Curly Dock Organic Weed Control

Curly dock weed

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Curly dock is a perennial plant. It is also known as sour dock, yellow dock, and narrow-leaf dock. It is a tenacious weed with a thick, fleshy taproot.

Scientific name: Rumex Crispus

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Curly dock
Curly dock

Description and life cycle of curly dock

  • The plant grows 1 to 4 feet tall and turns red-brown in the fall.
  • Thick, fleshy, branching taproot.
  • Stems are hairless and ridged.
  • Forms a dense rosette or thick, 6-inch to 1-foot long leaves.
  • Lance-shaped, bluish-green leaves; margins are curly and wavy.
  • Leaves alternate on the stem with short petioles.
  • Erect stems are slightly ridged and usually reddish.
  • Flower head with small, greenish flowers in dense clusters at the top of stems; green calyxes with six sepals.
  • Narrow leaves interspersed with flowers.
  • Blooms early to late summer and frost.
  • Reproduces by seed; seeds germinate spring and summer; also reproduces by regrowth of pieces of taproot left in the soil.
  • One plant can produce 40,000 seeds which remain viable for 80 years.
  • Tolerates poor soil and growing conditions.

Root system

Curly dock has a fleshy, large, branched taproot.

Organic control

  • Pull or dig out the weed when young, before the taproot develops.
  • Dig out the large, branched taproot.
  • Weaken mature plants by cutting off the top growth every week until the plant stops re-sprouting.
  • Mulch to prevent germination of seed.


Curly dock is found throughout the United States and Southern Canada

Four quick ways to control weeds

  1. Weed early. Control weeds in the first month after they germinate.
  2. Weed often. Hand weed every two weeks through the season.
  3. Weed by hand when the soil is wet (best to get roots).
  4. Use a hoe if the soil is dry. Decapitate weeds before they flower and drop seed.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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