By: Amy Grant
There’s a thorn in the side of anyone trying to attain the perfect lawn and its name is self heal weed. Self heal (Prunella vulgaris) is found throughout the United States and can be aggressive in turf grass. The question then is how to get rid of self heal weed and get back the lawn that all the neighbors envy.
Self Heal Weed Control
Self heal is also referred to as healall, carpenter’s weed, wild sage, or just prunella weed. But whatever you call it, the fact remains that it thrives in grassy areas and is most certainly the bane of the obsessive lawn manicurist. Managing self heal plants, or rather eradicating them, is a difficult task. The weed is stoloniferous with a creeping habitat and shallow fibrous root system.
Prior to managing self heal plants, you need to make a clear identification of the weed since all weeds are not created equal and control methods will vary. Prunella can be seen growing in dense patches most often in grassland, lawns, and wood clearings.
Stems of self heal weed are square and slightly hairy when immature, becoming smooth as the plant ages. Its leaves are opposite, smooth, oval, and slightly pointed at the tip and may be minimally haired to smooth. Self heal’s creeping stems root easily at the nodes, resulting in an aggressive fibrous, matted root system. The blooms of this weed are dark violet to purple and about ½ inch (1.5 cm.) in height.
How to Get Rid of Self Heal
Cultural methods for control alone will make it difficult to eradicate this weed. Hand removal can be attempted. It will be necessary to make repeated attempts at hand removal to keep this weed in check. Improving turf growing conditions to stimulate competitiveness can retard some self heal weeds as well. Self heal weed grows beneath mowing levels that are recommended and will, therefore, just pop back up. Additionally, areas of heavy foot traffic can actually encourage the growth of self heal because the stems will root at the nodes at ground level.
Otherwise, self heal weed control turns towards chemical control strategies. Products used for fighting self heal weed should contain 2,4-D, Cargentrazone, or Mesotrion for post emergence and MCPP, MCPA, and dicamba for existing weed growth, for optimal results. A systemic weed control program that carries the herbicide throughout the turf and, hence, through the weed, killing the weed, root and all is recommended. Repeated applications will be necessary with the most favorable times for application in the fall and again in the spring during peak bloom.
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1. Treating Broadleaf Weeds When It's Dry
Dandelions, clover, and creeping Charlie are some of the most common broadleaf weeds you'll encounter, but plenty of other plants can invade quickly and spread relentlessly. To keep them in check, you may decide to use a granular weed-and-feed product or spray an organic liquid broadleaf weed killer.
The right time: Treat actively growing weeds apply granular products on a dewy morning or spot treat with an organic herbicide on a warm, sunny day.
Why timing matters: Used properly, broadleaf weed killers are highly effective when conditions are optimal. For example, the granules of weed-and-feed products, which are applied with a spreader, must stick to the leaves of the weeds to be effective. That requires moisture, so the perfect time to apply is in early morning when there's a heavy dew on the lawn. If the grass isn't wet, you'll be wasting your time and money. Warm temperatures often help liquid treatments work faster, too. However, if you've been having a hot but dry summer, you'll want to water your lawn first.
Why is bindweed a problem?
Bindweed is long-lived and hard to get rid of, especially when it’s growing amongst garden plants, because the fast-growing root system grows right through the roots of other plants. Hedge bindweed is a particular nuisance, being fast-growing with roots that can grow well over a metre a year and stems that can reach several metres high. The creamy-white roots are brittle and break easily, and even the smallest piece left in the ground will develop into a new plant. Field bindweed is less vigorous, but the same issues apply with the brittle roots and twining stems.
How to control bindweed without chemicals
If you can wait 12-18 months before planting, the easiest way to kill all perennial weeds is to cover the soil with something that excludes all light. Plants need light in order to make food, so in the dark, even the toughest weeds will succumb in time. Use a material such as weed control fabric, black polythene or old carpet. It’s important to weigh down or bury the edges to keep out all light.
- In beds and borders, digging out bindweed roots is the only way to tackle this problematic weed. Winter to early spring is a good time to get on top of it, before plants start growing.
- Every piece of root left in the soil will grow into a new plant, so remove every last bit wherever possible. Use a fork to avoid breaking up the root.
- Where bindweed has grown through the root systems of established plants, loosen the soil on each side of the roots to carefully pull out entire pieces.
- Herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses that are full of bindweed can be lifted and divided whilst dormant and the bindweed removed.
- In summer, if it’s not possible to dig up roots, hoe, cut or pull off shoots to weaken growth.
- Other chemical-free weed control methods, such as organic weedkillers and weed burners, also kill top growth and weaken the weed but won’t kill the roots.
Disposing of bindweed roots
Never put bindweed roots in a compost bin as they will survive and can be spread around the garden when you use the compost. The roots can be safely composted in stout black plastic sacks (a good use for old compost bags) by folding over the top of the bag to keep out light and leaving for at least a year. Bindweed can be disposed of in your garden waste collection or taken to your council recycling centre.
How to control bindweed using chemical weedkillers
As bindweed is a perennial weed, it can only be completely killed with the systemic weedkiller glyphosate. This needs to be applied to the leaves, which is then taken down into the roots as bindweed grows. Other types of weedkiller will kill only the top growth, and bindweed simply regrows from the roots.
Glyphosate comes in several formulations including gel, ready to use spray or concentrate, which you dilute and apply in your own sprayer. Make sure you always follow all safety instructions – glyphosate is thought to be linked to various human cancers and has been banned for municipal use by many UK councils. Apply glyphosate to the foliage only, from when bindweed starts flowering in summer through to early autumn. Take great care to avoid getting this weedkiller on garden plants as it kills everything it touches.
Where bindweed is growing among garden plants, put canes in the ground for the bindweed to twine up. Then, simply slip the growth off the cane, put into a clear plastic bag (still attached to the roots), apply glyphosate, and secure the bag with a clothes peg. Leave in place until the bindweed is completely dead.
Resolva Lawn WeedKiller Extra Ready To Use
Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra Ready to Use is ideal for effective control of broad leaved weeds specifically on lawns. This includes Dandelions, Daisies, White Clover, Yarrow, Buttercups, Self Heal, deadnettle and speedwell as well as broad-leaved docks in lawns.
- Kills the weed NOT the lawn
- For broad-leaved weeds such as clover, daisy, buttercup & dandelions
- Kills the root
- Unique non-drip trigger
- Contains mecoprop-P and dicamba
- NO GLYPHOSATE
- Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra Concentrate kills the weeds without harming the lawn and is powerful against broad leaved weeds including buttercup, daisy, dandelion, clover, docks & many more
- Maximum individual dose: 500 ml product per 25 square metres
- Maximum Number of Applications: 2 per year
Weeds will show signs of distortion (twisting) in the leaves and stem after a couple of weeks—depending on the local growing conditions. Following this the weeds will then die over the coming weeks.
Resolva Lawn Weedkiller contains Mecoprop-P and Dicamba. Use plant protection products safely. Always read the label and product information before use.
When to Use
- Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra Ready to Use should be applied from April until the end of September
- Use on a warm, sunny day on sufficiently developed plants
- Avoid treatment during dry periods and when rain is expected within 24 hours
- Do not use on new grass for 6 months after establishment
- Treatments should not be made immediately after mowing
- For best results, apply the product at least 5 days after the last mowing and wait 7 days after application before mowing again
Where to Use
- Do not apply to individual weeds more than once per year and avoid multiple applications to the same area
- Extreme care must be taken to avoid spray drift onto non-crop plants outside of the target area
How to Use
- Always read the label fully before use
- Shake well before use
- Rotate the spray adjuster to ‘spray’ or ‘stream’
- Keep the sprayer 20cm from target weeds
- Spray leaves as a light spray directly to weeds until they are wet, but avoiding run-off
- For the majority of weeds a single squeeze is sufficient
- Rotate the spray adjuster to ‘X’ position after use and before storage
- Scorching of grass can occur if more than one squeeze is applied to a given area
- Re-treatment may be necessary for well-established difficult to control weeds
- Allow an interval of at least 6 weeks between treatments
- Following spraying, do not cut grass for at least one day after treatment and ideally leave the sprayed area uncut for as long as possible
- The first four mowings of treated grass must be composted for six months before use as a mulch
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can my pets go into the treated area?
A. For non-grazing animals allow product to dry before allowing pets back into the area. For grazing animals allow weeds to fully die
before allowing pets back into the area. This is because weeds that are normally avoided will taste different due to masking of
flavours, and as a result, grazing animals may attempt to eat them. Alternatively, treat half the area, then swap over after 6 weeks
Q. Can I use this on other areas in my garden?
A. Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra is for use on lawns only , and is therefore not recommended for other areas. We recommend
Resolva 24H or Resolva Xtra Tough for total weedkill, including grasses
Q. When can I re-sow lawn seed after using Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra?
A. Resolva Lawn Weedkiller Extra does not leave a residue in the soil. As soon as the weeds have fully died it is fine to re-seed
For any questions or advice, please contact our technical advice line on: 01480 443789 (Mon – Fri 10am – 4pm) or email [email protected]
Contains Mecoprop-P and Dicamba
- If medical advice is needed, have product container or label at hand
Protection during/in use:
- Read label before use
- Keep off skin
- Do not breathe spray
- Avoid contact with skin
- Avoid contact with eyes
- Keep out of reach of children
- Do not eat, drink or smoke when using this product
Storage and Disposal:
- Keep product in original container, tightly closed in a safe place
- Protect from frost
- Keep away from food, drink and animal feedstuffs
- Dispose of unused contents/container to a household waste recycling centre as hazardous waste except for empty containers which can be disposed of in by recycling. Contact your local council for details
- To avoid risks to human health and the environment, comply with the instructions for use
- Do not re-use empty container
Fighting weeds: mugwort and prunella
I F I PRACTICED CHINESE MEDICINE, I’d be all set with enough mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) to stock an herbal pharmacy. Whatever their positive properties, though (and self-heal happens also to be native), I see these two ambitious perennials as weeds, and need to tackle them.
My first step with any weed—meaning: wrong plant, wrong place—is to I.D. it, as I have said before, and try to understand its life cycle, so I have a shot at approaching it in the most effective way, and at the right time of year. (More on how to do that, and a link to weed I.D. tools, is at the bottom of the page.) Since both of these grow from rhizomes, I know I have my work cut out—and probably won’t do better than reducing them, with complete elimination unlikely.
Mugwort (artemisia vulgaris)
T HE NURSERY INDUSTRY agrees with me on this one: bad news. In the Eastern U.S. and Canada, it’s a major issue, because mugwort’s energetic rhizomes can quickly overtake places where regular cultivation isn’t called for, such as a row of trees or perennials in the field, and the plant can reach 4 to 6 feet tall each season, swamping the desired crop.
Easy to confuse when it first emerges with chrysanthemum, with other Artemisia, and even maybe with ragweed, Ambrosia artemisifolia, one way to tell you’ve got mugwort is its leaves, which are bright green on top, but silvery on their undersides. There’s another foliar clue, which is that the lower ones (just above) are less finely cut than the ones at the top of the plant (as in all the other photos). Again, whether top or bottom leaves, they’ll be green on the upper surface and silver underneath.
Despite its use in moxibustion (when an acupuncturist applies heat from the burning leaves to a point on the body), in Ayurvedic medicine, and even (sparingly) to flavor food in parts of Europe and Asia (and in the past to flavor beer), I’d like mine gone. It has insinuated itself in a big island of perennial ornamental grasses (above), where I cannot easily cultivate repeatedly to try to break up the rhizomes and expose them to the surface, where they’d hopefully dry out. I’m left to pull and dig rhizomes after a good soaking rain or watering, to try to at least set it back.
Self-heal (prunella vulgaris)
T HIS LITTLE MINT RELATIVE, an enthusiastic type, loves the rougher areas of turfgrass here, and especially shaded, moist ones. When exposed to regular mowing, it adapts to stay just low enough to escape much damage from the blades, staying quite compact, so mowing isn’t a tactic for fighting it.
I could make a lot of tea from my bountiful supply, and self-heal has been used through the ages as a remedy for immune and skin issues, hypertension and more. And at least it’s green, and low–and bees and butterflies love its little purple flowers, which develop in early summer, though of course that means late-summer seeds, and more Prunella. It’s technically a native plant throughout the U.S., so no surprise I suppose that it’s popular with the insects.
I have plenty to make loads of insects happy, but in a few very prominent spots I’m planning on a little Prunella reduction campaign mid-August into mid-September, timed to coincide with the best window for lawn re-seeding here, when I will hoe some of the biggest patches out and sow turfgrasses and clover. Thankfully, self-heal’s roots are not as formidable as mugwort’s.
Why i learn to i.d. my weeds
I KNOW, you’re probably thinking: Doesn’t she have anything to do with herself but figure out the names of her weeds? (That’s clearweed, or Pilea pumila, above, and Galinsoga ciliata, below.) There I go again, but it really does help. The links below the photo might help, too.
Name that weed: pilea pumila, or clearweed
F INALLY: GOTCHA! For decades each summer I have pulled thousands of self-sown seedlings of a plant whose name eluded me, but whose habit and appearance were all too familiar. I’d come upon one stand after another, summer after summer, lurking in masses under shrubs and trees and even under large perennials. But what was its name? And now I know: It’s clearweed, or Pilea pumila, a cousin of stinging nettle (Urtica dioicia) but minus the barbs, and a North American native. A little about Pilea pumila, and about learning to name–and tackle–your weeds. And also why to sometimes leave a little for the native insects to enjoy.
I knew my garlic mustard from lamb’s quarters or mugwort, wild grape from bittersweet or Ampelopsis, oxalis from everything else. But clearweed kept me in the dark longer than most. I could have guessed at its common name, since the stems are practically translucent, or clear. And no wonder I have so much of it: It favors moist soils such as mine generally is, and shady and semi-shady spots in or near woodlands such as the one I garden on the edge of.
The USDA conservation map show the presence of Pilea pumila in 38 states, and parts of eastern Canada. The Flora of North America (efloras [dot] org) says that Native Americans used clearweed medicinally, “to alleviate itching, to cure sinus problems, and to treat excessive hunger.” The Illinois Wildflowers website notes that certain native insects use the plant, too. All these years, the only thing I thought it was useful for? To aggravate me.
Turns out various caterpillars of moths and butterflies enjoy it as a host plant (they’re listed here and include the comma and the red admiral), and so my new policy is to leave a couple of out-of-the-way patches of clearweed to develop at my place. I still pull it from the more formal garden beds.
Pull weeds now, or else
I BRING UP A WARM-SEASON WEED like this right now (high summer/early fall) for two reasons: There are probably a lot of them in general in our gardens, and specifically because a lot of them are about to go to seed as in the detail photo above. Pull now, or expect more next year.
My cardboard technique for making new garden beds can also work for weed-control, and I sometimes spot-smother smaller areas when I can’t keep up with the pulling or digging. Pilea pumila, unlike some of my other more firmly rooted opponents, is easy to slip out of the ground without tools, particular after a rain. Place seed-laden or rhizomatous weeds in a large plastic bag first, to cook them to death, before incorporating them into the compost heap.
Identify your weeds
K NOW THY ENEMY. After all, how can you outsmart a plant whose habits you don’t even understand? I think success starts with proper ID, and my article on how to identify weeds, including links to many online tools, can help you get to know yours. Don’t wait as long as I did with clearweed don’t give them the upper hand in garden beds. Again, however, I leave some clearweed on the looser fringes of my property–as I do with another native “weed,” jewelweed.