MASTER GARDENER — Important tips for turfgrass management and weed control (Part 1 of 3)
Published 12:02 am Thursday, September 29, 2022
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, 2022 fall season has arrived (though it doesn’t feel like it to me) with a blistering start!
Eventually, cooler temperatures will appear, and if you’re like me, you can hardly wait and are ready for them … now. As cooler days will slowly arrive, let’s take this opportunity to review turfgrass management techniques that can assist us in lawn weed control.
Before “digging” into this week’s subject, let’s review the three basic weed groups, which are annuals, biennials and perennials.
To manage them effectively, each weed type must be understood, as they are controlled and treated differently.
Annual weeds begin as a seed, completing their life cycle in under a year.
Sometimes they are the easiest to control but produce seeds abundantly at the end of their life cycle, meaning they can persist year after year.
Annual weeds divided into two categories: summer and winter.
Summer annual weeds germinate in the spring, grow during summer and flower, setting seed in the fall. Seeds remain dormant thru winter until the following spring, then germinating to begin cycle over. Summer annual weeds include cocklebur, morning glory, lambs’ quarters, common ragweed, crabgrass, pigweed, foxtail and goose grass.
Winter annual weeds germinate in late summer, fall or winter, maturing to form seeds in the spring or early summer before dying. Seeds remain dormant during summers’ heat, as high temperatures inhibit germination. Winter annual weeds include wild mustard, henbit, and sow thistle.
Biennial weeds lifecycle is more than one year but less than two. Fortunately, there are only a few weeds in this group: wild carrot, bull thistle, common mullein and burdock.
Perennial weeds lifecycle is two years or greater and they are categorized by method of reproduction, known as simple or creeping.
Simple perennial weeds often spread by seed, but if cut into pieces, can produce new plants. For example, if a dandelion or dock is cut in half, each will produce new plants, thus creating two new plants. Other examples are buckhorn, plantain, broadleaf plantain, and pokeweed.
Creeping perennial weeds reproduce by roots, which creep along the ground or below the soil surface with rhizomes, in addition to producing seeds. Examples are red sorrel, perennial sow thistle, field bindweed, wild strawberry, mouse ear, chickweed, ground ivy, nutsedge (nutgrass), torpedo grass, smilax, Virginia button weed and quack grass.
If your lawn is infested, these are some of the most difficult weeds to control. Many of these weeds have roots and rhizomes, which grow deeply into the soil, to a depth of one foot or more. Attempting to pull the weed, leaves roots and rhizomes in the soil, allowing the plant to regrow or even double, exacerbating the problem.
So, you may be asking yourself what is the best way to defend against weed invasions? One of the best defenses for controlling weeds is a well-established Turfgrass lawn. Most homeowners in southeast Texas will have either St. Augustine, Bermuda, Centipede grass, or a combination of the three, like my yard. Maintaining Turfgrass does requires a considerable amount of time and effort with mowing the lawn as the most time-consuming activity.
Before mowing your lawn, it is important to ensure the mower blades are sharp and that the mowers’ deck height is set to the correct mowing height where the cutting blades are not removing more than one third of the growth per cutting.
Remember the taller the grass, the deeper the root structure, which is necessary for lawns to survive our blistering summers! Fertilizing with a slow-release fertilizer, ensures pleasant and attractive-looking, green lawn.
Note: Centipede grass does not like weed and feed fertilizers! It’s better to use a straight fertilizer mix such as 8-8-8, or 10-10-10. Always allow grass clippings to remain on the lawn and form a thin layer of thatch, unless they are smothering the turf.
Watering is a key practice to allow for root growth and development. During times of scarce rain fall, supplemental watering is required. Water deeply, since deep watering is more efficient than short, shallow watering, forcing roots to grow downward in search of moisture.
Water when the wind is calm, almost to the point of runoff, stopping to allow water to be absorbed into the soil. Continue using the water and soak method until the lawn receives about 1-inch of water, the weekly requirement for lawns.
Since there is so much information to cover, I have split this article into three parts. Next week we will review herbicides and the weeds they eradicate and control. Now my fellow gardeners, let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant, at a time!
John Green is a Certified Texas Master Gardener. If you have gardening questions or need more information, contact the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline at 409-882-7010 or visit txmg.org/orange, Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.