I have long emphasized that my lawn care schedule is not difficult to follow and will yield results in under one year, if you just stay true to it. But through calls received on last weekend’s radio show, at two recent nursery appearances, and via email and Facebook posts, I’ve learned that people new to The Schedule or the area are overwhelmed by weeds.
It seems many are frozen in “analysis paralysis” and end up doing nothing because they don’t know where to begin. That may be due in part to the fact that my schedule is all about fertilization and pre-emergent herbicides. But that shouldn’t stop you from killing weeds that are up right now.
In early spring, there are really only two weed types that should concern us – broadleaf weeds and winter grassy weeds. The grassy weed is poa annua or wild Kentucky bluegrass. The broadleaf weeds are too numerous to count.
First, understand that once weeds are up, we need POST-emergent herbicides. The schedule is all about PRE-emergent herbicides. So, let’s look closer at post-emergent weed control. We’ll start with some basics.
If you have weeds, you most likely have very unhealthy soil. The healthier the yard, the better its natural defense against weeds … with or without a pre-emergent.
So, get a healthier yard by:
- Following the schedule
- Mowing at the appropriate height
- Keeping up good irrigation practices.
- Aerating and compost top-dressing
Since the majority of weeds that crop up in the early part of the year are of the broadleaf variety, they can be hit with a broadleaf weed killer — a post-emergent cool-season herbicide used while temperatures are still 45-75 degrees. They include Ferti-Lome Weed-Free Zone and - the most popular and readily available - Bonide Weed Beater Ultra. I've always recommended liquid versions 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 liquids.
If you wait until daytime highs start creeping into the 80s, stick with Bonide Weed Beater for Southern Lawns, the best-known broadleaf weed control. Cool-season herbicides become ineffective and stressful to grass once high temperatures are consistently in the 80s. And, as always, you should use a surfactant with any liquid weed control.
Bonide’s Weed Beater Complete works as a pre-emergent herbicide and a post-emergent herbicide together. It’s sort of a 3-in-1 granular product, but the post-emergent capability is only for broadleaf weeds. So, if you’ve not applied any pre-emergent herbicide, and you’re covered up with broadleaf varieties such as dollar weed, use a liquid broadleaf killer like the Weed Beaters from Bonide to wet the leaves. Then apply the granular Weed Beater Complete. Its instructions call for wetting the area first anyway, so why not wet with the added benefit of the broadleaf weed killer? And you get the 2-in-1 pre-emergent herbicide to boot.
Most important: You must get only the products I name from local providers I specify. I don’t send people to big 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 (dollar weed, clover, oxalis, dandelion, thistle, chickweed, henbit, wild geranium, nettle, etc.) are broadleaf weeds. The only annoying grassy weed that appears early is poa annua, and that doesn't usually too look bad as long as you keep it mowed. Poa annua will also burn off with the heat, so I don't pay it much attention. Prevent it altogether in November with a regular pre-emergent herbicide as called for in The Schedule. If you're not sure exactly what weeds you're faced with, check Texas A&M’s handy weed identification resource.
Lastly, when it comes to broadleaf weed control in March and April, the true key to success is to add a real surfactant to the mix of the herbicide you’re using to spot treat. Everything you need to know about surfactants is right here. And simply using dish soap as we did 30 years ago is no longer a good idea - dish soap these days comes with a lot of unwanted added ingredients.
Also check out my Ten Rules of Herbicides and their usage. I promise you’ll become your neighborhood’s weed-eradication specialist if you follow them.