What to do with horsetails?

One of our big inquiries at the moment is what to do about the infestation of field horsetails (Equisetum arvense) in the kitchen garden. The things are happily sprouting between the pavings behind the house, and are clearly also having a field day in the neighbour’s garden too.

Apparently, horsetails like acid ground – but according to the results of the soil test we just had done, the soil in the kitchen garden is on the alkaline side (pH 6.7), so that’s not much help… A lot of the advice I have found suggests all sorts of chemicals, but we don’t have to worry about that – we won’t use chemicals, and there’s an end to it.

A little article I found in het Nieuwsblad had a suggestion that tickled me: show them who’s strongest! Just keep pulling them up until the root system is exhausted. I actually rather like that solution, because I find ripping up horsetails remarkably therapeutic. You can really cut a swathe through them in a short time, and feel like you’ve achieved something… Although it’s not as if we have nothing else to achieve in this place!

Pulling up horsetails as therapy...

So what if there’s something more to learn here? The author linked to at the first mention in this post has done some research: “they are a fascinating, unusual, medicinally useful and most successful group of plants that have been around for some 30 million years.  The Horsetails are descendants of a group of ancient tree-like plants that thrived 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous period of pre-history.  We know from fossil evidence that some of these ancestors reached over thirty metres in height.” So, what are they good for? “Uniquely, the stems of Horsetails contain significant quantities of silica granules and silica based compounds that give the plant mildly abrasive qualities which were utilised by early settlements for cleaning pots and polishing wood.  Medical records dating back to ancient Roman, Greek and Chinese civilisations show that Horsetail has been used as a herbal medicine with multiple uses:  It was used to treat open wounds; stemming blood flow and promoting healing, treatment of ulcers, haemorrhage, cystitis, dysentery, chilblains, conjunctivitis, deep-seated lung damage caused by tuberculosis, infections of the urinary tract, problems with kidney and bladder stones and bone disorders such as osteoporosis.”

According to the Nieuwsblad article, you can make tea from it that has a strengthening effect on other plants. And a bunch of the green bottlebrushes can be used to scrub your pots and pans and bring up a shine on your garden implements…

For now, it seems our best option is to “take the philosophical view that if evolution can’t change the Horsetail in 30 million years, I must learn to live with it.”


About iyeshe

Woman returning to the wild. Cunning linguist, mother of twins, witch, host, harvester, spaceholder for the dawning Aquarian age, evolutionary wooden-spoon wielder, self-mitigating carbon footprint, wannabe holon in the forthcoming collective buddha...
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2 Responses to What to do with horsetails?

  1. Erik Mathijs says:

    Hi Helen,
    Our experience is the same: keep pulling. What about the permaculture way, that is, covering the soil and the weeds by cardboard!

    • iyeshe says:

      Hi Erik! Great to read you here… 😀 Thanks for the confirmation – and about the cardboard, fear not, we have that very plan! Only, we haven’t gotten round to it yet. It’s one of the next things on our agenda once we are back in force after Ria’s travels.

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