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How to Get Rid of Sticky Willy. Sticky willy (Galium aparine) goes by many different, descriptive common names including bedstraw, catchweed, beggar’s lice, scratchweed and velcro plant. This annual plant is often an unwanted weed where it invades roadsides, home landscapes and vegetable or flower gardens, often … STICKY weeds, or cleavers, is easily introduced to gardens and can quickly become a sprawling mess, affecting flower beds and borders. Here’s how to get rid of sticky weed. Sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It's an annual and easy removed.

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.

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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.

How to get rid of sticky weed – how to get rid of cleavers for good

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Sticky weed is also known as cleavers and is a common annual weed native to hedgerows, scrub and arable land, which can spread to gardens via the fur of animals and clothes of people passing by. Seedlings normally appear in single form, rather than in congregation as many other common weeds do. The numerous and easily transmissible seeds mean the weed can quickly establish itself in gardens if they’re not brought under control straight away.

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How to get rid of sticky weed

Hand pulling or hoeing of weed seeds is arguably the easiest way to control cleavers.

However, the downside is it can be time consuming and has to be done quickly before the plants, flowers and seeds set, in order to be effective.

Make sure to use gloves if you’re grasping the stems directly to protect yourself.

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As seeds can lie dormant in the soil for long periods of time, however, this task will likely be ongoing.

How to get rid of sticky weed – how to get rid of cleavers for good (Image: Getty)

How to get rid of sticky weed: Sticky weed can become a nuisance if not properly dealt with (Image: Getty)

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The aim of hoeing is to sever the weed stems at or just below ground level, cutting the top growth from its roots.

A sharp hoe blade will make this process much quicker and easier.

Always sharpen the hoe blade before using it, and hoeing on a warm and/or windy day will mean plants quickly dehydrate and die.

To help reduce the number of seeds introduced in the garden, brush down clothing and pet fur following walks on arable or uncultivated land, as this is where the weed is most commonly found.

How to get rid of sticky weed: Hoeing is arguably the best way to get rid of sticky weeds (Image: Getty)

One important thing is to avoid adding any mature weeds which have set seed to a home compost bin.

To prevent germination of weed seedlings going forward, apply an opaque mulching film or layer of bulky organic mulch.

For this step, wood chips will work well, and bury them in the soil at a depth of at least 8cm (3inches).

Covering bare soil with weed-control membrane (landscape fabric) or even thick black polythene will exclude light and stop seeds germinating.

How to get rid of sticky weed: Sticky weeds often grow on flower beds and borders (Image: Getty)

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Any weedkiller can be used to control and kill cleavers in beds, borders, waste ground and on paths.

Weedkillers marketed as ‘fast acting’ are contact weedkillers – killing or damaging the plant tissue they are sprayed onto or make contact with.

These tend to be based on ’naturally-occurring’ active ingredients like acetic avid and natural fatty acids.

Systemic weedkillers, whose purpose is to kill the roots, can also be used to get rid of cleavers.

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To make sure weedkillers work more effectively, spray the laves where plants are actively growing – usually from March to April and September to October.

Contact weed killers will have some effectiveness if they are used during the colder winter months.

Use a fine spray to thoroughly coat the leaves in small droplets.

During the summer, spray in the evening to prevent the spray evaporating and to give maximum time for the product to work.

Goose Grass, Sticky Willy

Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick to your clothes. It’s an annual and easy removed but also easily spreads with its self sown seedlings. Can grow up to 4ft high. Sticky Willy can grow rapidly during warm weather. The sticky stems are able to scramble around the garden, smothering small, cultivated plants and setting masses of seed. It’s usually introduced on the coats of animals, birds’ feathers or human clothing. Its lifecycle is approximately eight weeks from germination to setting seed.

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Leaves

The leaves and stem are covered with hooked hairs that latch onto anything that brushes against them.

Flowers

2 to 5 stalked flowers appear at the end of a stem. Individual flowers have 4 pointed white petals with a greenish center, and are about 1/16 inch across.

Preferred Habitat

Sticky Willy is a common garden weed and likes shade. Keep a close eye out for it as it will creep around your plants, spreading as it goes.

Weed Control

Remove Sticky Willy regularly by hand, or hoe off young seedlings before they set seed. Avoid getting seeds on clothing, as this can inadvertently spread it around the garden. Mulch borders with a 5cm layer of garden compost or composted bark to suppress seedlings.

Not Just a Weed

The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear.

Sticky Willy is a reliable herb and is used to clean urinary stones and to treat urinary infections.

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Welcome to Weedipedia.

At Vialii, we are strong proponents of organic gardening and try to avoid weedkiller if we can. To many people, weeds are wonderful things, whether they are grown as pretty wildflowers or for their health benefits. But we understand they can be frustrating in gardens so our Weedipedia pages detail our most common weeds, how to identify & get rid of them but also their benefits too. If you need help getting rid of your own weeds please get in touch.

Common Weeds

Goose Grass, Sticky Willy

Often remembered from childhood, goose grass or sticky willy has clinging hairs on its leaves, stem and seeds which stick.

Horse or Mares Tail

One of the most dreaded of weeds, Mares Tail can spread like wildfire so if you see it, deal with.

Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed

Bindweed is a notorious, perennial weed which no gardener wants to find in their garden as its so hard to.

Chickweed

Chickweed is one of the most common of weeds with the most delicate tiny white star-shaped flowers hence its Latin.

Creeping Buttercup

Creeping buttercup is a common perennial weed with low-lying foliage that forms mats. Its instantly recognisable glossy yellow flowers appear.

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