Posted on

sticky jack seeds

How to Get Rid of Sticky Willy

Perhaps best known as Sticky Willy, Galium aparine – USDA growing zones 3 to 7 – is an annual plant, largely considered to be a weed. With some basic steps, however, the savvy gardener can effectively remove it from his or her yard. Also known as Goosegrass, Coachweed, Catchweed and Cleavers, it can cause some serious problems for both gardeners and farmers.

Why Get Rid of Sticky Willy?

The sap of the plant can cause severe skin irritation in people who are sensitive to it. If left unchecked, the plant can also severely hinder other plants’ ability to grow. If left unchecked in agricultural operations, the plants can reduce crop yield in some species by between 30 and 60 percent.

The seeds and foliage of Sticky Willy can contaminate the wool and fur of some livestock raised for the production of clothing. If animals consume it, it can inflame their digestive tracts. Its seeds can get stuck in the fur of animals and is very difficult to remove. It can also carry with it different diseases and pests.

Identifying Sticky Willy by Its Small Spines

Sticky Willy is quite easy to identify, thanks to the downward-pointing brown prickles on its leaves – which appear in groups of between six and eight – and stems. Its oblong-shaped eggs have slightly notched tips. Its seed leaves, or cotyledons, are smooth, however. If allowed to mature, Sticky Willy can grow to be 40 inches tall. Large groups of the plants often spread in dense mats over the ground, made all the more dense by their spines. Their flowers are four-parted and often white or greenish-white.

The weed can be found around the world. Most often, Sticky Willy grows in moist and shady areas such as areas filled with waste, on roadsides and in gardens. The species can also affect the growing of hay, rapeseed, sugar beets and various cereals.

Removing Sticky Willy Is Harder Than You Think

Getting rid of a Sticky Willy plant is easy enough; in fact, it’s just a matter of pulling it from the ground. However, each plant can have between 300 and 400 seeds, which spread readily and can lie dormant in soil for six years.

The best way to remove the plants for good is to get them out of the soil before the plants flower and develop their seeds — ideally in the early spring. This can be done using a hoe or another tool that gets to the roots, or by hand. As the plant’s sap is irritating, wearing gloves is an important step if you choose the latter option. If the plant has already flowered, attempting to remove it will only spread the seeds.

Applying a heavy layer of organic mulch or using plastic mulch can also prevent the seeds from reaching the soil or getting enough light to grow.

Gardeners looking to avoid Sticky Willy near their homes should be sure to brush down their clothing and pets after walking in areas where the weed is commonly found, or after exposure. Like most parts of the plant, the seeds are covered in tiny barbs that can stick to cloth or fur easily. The seeds spread easily, and even a few of the hardy seeds can cause an outbreak in a garden.

Chemical Solutions for Galium Aparine

Some herbicides have proven to be effective in removing the pesky plant. Contact herbicides containing acetic, fatty or pelargonic acids can scorch off Sticky Willy’s foliage, including its seed leaves. However, these can damage nearby plants, so covering desirable garden plants is recommended, at least until the chemicals dry on the weed foliage.

Glyphosate can be used in the same way, but it’s more important to ensure none of it gets on any other plants.

Cleavers

Cleavers (Galium aparine), with its characteristic ‘sticky’ seeds, is easily introduced to gardens from uncultivated land and can become a nuisance in beds and borders.

Quick facts

Jump to

What is cleavers?

Cleavers is a common annual weed native to hedgerows, scrub and arable land, which can spread to gardens on the fur of animals and clothing of passers-by. Although seedlings usually appear singly, rather than en masse like many other common weeds, the numerous and easily distributed seeds mean the weed can quickly establish in gardens if not controlled promptly.

Cleavers can be a good addition to a wildlife garden, as it provides food for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species, including the impressive hummingbird hawk moth.

Butterflies in your garden

Moths in your garden

This page looks at options for gardeners when cleavers are becoming a problem.

Appearance

Weak, sprawling stems, up to 1m (39in) long bear whorls of 6-8 long, slender green leaves with a prominent central vein. Tiny greenish-white flowers are borne in branching clusters from May to August and develop into round, green or purple fruits 3-5mm in diameter. Stems, leaves and seed have stiff hooked hairs.

The problem

Control

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.

Cultural control

  1. Hand-pulling or hoeing of weed seedlings is the easiest way to control this weed, but is time consuming and needs doing promptly – before plants flower and set seed – to be effective. Use gloves if grasping stems directly. As seeds can lie dormant in the soil for long periods of time, this task will be on-going.
  2. To help reduce the number of seeds introduced to the garden, brush down clothing and pet fur following walks on arable or uncultivated land where the weed is most commonly found. It is also important to avoid adding any mature weeds, which have set seed, to a home compost bin.
  3. To prevent germination of weed seedlings, apply an opaque mulching film or layer of bulky organic mulch, such as woodchips, to the soil at a depth of at least 8cm (3in).

Weedkiller control

In beds and borders
Non-selective contact herbicides containing acetic acid (Weedol Gun! Fast Acting, Roundup Speed Ultra, Ecofective Spot On Fast Acting Weedkiller), fatty acids (SBM Solabiol Super Fast Weedkiller) or pelargonic acid (Doff 24/7 Fast Acting Weedkiller, Neudorff Weedfree Plus, Resolva Xpress Weedkiller, Roundup NL Weed Control) can be used in such situations to scorch off foliage. Take care if applying such herbicides between ornamental plants by covering them with plastic sheeting whilst spraying. The covers can be removed once the spray has dried onto the weed foliage.

The systemic non-selective herbicide glyphosate can be used in the same way, but it is particularly important to avoid spray or spray drift coming into contact with garden plants. If treating weeds in the immediate vicinity of garden plants, apply carefully using a ready-to-use spray in cool, calm weather. Protect branches and shoots by tying them aside, or by using covers or screens. Make sure weed foliage has dried before releasing branches or removing coverings.

Around established trees and shrubs
SBM Job done Tough Weedkiller (ready-to-use only), SBM Job done Path Weedkiller (ready-to-use only) and Weedol Pathclear products containing glyphosate/diflufenican and can be applied once a season to natural surfaces where no plants are to be grown, and can also be applied under and around established woody trees and shrubs. This product kills off existing small green growth and prevents or checks developing growth. Check manufacturer’s recommendations before use to avoid damaging sensitive plants.

Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.

Download

Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 3 and 5).