Situation/Question posed to Jefferson County plant clinician:
A resident of Port Townsend lives on a lot that apparently used to have horsetail but it had been diminished significantly. However, it has returned and is spreading. Over the past year or two she has researched and attempted to get rid of it to no avail. It just keeps reappearing. It grows in an area of her yard that is naturally damp. She is very reluctant to use chemicals.
We discussed the following:
Herbicides do not work on horsetail (aside from the fact that that use is not recommended in wet areas).
Horsetails like “wet” so not watering/ improving drainage would be good. She commented that they do get watered when the rest of her yard is watered, so she will adjust her watering technique.
It is very hard to completely eradicate horsetails, so a system of “management” is a more productive (and less frustrating) approach.
Management can include cutting the fertile stems in the spring, and cutting the sterile stems again, later. This will weaken the roots and stop photosynthesis. Horsetails can be dug out, carefully, with the realization that there is an extensive underground root system and little bits left will generate more horsetail, so it’s definitely an ongoing management issue.
We discussed that Horsetail Frustration Syndrome might also be muted if they are understood and appreciated for the fascinating, beautiful and ancient plants that they are. We discussed prehistoric origins and use by Native Peoples and that management (living with them) is an appreciation of this. I think we both enjoyed this discussion!