Which Grassy Weed is in My Lawn?

It is not uncommon for a customer to believe they have crabgrass in their lawn, when in fact, they may have one of several perennial uncontrollable grassy weeds growing in their lawn.  The difficulty is telling which grassy weed is present.  Without getting into a lot of detail, here are a few simple clues to tell which grassy weed may be growing in your lawn.

  • Crabgrass:  This annual grassy weed grows flat to the ground and it looks like it has been stepped on.  Its growth habit resembles the spokes of a wheel.  The leaf blades are light green in color.  The center of the plant may be tinged with purple, but not always so.  As the seed head develops, its shape resembles a bird’s foot.  It is usually found along driveways, sidewalks, and street edges. Since there are two species of crabgrass that grows in the Midwest – Large and Hairy, there may be hairs growing on the plants as well.
  • Coarse Fescue:  This perennial grassy weed is often called crabgrass as it seems to grow better in the summer and can be more noticeable during summer heat and drought conditions.  It will grow in isolated patches throughout a lawn or in areas that are drier.  Identifying characteristics of this plant include a clump-growth habit, prominent veins on the leaf blade and the leaf edge or margin is serrated.  If you run your finger down along the edge, it will feel sharp, like a serrated knife. 
    Improved varieties of this turfgrass have been cultivated due to its ability to withstand more heat and drought than traditional cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.  The improved cultivars often referred to as turf-type tall fescue, can be found in many seed mixes that are sold throughout the Midwest. 
  • Quackgrass:  This is another common perennial grassy weed that usually grows in large patches.  The leaf blades are a lighter color than of other cool-season grasses and the blades are sharply pointed at the tip.  In order to properly identify this grass, you need to pull up a plant so that you can see the sheath (stem) and where the leaf blade meets the stem.  If you look closely where the leaf blade meets the sheath, you will see two little growths that resemble little fingers wrapping around the sheath.  These are called auricles and they are the main identifying characteristic of quackgrass.
    One other identifying characteristic of quackgrass is its root system of aggressively growing rhizomes that can grow for many feet underground before surfacing.  Even if you were successful removing much of the root system, even a small section left behind can develop into a new grassy weed.

There are control measures for these weeds, but coarse fescue and quackgrass require the use of non-selective weed control products that contain glyphosate and then reseeding the area once the plants have died.  This is best done in late summer and early fall. 

Crabgrass begins to die when temperatures start to cool, and the amount of sunlight reduces in the late summer and early fall. There are weed control products that can be applied to crabgrass before it gets too old.  The best way to prevent crabgrass in the future is to apply a crabgrass preventer in the spring and, above all else, mow at a height of 3 inches all season long. 

If you think you may have a problem with these grassy weeds, contact Spring-Green so that we can provide proper recommendations to help your lawn improve.

What Makes A Plant A Weed? Characteristics of Weeds and What They Are

plant weeds

There are approximately 250,000 species of plants throughout the world and it is estimated that about 8,000 or so of these species can be considered a weed. Per the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), there are about 312 common weeds that can be found in the U.S. Take a look at the common weeds and their weed identification information.

It is interesting to look through the list to see what plants are considered weeds, but can also be considered desired plants, such as birch, spruce and yews.

What Makes A Plant A Weed?

The definition of a weed is a plant growing where it is not wanted. It can also include plants that were not intentionally sown in a specific location or plants that are more competitive or interfere with the activity of people. Another way to think of it is that the undesirable qualities of the plant are more problematic than the good qualities – based on the opinion of those who are viewing the plant.

It is our decision to make plants weeds based on several criteria or characteristics that we feel may be detrimental to us personally, to others around us, to our pets or livestock or to the economic impact weeds may have to crops or other agricultural endeavors.

Characteristics of Weeds

Weeds have several characteristics that are considered negative and as mentioned previously interfere. Below are some characteristics of weeds:

• Plants that produce an abundant of seed
• Plants that have an extensive root system or other vegetative structures that spread above or below the ground
• Plants that grow quickly
• Plants that can cause bodily harm to humans or animals
• Plants that can harbor diseases or insects that affect desired plants
• Plants that can produce chemicals that are toxic to surrounding plants
• Plants that can reduce crop growth or inhibit harvest

Weeds are plants first before they are determined to be weeds. As plants, they do have attributes that can be considered beneficial to the environment. They can help keep soil in place, provide a place for wildlife to live and to feed, and can be aesthetically pleasing. As they die, they can turn into beneficial organic matter. In some cases, they can also have nutritional benefits. In the case of companies like Spring-Green, weeds can provide business and employment opportunities.

As it is written, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not all plants are weeds, but all weeds can have negative impacts on ways that food is produced for humans and livestock, to human health and to the overall environment. These negative impacts leads to the need to control many weeds. Remember, you can always count on Spring-Green to take care of your lawn this season and eliminate weeds. Contact your local Spring-Green today!

How to Identify and Control Summer Lawn & Landscape Weeds

summer annual weeds

In the world of weeds, there are weeds that are around all the time such as perennials, and then there are weeds that only show up for a short time, also called annuals. Both life cycles can be frustrating when trying to control them and perennials are usually more difficult to eliminate.

Many perennials have deep or extensive root systems that make hand pulling an almost futile effort. Annuals, since they only live a short time, can usually be pulled out and disposed of, but they often leave behind hundreds if not thousands of seeds, waiting for the right temperature and moisture levels to start growing again.

Types of Annuals in your Lawn and Landscape

There are two types of annuals: winter and summer. Winter annuals germinate in the fall, over winter in a vegetative state and then start growing again in the spring. In the warmer parts of the country, winter annuals continue to grow throughout the cooler winter months. At the end of their life cycle, winter annuals will flower, produce seeds and die with the heat of the summer. Summer annuals germinate in the spring, grow leaves, produce a flower, seed head and then die with the cooler weather of fall. We are amid the summer annual season.

All soils contain seeds of various plants, which are mostly weeds. Weed seeds can germinate even after being underground for many years. If you have ever weeded your garden and removed all the weeds that were growing there, in just a few days, a whole new crop will begin to emerge. Keeping weeds under control in a garden is an unending chore.

Using mulch is a great way to keep weeds under check, but even it must be maintained on an annual basis. This means adding fresh mulch every year. A three-inch layer of mulch will keep weeds down and provide nutrients to the plants growing in the garden as the mulch decomposes. If not maintained, in a year or so, the mulch will be covered in all types of weeds.

Summer Annual Weeds

Probably the most notorious summer annual is crabgrass. This hated summer annual grass type weed will germinate as early as February in the South and as late as July in the North. Each crabgrass plant can produce several thousand seeds that are left in the soil to germinate again next year. There are weed control materials that help to prevent crabgrass from germinating. There are newer weed control products that will selectively control crabgrass without damaging the desired turf grass. Crabgrass can be hand-pulled, but often, the population is so great that this would be a daunting task.

There are many broadleaf weeds that are summer annuals. Some are mainly in the South, such as Chamberbitter, while others are more universal, such as Oxalis, Spurge and Knotweed. For the most, these weeds can be easily controlled with most commercially available weed control products. Be sure to read the product label before using and make sure the product will only kill broadleaf weeds without damaging your lawn.

If weeds are a problem in your lawn, contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green. They can work with you to get your weeds under control and help create a healthy better looking lawn.

Where Do All The Weeds Come From?

who says weeds cant be controlledA typical lawn has to endure a large number of stresses from numerous sources, such as insects, diseases and weeds. It is said that a lawn is dynamic as there are always things happening. This is especially true with weeds.

Weeds can germinate throughout the growing season – spring, summer and fall, but also throughout the winter in the southern parts of the United States. Therefore making it seem like it is an unending battle to keep weeds from taking over your lawn.

4 ways weeds spread:

  1. Blowing: For the most part, new weeds come into a lawn and are blown in by the wind. If you think about a dandelion seed head, the seeds are carried in by the “parachute” that is attached to each individual seed. This enables the seeds to travel a long distance before landing in a lawn or landscape bed.
  2. Excrement: Birds can be another source for seed dispersal. They will eat the seeds, which can pass through their digestive system and be deposited on a lawn with a little bit of natural fertilizer to help it grow better. This is a common way for many invasive plants to spread, such as wild grapes.
  3. Rain: The wind blows seeds into many areas, including sidewalks and driveways. When it rains, these seeds will travel along pathways and end up along the edges. This is the main reason why weeds are often a problem along sidewalks and driveways.
  4. Carriers: Other seeds have small barbs that may get tangled in animal fur and will drop into your lawn when the animal scratches itself. Seeds can remain viable for many years.

In an article from National Geographic “A male date palm tree named Methuselah that sprouted from a 2,000-year-old seed nearly a decade ago is thriving today, according to the Israeli researcher who is cultivating the historic plant” (March 24, 2015). It is no wonder that seeds of today can survive for ten or twenty years, if not longer. All it takes is a chance for the weed seeds to receive enough sun, warmth and water to germinate.

If you have ever weeded your garden and removed all the weeds, you were proud of your accomplishment, but you know that the clean look will only last a few days. As the soil is turned over, there are dozens, if not hundreds of weed seeds that are brought to the surface. A little rain, sun and warmth is all it takes for a new crop to emerge.

weeds getting pulled from the garden

The old saying, “Nothing grows like a weed” is very true. Weeds have a short time to germinate, grow, and produce a flower and seed before dying. That is why Spring-Green guarantees our applications. We know that weeds can germinate between applications and we will come out to re-spray your lawn at no charge. All you have to do is give your local Spring-Green a call.

Why Do Weeds Grow Where They Grow?

weeds growing between bricks

Weeds are opportunistic plants and will grow just about anywhere they can find space to send down roots and send up their top growth. I am sure you have seen weeds growing in the cracks of sidewalks or along the seam between the street and the gutters.  You can even see weeds growing along expressways.

The same is true when it comes to weeds growing in your lawn. They will grow best in the places that provide the best conditions for them to germinate.

There are 100’s if not 1,000’s of weed seeds in any lawn, just waiting for the right conditions to germinate. 

Depending on the type of weed, you might find them in the following places:

  1. In hard, compacted soil
  2. Wet, loose soil
  3. Bright, sunny locations
  4. Shady locations
  5. Places where the grass may be thinned out due to insect or disease activity
  6. Places where excessive foot traffic has taken place

Weed growth is not limited to this list, but are still prime locations for weeds to germinate.

One place that weeds germinate always seems to be along sidewalks, driveways and street edges. If you think about it, these places can be the hottest spots in your yard. The sun heats up the driveway or sidewalk, which in turn dries out the soil and the turf begins to thin out. Once you give a weed a little bit of a chance, it will take advantage of the opportunity and it will germinate.

Weeds growing along the street

One of the best defenses against weeds is to mow your lawn high. If you live in the areas where cool-season grasses grow, you should be mowing your lawns between 3 to 4 inches. The reason behind this practice is that the longer grass blades will shade the ground underneath, preventing the sun from reaching the seed to heat it up and allowing it to germinate.

For those of you in the south, with the exception of St. Augustine grass, most grasses are mowed at 1½ to 2 inches. The advantage that these grasses have is their dense growth habit that prevents the sun from reaching down to the seeds. Weeds can still grow in areas where the grasses have thinned due to various reasons. Fertilizing your lawn and watering it to make sure it is growing properly will also help keep weeds from germinating.

Nothing beats proper mowing when it comes to preventing weed growth. Of course, if you are on Spring-Green’s lawn care program, we will take care of your controllable weeds when we service your lawn. The Weed Science Society of America claims that more than 200 species of weeds have grown resistant to common weed control products. Remember, for our full program customers, reapplying for broadleaf weeds is part of your program and provided at no charge to you. Contact your local Spring-Green for more information on our services.

Indicator Weeds and What They Tell About Your Soil

service_grassy-weed

I recently attended the Lawn Care Summit, a program sponsored by the Professional Landcare Network, the lawn care industry’s professional organization. One of the talks centered on indicator weeds and what they tell. Often, weeds can be used as an indicator of other turf problems.

Turf will grow best in full sun and in deep, fertile, well-drained soils . Unfortunately, most lawns don’t have the luxury of having the best growing conditions to develop into a healthy lawn. Shade, compacted soil, foot traffic, insect, diseases, weeds, thatch build-up and improper management are common problems of home lawns. Indicator weeds can shed light on which issues your lawn faces.

The speaker, Dr. John Sorochan from the University of Tennessee, stated, “Weeds do not cause bad turf—they are the cause of bad turf.” In other words, weeds will grow because the growing conditions favor their development.

These weds indicate compacted soils:

  • Virginia Buttonweed
  • Prostrate Knotweed
  • Puslane
  • Goosegrass

These weeds indicate low soil nitrogen levels:

  • White Clover
  • Black Medic

These weeds indicate poor drainage:

  • Nutsedge
  • Annual Bluegrass

These weeds indicate too much shade:

  • Moss
  • Violets
  • Nimblewill
  • Japanese Stiltgrass

These weeds indicate acidic soils:

  • Sheep Sorrel
  • Ground Ivy
  • Cinquefoil

This weed indicate alkaline soils:

  • Broadleaf Plaintain

If you see these weeds growing in your lawn, it may be due to a cultural problem and not because your lawn care company is doing a poor job caring for your lawn.

How to Get Rid of Virginia Buttonweed

virginia-buttonweed_2_20_14

Virginia Buttonweed is a flowering broad-leafed perennial native to the South and Southeast. Some consider it a natural wildflower and others a tormenting, aggressive lawn weed that’s difficult to control, even with weed control products.

Lawn care message boards across the web are filled with threads of frustrated homeowners struggling to get the plant out of their lawns.That’s because controlling Virginia Buttonweed can be a daunting task for reasons that have to do with the plant’s robust nature and the different ways it reproduces. In fact, The University of Georgia and The University of Tennessee have even conducted research to find the best combinations of herbicides to manage Virginia Buttonweed in different types of Southern turf grass. Mississippi State also has recommendations.

Controlling Virginia Buttonweed – Lawn Care Tips & Weed Prevention

Homeowners and lawn care professionals have also developed a combination of tactics to manage the plant that include:

  • Hand removal. (Small patches can be hand-pulled, but care must be taken to remove all the above-ground stems and below-ground roots. This plant can re-establish from small plant parts that remain in the lawn. If you see this weed start to flower, remove it as fast as possible.)
  • Keeping your lawn tall and lush to help crowd out seeds.
  • Being careful not to overwater (Virginia Buttonweed likes moist, wet conditions).
  • Applying herbicide (Caution: be sure to read the label of any herbicide product to ensure it is safe to use on the type of grass you have)

For the best combination of Virginia Buttonweed control measures, treatments and tactics for your lawn, contact your local Spring-Green professionals.