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How to clear Goose Grass quickly and easily

  • How to clear Goose Grass quickly and easily

An elderly gentleman asked me this week to weed a border for him, and in particular to clear out all the “Sweethearts”.


It turned out that he meant the Goose Grass!

In my day, Goose Grass - Gallium aparine, botanically speaking - was known by the rather less romantic name of Sticky Willies... but anyway, I waded into his border and got to work, which meant pulling out yards and yards of the stuff.

As this particular weed is so common, I thought I'd share a couple of tips or hints with you all:

1) Get out there now, before it flowers!

At present, the stems are growing in length, but there are not yet any flowers to be seen, which means that you can pull it up and put it straight on the compost heap without fear of filling the compost with seeds.

It also means you can pull it up without ending up covered in those self-same wretched seeds, which stick to clothing like glue, and then spread themselves everywhere you go.

2) Pull it up from the bottom.

Goose Grass climbs up other plants by means of tiny hooks on the stems and leaves, and if you've ever just grabbed a handful at waist height and pulled, you will know that they tend to come out in a great big tangle, often breaking the more delicate stems of other plants around which they are twined.

If you take just a few extra seconds to bend over and find the root of the thing, you will see that it radiates out from a central point, so grabbing it at the very root means that you immediately get a five-fold benefit, because you can pull out five or more strands at once, instead of just getting one strand.

You don't even need to get the root out: it's an annual weed, which means that it's growing from seed which fell onto your soil last year. It won't regrow from the root if you just pull off the top: although there are no doubt plenty more seeds just waiting to germinate!

Also, because you are pulling against the direction of growth, the stems will slide out through the foliage more easily: I know it sounds wrong - logically, pulling in the direction it's growing would be easier, but try it for yourselves: pulling it out from below is much easier, and much less destructive to your plants.

So there you are: the weather has turned a bit nicer, the Goose Grass is growing, so take a little time to get out into the garden and deal with it now: and by removing it now, you will be saving yourself a lot of work next year. If you leave it for another couple of weeks, it will flower and set seed, and you know the old adage - “One year seeds, seven years weeds!”

Comments (10)

  1. Grower


    Thanks for that...I didn't know it was called goose grass !! I (due to my mum) call it Sweethearts too !

  2. Grower

    Amanda CW

    Weeding with a 5-fold benefit! I love that. What a great tip. I'm on a Goose Grass hunt in the morning. It's just sprung up again here in the last couple of weeks.

  3. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Suzi, whereabouts in the country did you grow up? Perhaps it's a regional name... whatever we call it, you are certainly right, Amanda (waves enthusiastically), it's springing up everywhere. And now we've had some rain... oh dear!

  4. Grower


    Yes it could Suffolk & mum was from Norfolk.
    Oh dear !!

  5. Grower

    Angie's Garden

    Always called Sticky Willies up here Rachel. Not only those to get rid of at the moment, hairy bittercress popping up everywhere! Another one to get rid off before it sets seeds.

    Desperate for rain up here, I've never known it to be so dry. I hope I don't live to regret saying that!!!

  6. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Angie (waves), can't agree more about the bittercress - wretched stuff! I hate the way it flings the seeds out at high velocity. I always called it Spitweed.

    As for the rain... good news, it's raining here!!

  7. Grower


    My Mum always called goosegrass "sweetheart vine" because of the way it clings. If you pull it while it's young and tender, it's edible - cook it like spinach. Never tried it myself; no-one likes greens in our house.

  8. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Whereabouts in the country was your Mum, Sue? This is not a name I had ever heard, but it seems to be quite frequently found!

  9. Grower

    Ruth Coppard

    I’m in southern Italy today where the goose grass (I was brought up in Birmingham, and it’s something else in Sheffield where I live) is high and vicious and in massive bloom. Around a cactus which has its own nastiness when touched. I have warned friends they may never see me again if I don’t get rid of it now, fertile oil is a wonderful thing, I wish I’d read your post sooner!

  10. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Bending over for sticky willies , please don't get me going. No I mean there's another way than pulling them up by their roots, sounds painfull. If you think you might damage a delicate plant they're rapping around cut them with a pair scissors at the base and let them die before they seed.

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