This has been one very mild winter so far and with the early break in the temperatures we are starting to see the emergence of some weeds. While most people will not really begin to have a war with the weeds for a few weeks I have started to notice Poa annua popping up in several neighborhoods, parks, and fields. If you’re not familiar with Poa annua it is can be an annoying weed that is spread by the seeds it produces. These seeds can be picked up on shoes, blown in from the wind, come in from the water, and several other ways so keep an eye out for it and pick it as it comes up.

Here is a picture of what Poa annua typically looks like in a lawn area.

It’s a well known fact that the best defense against weeds is to have a good dense stand of grass. If you have followed my previous tips and have been fertilizing on schedule, your lawn is likely thick, lush green and is in perfect shape to fight off weeds. If you are a little behind on your fertilizer applications now is a great time to catch up. You can use our “Seasonal Booster 7-7-7” to help thicken up your lawn and prevent the weeds from encroaching in the open areas. It is very different to control weeds in lawns that are overseeded with ryegrass versus lawns that are left dormant for the winter. I will touch on both.

First it is always best to practice weed management by hand pulling weeds before using unnecessary herbicides. If your lawn is being over taken with weeds or is too much to hand pick and you have to apply a herbicide, ALWAYS READ THE LABEL FIRST, AND APPLY AS DIRECTED. I cannot say this enough because it is very easy to injure your ryegrass or underlying bermudagrass by exceeding the label rates. If the label says 4oz/ 1000 SF it does not mean if you apply 8 oz/ 1000 SF that it will die twice as fast. What will die twice as fast is your lawn so follow the instructions carefully.

As I said earlier we are starting to see the emergence of annual bluegrass or as most people know it “Poa annua.” Poa annua is a high seed producing grass that likes wet compacted soils. We often start to see it emerge after rain storms but it is also very common in areas that retain moisture such as retentions or low areas in turf stands. Poa is a light yellow colored bunch weed with seed heads that multiply very quickly. Most people think that by mowing their turf lower they can rid the lawn of Poa, but since it tolerates low mowing heights and wet soils a good way to manage the problem is to keep you’re watering on the conservative side and try to stress it out. While it can tolerate heat up to about 100 degrees it does become weak and easy to pull when it is stressed. Since it is a bunch grass it can be pulled out fairly easy, but make sure you get the roots and all when removing it or it will come right back on you.

Another option is to let your lawn grow a little longer so the Poa annua can be seen well and really spend some time pulling it out. At the longer height it is easier to spot and it is a little weaker than when the grass canopy is too dense. When you’re mowing the lawn at this time of the year and Poa is present make sure you’re bagging the grass so the seed heads do not escape back into the lawn. If you do have Poa, there are very few chemicals that will treat it, and none are labeled for homeowner use. The best way to control it is to keep it in a confined area and hand pick it out before it spreads. Since Poa Annua is a cool season grass by nature and the only chemical controls are herbicides that kill all cool season grasses they touch, they cannot be used safely until transition time in April or May. Many golf courses and landscape areas transition there courses or lawn areas back to bermudagrass by spraying out the ryegrass in May and these chemicals also treat and take care of Poa annua.

In the next few weeks we will start to see broadleafs appear, but the nice thing is they’re much easier to control than Poa annua. Some of the most common weeds that will start to appear soon are clover, mallow, and mustards. Most broadleafs are easy to control with a post emergent herbicide, but it is best to be preemptive and use a pre-emergent around the middle of February to keep them from showing up. If some do sneak by you there are several options and when selecting a herbicide it is always best to make sure the chemicals contain one of the following active ingredients depending on the type of weed(2,4-D, Trichlorpyr or Clopyralid). Clover is tougher to kill than dandelions so different active ingredients are necessary depending on the weed. Make to read the label about what weeds are actually controlled by the product. As I said most broadleaves are easy to control and here is a picture of a broadleaf weed.

If in past years your lawn has been taken over by crabgrass and goosegrass it is really time to look at your fertilization program. These are typically a result of a poor turf stand which has resulted in these weeds encroaching into the open areas of your lawn. These weeds generally will start to emerge between the middle of February and into early March. There are pre-emergents that work well to control these but timing is essential. Some of the best products out on the market are Dimension and Barricade but as with most products these must be applied by a licensed applicator. Since it can be very tricky to get the timing perfect or to get all the crabgrass and goosegrass before it emerges you can safely have MSMA applied to the plant to help control the problem. This will need to be applied by a licensed applicator and after a few treatments the problems should resolve itself if you’re maintaining a healthy lawn. If you’re behind on your fertilizer applications make sure to catch up before it is too late. Keep applying the Soil Burst 7-7-7 and 16-0-4 and get your lawn as healthy as possible. Spending $15 every 21-28 days is much cheaper than $200 pesticide applications. These are some of the nastiest weeds out there and it doesn’t take much for them to take over your lawn so make sure to stay on top of them. I have attached pictures of crabgrass and goosegrass to help you identify the emergence of them in your lawn areas.

For those of you who didn’t overseed your bermudagrass I advise putting down a pre-emergent herbicide such as Barricade or Dimension in late February to control weeds summer annuals from starting to emerge in your lawn. Our winter has been warmer than normal with very few freezes so I don’t advise making any late season round-up applications to kill emerging weeds in your dormant turf. I will talk more about pre-emergents in the upcoming weeks and give you plenty of time to get what you need to have the best lawn in the neighborhood. These will be applied when the temperatures dictate us to use them and this is generally around the middle to end of February. If you’ve been putting down your Soil Burst applications I am sure you’re looking at a lawn like this right now.

Have a great week!