Watch Out for Puncturevine in Your Garden

Spikes cover the puncturevine fruit

I have had the very unpleasant experience of stepping on the fruit of the puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris).  This weed produces an abundance of seed pods that are covered with very sharp spikes. They are so sharp, in fact, that they have the ability to embed themselves into your clothes, shoes or the tires of your vehicle.

Other names for this species include puncture vine, caltrop, goatheaddevil’s eyelashes, tackweed, cat’s head, bullhead, devil’s weed and devil’s thorn. Some people say that it offers benefits for improving fertility.

What Makes It a Weed?

As I have mentioned before, the simplest definition of a weed is a plant that has started growing where you do not want it. You definitely would not want to come across this species in your garden by accident! Weeds are often very prolific in their seed production and the puncturevine is no slacker; each plant can produce up to 5000 of these seeds in just one growing season. They harden as they age and are quite painful when you accidentally step on them or otherwise come into contact.

Each plant can quickly spread a few yards away from its base. It acts like a groundcover since it forms into a low mat.

How Can I Get Rid of Puncturevine?

You generally do not need to apply chemicals to control this plant in your garden unless it has been allowed to spread profusely. It reproduces by seeds, so you want to remove the plant when it is young and before it has a chance to start fruit production. This plant has one tap root (one long root that goes down) and you can kill the plant just by removing it. You also want to carefully remove any seed pods that are present on the ground.

Have you come across puncturevine in your garden? How did you get rid of it?

Image by Starr Environmental under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Battling Common Mallow in Your Lawn

One weed found in lawns is the common mallow

If you have noticed a plant in your lawn with crinkly lobed leaves and flowers in shades of white, pink or light purple, it may be the common mallow (Malva neglecta). This relative of hibiscus, hollyhocks, cotton and okra is one of those plants that do offer benefits (in this case, nutrition,) but are too invasive to use as a garden plant.

The common mallow can be either an annual or biennial depending on where it is growing. In general, it tends to act as more of a groundcover and stay close to the ground, but it can reach a couple of feet high if left unchecked.

How Do You Get Rid of Common Mallow?

Watch out for this weed and pull it out while it is little. You definitely want to remove it before it produces flowers and goes to seed. As the plant matures, the roots also become stronger and woody, so it will be much harder to pull them out.

Using this method will help keep this species from colonizing your lawn. This is the best way to control this weed since chemicals do not usually work very well. You can use a tool like a dandelion digger to help you get out the long tap root. If the plant has been growing for a while, it can possibly resprout if some of the root is left.

As always, keeping your grass lush and healthy is another way to help stop this weed from spreading. When plants are growing well, their roots spread out appropriately and it is harder for other species like weeds to become established.

How have you stopped common mallow in your garden?

Image by Macleay Grass Man under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Is Field Bindweed Taking Over Your Lawn?

Field bindweed in grass

At first glance, you might think the field bindweed is just another pretty little plant. It features many white or pink trumpet-shaped blossoms that are much like its relative, the morning glory. However, it is definitely one of the worst weeds that you could come across.

What Makes the Field Bindweed So Noxious?

The simple definition of a weed is a plant that is located where you don’t want it. Some plants have such difficult growing habits that you would not want them anywhere! For starters, they are very good at survival. This species is a perennial, so it is naturally structured to live more than one year.

The stems tend to act like a vine, twirling around surrounding plants and strangling them. One plant can spread across several yards, so it would not take many plants to overtake your lawn if you leave it unchecked for several years. It bears an abundance of flowers that can produce thousands of seeds, perpetuating the problem.

It gets even worse when you look at the root system. This tenacious plant develops an extensive mass of roots that can spread several feet beyond the width of the top plant. It has one main taproot, but also sends out side roots that grow for a few feet, then move down. It has the ability to send out new stems from any roots left behind after pulling as long as it has buds.

If It’s That Bad, What Can You Do?

There are systemic herbicides available that can help curb this problem. As the Penn State Extension office suggests, you should apply this when the flower buds have formed or just started to bloom. The plant is focusing its energy towards pollination and fruit production, so it uses up some of the energy stored in the roots to accomplish this. When you apply the herbicide, it has a greater chance of killing off the roots, though you may likely have to repeat this several times to truly get rid of the plant.

You can also achieve the same effect with manual removal over the long-term. If you keep removing the plant, it will slowly starve. Penn State asserts that a good time to remove the new growth is about 2 weeks after it appears.

Have you wrangled with field bindweed? How did you finally conquer it?

Image by wht_wolf9653 under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Do You Have Yellow Nutsedge in Your Lawn?

Yellow nutsedge in a lawn

 

If you notice tall plants with yellow tops popping up in your lawn, you may have an invasion of yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). At first glance it looks like it might be part of the Poaceae (grass) family, but it is really in the Cyperaceae (sedge) family.

While in essence a weed is a plant growing where you do not want it (i.e. useful plants like blackberries grow rampantly in the Pacific Northwest), there are some plants that are regarded as harmful by all and truly earn the label of weed. Yellow nutsedge certainly falls under this category. It can grow faster and taller than your grass will, becoming a competitor for water and nutrients in the soil. It is also not as dark as your grass, so will stand out and destroy the uniform look of your lawn. The tubers they produce can last for years and can resprout several times.

This relative of the papyrus plant is very difficult to completely remove from your lawn. It forms many tubers under the ground that can sprout after you have removed the original plant. It can also produce new plants through rhizomes. 

You will need to try and stay on top of the problem and remove any new plants as soon as you can after they sprout. This will help lessen the productions of tubers over time. It will also slowly starve the present tubers as they will use up energy each time they produce a new plant.

You can also improve soil drainage as much as possible since this plant does very well in wet conditions and has a harder time becoming established in drier circumstances.

Unfortunately, yellow nutsedge does not always respond well to herbicides, though they can help Only some of the chemicals that are deemed effective are available for consumers, so contact us and we can help you spray this weed at the proper time for best results.

Have you had a problem with yellow nutsedge in your lawn? How did you finally get rid of it?

Image by Dendroica cerulea under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Getting the Best of Broadleaf Weeds

Regular Maintenance Goes a Long Way

Dandelions, chickweed, ground ivy, henbit, knotweed, plantain, and thistle… all sorts of broadleaf weeds will soon be making an appearance. It would be great if we could eliminate these pests once and for all. The thing is, they create a lot of seeds, so complete elimination isn’t possible.

Just one dandelion seed head can hold over 200 seeds, which are capable of traveling very long distances by wind, water, on animals and on the bottom of our shoes. New weed seeds are constantly finding their way into the soil on your property, and they can remain in the soil for years until they get enough sun and water to germinate.

GOOD LAWN CARE PRACTICES CROWD OUT WEEDS

Proper lawn maintenance encourages thicker, healthier grass, and that’s the best way to prevent broadleaf weeds. The denser your lawn, the less room these weeds will have to grow. Three keys to crowding out broadleaf weeds are:

  • Mowing: Removing no more than 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow. This keeps the soil shaded to discourage germination of weed seeds.
  • Watering: Making sure your lawn gets from 1” to 1 ½” of water per week from rainfall or sprinkling.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilizing regularly to expand your lawn’s root system for more vigorous growth.

POST- EMERGENT HERBICIDES CAN HELP TOO

Whenever broadleaf weeds pop up, they can be spot treated with a post- emergent herbicide. Keep in mind that it can take up to three weeks for treated weeds to die off, and repeat applications may be necessary if new weeds appear throughout the season. Also, if your lawn has been seeded, post-emergent herbicides shouldn’t be used until the new grass has been mowed at least three times.

Yes, broadleaf weeds are a nuisance, but they can be managed. With the right lawn care practices, post-emergent herbicides and a little patience, they won’t have nearly as much of an impact on your lawn.

Pre-Emergent vs. Post-Emergent

Dandelion weed

 So you may be seeing these pesky little weeds popping up in and around your lawn.  This is the common dandelion.  While some people like to add them to their salads, most want us to take them out of their lawn.  And some others that you may be seeing are clover, plantain, curly dock, spurge and many, many more.  The list is endless.  And yes, there is hope.  With a good quality lawn care program and the smart use of some select herbicides, you too can eliminate most of these broadleaf weeds from your lawn.

Start with a Pre-emergent herbicide.  Usually applied in a granular format, an application of pre-emergence herbicides will help form a barrier on the soil that prohibits weeds from germinating.  Remember my previous blog on GDD’s (Growing Degree Days)?  It is important to apply your pre-emergent herbicide application  before the weeds start to germinate, otherwise it won’t be as effective.  What are the drawbacks, you ask? Well, you cannot necessarily seed while the herbicide is active.

Weeds vs. Grass

Once the weeds start to germinate, then you can use Post-Emergent herbicides.  Yes, these applications will remove weeds once they are actively growing.  But you must be careful.  Some Post-Emergent herbicides will eliminate whatever they hit….and some will eliminate just weeds (not grass).  So it is important to READ THE LABEL before using any product on your lawn.

 Joe Yedowitz, CLT

Emil Yedowitz Landscaping and Irrigation Solutions

(914) 377-9039