When you're covered up with weeds in March

Last week, I emphasized that my lawn care schedule is not that difficult and will yield results in under one year, if you just stay true to it.

Then, on last weekend’s radio show, at our appearance at Warren’s Southern Gardens, and through emails and Facebook posts, people new to the schedule and the area reported they are already covered up in weeds. Many said they didn’t really know what to do, because the schedule is all about fertilization and pre-emergent herbicides.

So, this week I wanted to dive a bit deeper into early season, post-emergent weed control, so those folks can feel like they’re making some headway.

Let’s start with some basics for those who have a preponderance of weeds. You most likely have very unhealthy soil. The healthier the yard, the better natural defense it has against weeds … with or without a pre-emergent. You get a healthier yard by:

  1. Following the schedule
  2. Mowing at the appropriate height
  3. Keeping up good irrigation practices.
  4. Aeration and compost top-dressing

However, most weeds that crop up early in the season can be hit with a broadleaf weed killer — a post-emergent herbicide. The cool-season herbicides, used while temperatures are still 45-75 degrees, are Fertilome Weed-Free Zone and Bonide Weed Beater Ultra.Personally, I've always recommended the liquid versions of broadleaf weed control, because granular weed-and-feeds with atrazine are so damaging to groundwater supplies and the roots of trees and shrubs. Plus, you can spot treat with the liquids.

If you wait until daytime highs start creeping into the 80s to control broadleaf weeds, then stick with the best-known broadleaf weed controls on the market: Bonide Weed Beater for Southern Lawns, Fertilome Weed Out, or Monterey’s Weed Whacker II. The cool-season herbicides become ineffective and stressful to grasses once high temperatures are consistently in the 80s. And, as always, you should use a surfactant with any liquid weed control. Read this tip sheet to learn why.

Most important:You have to get only the products I name from the local providers I specify. I don’t send people to big box stores or mass merchandisers because they carry other "weed killers" that are not formulated for southern grasses like St. Augustine. The most obnoxious weeds that appear early in the season (dollarweed, clover, dandelion, thistle, chickweed, henbit, wild geranium, nettle, etc.) are broadleaf weeds. The only annoying grassy weed that appears early is poa annua (wild Kentucky bluegrass), and that doesn't usually look bad as long as you keep it mowed. It will also burn off with the heat, so I don't pay it much attention. Prevent it altogether in November with a pre-emergent herbicide. If you're not sure exactly what weeds you're faced with, check Texas A&M’s handy weed identification resource.

Finally, here are my Ten Rules of Herbicides and their usage. I promise that you can become your neighborhood’s weed-eradication specialist if you commit them to memory.

GardenLine with Randy Lemmon

GardenLine with Randy Lemmon

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