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Replacing membrane on established gravel garden

Hi all, new to this forum but hopefully somebody can help.

We have quite a large gravel 'dried riverbed' style front garden complete with smallish mixed gravel it is very established with some beautiful plants. Back in the day I'm sure it looked amazing but we've only recently moved into the house and it now needs some attention after being neglected for well over a year.

The problem we have is with a horsetail type weed that seems to invested the whole area.

On closer inspection, it appears it as attached itself to the (old/damaged) membrane, the root network is vast underneath the gravel stuck tightly to the membrane, and as expected it readily gives up it's stalks with a light tug. Obviously solves the problem for a few days but then it returns with a vengence!

My plan is to replace the entire membrane/gravel and leave all the plants where they are but I am completely new to gardening so wanted to know:

a) is this even possible without damaging the plants?

b)is it something a novice could tackle or would it be described as a 'advanced' task?

Could anyone give me any advice on things to remember. I have heard that it is possible to wash the gravel but the horsetail is so developed I'm very reluctant to put anything back once the new membrane is now for fear of it returning.

Many thanks in advance



  • As jobs go, that is big,

    I've never encountered i but from what I've heard from others you'll need to dig out the root networks.

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,963

    I'd be tempted to spray glyphosate on all the horsetail as it appears through the stone.  It takes a number of applications.. the more plant showing the better.  

    The problem is, you'll never get rid of it.  Despite taking off the stones, removing the membrane, and all the hours of physical labor digging out every single possible root.. it will still come back. It's been around since the age of the dinosaurs.. and is unlikely to disappear from your garden.  

    So grab a spare 'cone of shame' from someone's pet dog, isolate the horsetail from your perennials inside the cone, and give it a good soaking of RoundUp.  Keep that up for th entire summer, and you may be further ahead than if you had done all the hard manual labor.

    Utah, USA.
  • Marksw76Marksw76 Posts: 18

    Thanks for your replies

    Sounds like it might be a job for 'the professionals' I forgot to mention the area size is roughly 4 metres square, that said the gravel is layered quite thin in places with a couple of 'bald' spots where the membrane is showing although I can imagine theres a lot more than it looks!

    The plan was to skip the lot and start again, for fear of any rogue horsetail getting back into the garden once it's (hopefully) eradicated

    Verdun - Would I not have to use a membrane if I was putting new gravel down, surely without it the stones would end up bedded into the soil and the weeds would take over?

  • richhondacrichhondac Posts: 222
    Weed killing would be a lot easier and much cheaper that ripping the whole lot out.
  • Marksw76Marksw76 Posts: 18

    Thanks folks, looks like it's going to be a long war against the dreaded Horsetail then, rather than ripping it all out and starting over.

    Maybe a starting point would be, as Verdun suggests, lose the membrane for the time being (it's definitely got to go, it looks unsightly, some is blue plastic - now brittle and some is the more conventional membrane)

    I'm still curious how I would stop the gravel disappearing into the earth without a membrane though.

    I've also since found out through some internet research that I need to 'bruise' the Horsetail first before applying the weedkiller. Last time I was just spraying it on and as the leaves are so spindly/waxy it seemed to just kill a few of the branches and that was it.

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,963

    If you want gravel.. put down a layer of good sized crushed rock first.. then add the pea gravel on top.  It will keep it from disappearing after a few weeks of rain.

    I never knew about bruising the horsetail first.. I'll give that a try! 

    Utah, USA.
  • Marksw76Marksw76 Posts: 18

    OK, so I've sprayed Roud Up Tree stump and weed killer (is this glyphosate?) on to my beloved Horsetail on Saturday.

    So far it doesn't seem to have made the slightest bit of difference. What I mean by that, is that obviously it won't have disappeared overnight but the bits i sprayed it on haven't turned brown at all.

    If you look closely, you could argue it doesnt look quite as green but thats it!

    Is this normal? (I used 20ml in 1 litre of water in a pressure sprayer as advised)

    Any help greatly received!!

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,399
    It'll take longer than a couple of days to show an effect. A week or two is more like it. Ech, sounds like you've inherited a hell of a job! Best to tackle this sort of thing patiently and methodically.
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