrubs.

Mulch the soil at the beginning and the end of the growing season. A cultivating machine cuts into roots and plants making it difficult for them to regrow. This may help reduce the amount of horsetail that grows the following season.

Rip away all seed heads and dispose of in a tightly lidded rubbish bin. Seed heads disperse seeds into the top soil and vastly increase the number of plants and the difficulty of eliminating them.

Understand that horsetail is one of the most determined weeds on the planet, and only consistent maintenance and upkeep will reduce its numbers and keep your garden weed-free.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test
  • Compost
  • Nitrogen
  • Mulch
  • Cardboard
  • Spray bottle
  • Vinegar
  • Cultivator
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About the Author

Trish Popovitch is a freelance writer with 10 years of professional writing experience and a degree in the social sciences. A former print journalist and current blogger and magazine writer, her content writing is a reflection of her varied background.