If you have reeds in your garden, you will quickly notice that their vigorous growth can cause problems. Annihilation offers a solution, but it is not easy. The following instructions show how to reliably remove reeds.


As popular as the reeds are and the strong growth is welcome, at least initially, the roots are spreading at breakneck speed. Its foothills can be meters long and, as a dense root system, quickly take up large areas in beds and ponds. They even grow under the lawn. If reeds are not stopped, they crowd out everything around them and in “no time” the pretty ornamental garden can become a place that resembles a reed plantation. It becomes particularly expensive when the roots in the pond damage the liner. Prevention is good and useful, but if you miss the right time, you usually have no choice but to remove the whole plant and especially the roots.

Not easy – the distance

The roots of Phragmites can go as deep as 1.5 or 2 meters into the soil. Laterally, they often reach a length of up to 2.5 meters. As a rule, the roots of the Chinese reed are longer than those of the reed, but in both cases the destruction involves effort, patience and, above all, care. Deep and wide excavations are required, ideally to catch even the smallest spur to prevent new growth. Reeds are often difficult to remove, especially from bank plants, because you have to be particularly careful not to damage the foil or pull up/root out other bank/water plants.

Necessary garden tools and supplies

Before starting the project, it is important that all the necessary garden tools and utensils are readily available. These include:

  • saw, pruning shears or secateurs
  • Spitzhacke
  • Spade – ideally with a pointed shovel front
  • robust gardening or work gloves (hands are heavily used)
  • Goggles to keep stable reeds from hurting eyes
Tip: The larger the reeds are, the longer and deeper the roots run. A small garden excavator can be useful for very large specimens. These can be hired – and if you don’t trust yourself to drive/guide yourself, you can hire an experienced helper at the same time.

Destroy by digging

The most common, but also most time-consuming method of removing reeds is digging up the roots and root parts. With young reeds, the digging might be minor, while with each year of life the chance of having to dig deeper and wider until everything is out of the ground increases. Proceed in three steps:

First step: cut

Before you get to the roots, reeds have to be cut. Everything that protrudes above the earth’s surface is to be cut as low as possible. Especially with extensive reed grasses, multiple cutting approaches are usually necessary.

Second step: loosen superficial roots

In the second step, superficial, exposed roots are loosened with the pickaxe. Here’s how:

  • Loosen the ground over a large area with the pointed side
  • Push loosened soil aside (pile it up at least as far away as the reeds are high – for enough space for further excavation)
  • get the pickaxe in as deep as you can
  • Cut through accessible roots with a pickaxe (thicker ones are easier to cut with a spade)
  • Collect and remove visible loose root parts immediately

Third step: using the spade

The physical challenge begins with the third step at the latest. Now it’s time to dig, dig and dig again. It is best if you do the following:

  • first dig in the breadth – until no more roots and root residues are visible
  • then dig deep
  • Start deep digging from about the middle of the plant (this is where the main root network runs, which is usually the deepest)
  • Work evenly from the inside to the outside
  • For better freedom of movement, cut through exposed roots in order to be able to remove shortened reeds
  • Collect loose root pieces immediately so that they are not overlooked later
  • dig deep and wide until the last piece of root is found

Lawn mowers for fighting reeds

Another way to reliably get rid of phragmites is mowing. Patience is required with this method, but according to numerous experiences, the plant can be completely destroyed in this way because at some point it submits to the permanent radical pruning and gives up. she enters To do this, you should follow the instructions below:

  • Cut the reeds/grass close to the ground
  • drive over it regularly with the lawn mower (mower robots are usually not suitable)
  • in the case of thick reeds, chopper knives or garden tillers may be used
  • Autumn/winter pruning is particularly important – increases the risk of frostbite and fatal frost damage
  • Duration of destruction: between two and six months, depending on the season, weather and cutting frequency

Destroy reeds in the pond

It is optimal if the phragmites has not yet spread and can be easily pulled out with a plant basket or from the bank mud without much effort. However, if the roots spread around other bank/water plants and, in the worst case, even on or under the pond liner, the effort is significantly higher and you have to be particularly careful:

  • remove all reed plants to be retained from pond (put in bucket of water or similar)
  • remove all decoration and stones from the pond
  • drain pond water
  • Digging roots out of shore soil
  • Carefully loosen roots from pond liner
  • remove all plant and root parts without exception
  • Check foil for leaks/holes/damage and repair if necessary
  • Clean the foil well
  • Refill and decorate the pond

chemical destruction

Chemical products to destroy reeds should be avoided in any case. Aside from the environmental impact and possible damage to health, the use of chemical agents can also kill neighboring plants and leave the soil unsuitable for new planting for years. That’s why: Stay away from chemicals!

Prevention instead of aftercare

Especially when it comes to pond planting, reeds should not be missing. However, the effort involved in removing reeds should not cause hobby gardeners to do without phragmites altogether, because with the right prevention of excessive root growth, complicated removal does not have to occur in the first place. A root barrier ensures that the roots do not spread uncontrollably. This is simply used when planting – whether in the garden bed or in the pond.

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