Over the last few weeks I have really tried to hammer down the importance of getting your lawn healthy by using the proper fertilizers and learning how to properly water your lawn.  Today I want to discuss some of our more prevalent weeds in the desert southwest for turfgrass and what can be done if you have them in your lawn.

Anyone that knows anything about turf will tell you the key to keeping your lawn disease and weed free is to follow a good fertilizer program, set up a cultural program such as aerifying and verticutting, and key your eye out for indicators of problems to come in your lawn.  Some of these indicators are slow growing turf stands, poor rooting, drainage issue, soil compaction, irrigation issues, water quality, little reaction to a fertilizer application or yellowing of the new grass leafs. I could rattle off a hundred things that contribute to poor turf, but if you keep an eye on your lawn most of these issues can be handled at a relatively low cost.

Not everyone’s fertilizer program is the same as their friends but that is why I suggest buying the Soil Burst series to treat your lawn as needed.  We have put together a combo pack which includes 4 granular Soil Burst starter fertilizers, 2 foliar applications of 16-0-4, 2 applications of 4-0-6 and 2 foliar applications of 7-7-7 for $120.00 plus tax.  This is enough fertilizer to treat 1000 SF per application and it will last you 6 months for bermudagrass and 8 months for paspalum.  I have put this combo together so that when your lawn is experiencing different deficiencies throughout the year they can be easily applied.  I will put together a short video next week explaining the different types and how to apply the foliar fertilizers correctly.   You can purchase the Soil Burst online on our site at https://www.westcoastturf.com/Fertilizers-products.

There are so many great fertilizers out there on the market and finding what’s right for you is the most important.  I mention several different types of fertilizers that I like and that is because I have seen the results with them.  If I don’t mention something that you have been using with great success, there is no need to change your program.  I mention products that have balanced nutrition and provide all the key nutrients for a good, healthy lawn.    Again fertilizer is a great place to start for getting your lawn in shape for the spring, but don’t forget to check the sprinkler system for leaks, broken nozzles and to make sure you are getting head to head coverage.  Set out some small cans in different areas of your lawn and make sure each zone is collecting the same amount of water.   If you have always had poor drainage in your soil now is a great time to aerify the lawn and get some oxygen into the plant.  Many companies will come out and pull cores for you or you can rent a machine for around $75 a day to do it yourself.  Everything that I just mentioned will have a direct impact on keeping weeds out of your lawn.

I have attached some pictures of the more common weeds you may see and what you can do to prevent them.  If you have a weed that you don’t see and would like me to identify, send me a picture and I will help you out.

Quackgrass – Common Arizona and California weed that is extremely difficult to control.  There is not a selective herbicide to treat quackgrass so the best method of control is to hand pull the clumps or use a bingo dabber and touch a tiny bit of round up to the weed.  Note it will kill the grass and leave a burn spot but your warm season grass will fill in the bare areas if you put sand in the area.  Be sure not to water for 24 hours after making the application.


Poa Annua – This is a winter annual bunch grass that has a tendency to invade our ryegrass during the spring.  It can be treated with Revolver, Monument or Kerb on non overseeded turf, but if you have an overseeded lawn you can only use a combo of Primo and Proxy to control the seed heads.  It is spread by the seed heads and can be transported from shoes, mowers, and most cultural practices.  This is a weed that can be handpicked if in small quantities but is tough to control if it has been wide spread throughout your lawn.  It will die off with the summer heat but expect that it will come back the following year so treatment is still necessary.  If you choose not to treat the Poa and are looking for control next year use Barricade 65WG 7 weeks prior to overseeding your turf.


Crabgrass – This nasty weed is starting to emerge now that temperatures are warming up and if it is present in your lawn it can be treated with a product called Drive.  If you have had it in years past and are starting to see a little emerge right now make sure you get your pre-emergent down in the next week to prevent any new growth of crabgrass.  It will not treat what is already there but it will prevent it from spreading to additional areas.


Spurge – This is a problem for most home lawns and landscape areas.  Try as you may to keep it out of your lawn it always seems to find a way to get in there.  Again a pre-emergent right now is the best method for keeping this summer annual out of your lawn and one of the best choices is to use pendimethalin.  If you miss your window for the pre emergent and are getting some spurge in your lawn it can be hand pulled, selective post emergent broadleaf applications such as 2, 4-D will work.  Make sure you clean your mower after every use and remember that it is a prolific seed producer and will germinate quickly between 75-85 degrees.


Yellow Nutsedge – One of the most prolific weeds found and one of the most difficult to eradicate.  If you have ever tried to simply pull the nutsedge from the ground you realize quickly that the tuber is as deep as 12 inches down in the soil.  It cannot be completely removed without getting the tuber out and it spreads rapidly.  Treatment for nutsedge includes several applications of manage or sedge hammer.  This can be a couple year process to get it under control and often when you think it’s under control it will come right back.  If you are starting your yard from scratch it is best to make several applications of Roundup prior to putting in new sod.  The Roundup will only kill what is present so watering between applications will allow it to grow and for the round up to contact the leaves.


Common Purslane – This is a weed that is usually asscociated with a weak turfgrass stand.  Purslane is a summer annual that is most often found in compacted soils or in turfgrasses that are experiencing drought stress.  It will germinate between February and March as soil temperatures warm up into the 60’s and the key is to have a healthy stand of grass.  If you have a weak turfgrass stand a pre emergent such as pendimethalin or dithiopyr will help keep the purslane out.  If it is already present in your lawn safe chemicals to use are MSMA, 2, 4-D, and dicamba.


Mesquite Canyon Ultra Championships


Last Saturday was the day I have been working towards since early October when the DRT Series was announced by Aravaipa Running.  The DRT Series is a 6 race ultra marathon series consisting of six 50K courses throughout Arizona.  With a lot of luck and a few good races I have had the fortune of leading this series since October when it all began in Cave Creek.  I went into last Saturday needing to have a good run to hold off the second place runner Michael Carson.  He only trailed me by 88 points in the overall standings which in terms of time was about a 12 minutes.  I had one goal in mind for Saturday and that was to go out at a modest pace and maintain a safe distance behind the lead pack but never too far behind that I couldn’t catch up.

I know that my strength in running is the downhill technical section of courses and I hold my own during the uphill mountain climbs, but I have found is that I am often slower in the flat long sections of trail.  At any given time during a trail ultra a runner will come across a few sections that have 4-5 miles of flat running and that has been my Achilles heel as I have found that I am losing 30 seconds per mile in the flats to the trail speedsters.  The faster runners are generally not big fans of the mountains, but they know they can surpass most runners in the field when the course opens itself up and becomes flat trail.

In looking at all the maps and elevation changes that would take place at Mesquite Canyon I felt that this was my style of course and it played right into my strengths.  It was an up and down course that started at 1400 feet of elevation and climbed to 3100 feet before dropping again to 1400 feet to finish the race.

At 6:55 am I positioned myself in the front of the pack to hear the course description at the starting line, and as I looked around at the other runners I could see that there was going to be some serious competition in this race.  This trail is known to draw people from all over and it brings down some of the best “mountain goats” from Flagstaff.  Looking around at the field you know who your competition is for the day and who you just are not going to be able to compete with.  There were a few runners that I needed to stay in front of to maintain my lead in the series and the rest were just here for the day so my concentration was on running my race and not worrying about what everyone else was doing.  We took off at 7 am on the dot and the first 5 miles was consisted of flat trail with a gradual climb.  As we ran down the trail all my aches and pains, and nervous energy seemed to disappear and my whole concentration was on just running a good race.

We started off running 7:48 miles and we were cruising along until the trail started to ascend.  I set a goal before the day started for a sub 5 hour 50K which I felt was a slower than my normal time, but with all the climbing I could expect a few extra minutes to be added onto my time.  I went into the race thinking the winner would run a 4:30 or slightly less so if I could maintain 5 hours I would hold my place in the standings and win the series.  Your points are calculated by dividing your time by the winning time and multiplying it by 1500. (Ex. 275/300 minutes = .91 percent x 1500 = 1375 points)  Every race so far had been worth 1000 points and the championship was 1500 so there was definitely an opportunity for the rest of the field to make a move on me.

I started my first climb of the day and headed towards Goat Camp.  I was feeling decent and hanging around the lead pack, but I decided it would be wise to take my time on the climb and hope the field wears themselves out early battling each other for position.  They were moving at a good pace and they quickly started to increase the gap between me, but I knew I would have a long downhill section after a few miles and with the next aid station not coming until just after mile 13 they were bound to wear themselves out in the heat.  The temperature was approaching 75 degrees at this time and the air flow was minimal through the canyons making it a little difficult to get my breath, but I still felt good.  I continued to slow down and waived some of the other runners on that I knew were not my competition. By now it seemed as though runner after runner was now passing me on the uphill section and maybe I had underestimated how quickly I needed to move to keep pace with the lead group but again it was way too early in the race to worry about who was in front of me.

Around mile 9 I looked out in the horizon and saw all of the lead runners scrambling down the hill and I knew as soon as I reached the top of the mountain I could take off and make up a lot of ground.  I paused quickly at the top getting my breath, sucked on my camelback and took off full speed down Goat Camp.  Most people would call the footing terrible, but I love the technical parts of the trail.  When you run the trails every morning in the pitch black with only a miners light on your forehead you learn to trust the rocks below your feet.  The disclaimer here is that while the loose rocks seem predictable you still have to look out for the ones that seem to be half buried in the trail and just have a small corner sticking up out of the ground waiting to trip you and send you into a free fall.  Well maybe that only happens to me.  For some reason I seem to trip on those rocks more in the junior sections of the trail than on the technical parts.  Weaving in and out of rocks I came screaming down the hill passing most of the runners that decided to make their move on the uphill.  I was catching a few looks from other runners that were wondering where I came from and probably thinking I had a death wish going full speed on that terrain.  In between boulders, jumping down small mounds I was able to climb within a couple minutes of the lead pack.

Immediately following the downhill is a 1.5 mile section of rolling trail that takes us to the second aid station.  Since this trail is so rocky and inaccessible the aid stations were few and far between.  We will normally go around 5-6 miles between aid but at this point of the race it had been 9 miles in between.  The race directors had made it very clear to us before we started the race that there would be two sections of the race that we would need to go 9 miles between aid so stock up when you get there and take your time.  When I was about a ¼ mile from the aid station the lead pack started to pass me as they made their way back to Goat Camp for the climb back up.  We would now have to climb the section we just ran down and then start to make our way towards Ford Canyon.  I rolled into the aid station and immediately went for my drop bag which had my turkey and cheese sandwich, a gel, and I gave my bald head a good spritz of sunscreen.  The volunteers took my camelback and filled it with Gatorade and I was off within a couple minutes of stopping there.  Back down the trail I went maintaining a good pace when I started to feel a lot of pain coming from my hips and butt.  I kind of shook it off assuming maybe I was just a little tight and I would work out the kinks as I climbed Goat Camp.  As I headed towards my ascent I was greeted every couple of minutes by friends and other runners who were making their way down the hill.  We exchanged words of encouragement and they all let me know that I was not too far behind.  I started to climb and knew that running this hill was pointless so a fast walk would not make me lose any ground.  We started at 1400 feet and needed to climb to 3100 feet before we would get any reprieve.  This was a continuous uphill section that was 5 miles long.

As I began climbing I didn’t feel right from the beginning.  I would put my foot up on the rock and just feel shooting pains in my hip.  I kept trying to tell myself to be mentally tough and worry about the pain later, but I was moving so slow up hill and my breathing just seemed to be getting worse.  It was getting really hot at this point in the canyon and my hip felt like someone was beating on it with a hammer.  I paused for a minute and a few runners started to catch up to me.  Paulette, the first female in the race, caught me as we climbed the hill and she asked how I was doing.  I told her not well and I am thinking I should probably drop from the race. Since she had run this course before she gave me a few words of encouragement to keep me shuffling along.  I have never thought about dropping from a race, but looking at that hill it seemed that it would be just easier to make my way back to the aid station and get a ride back to the finish line.  I took a few more steps and again told her I should drop and she turned to me and said all you need to do is make it up the hill and you will be fine from there.  She was completely right except that I was moving at a snail’s pace and my watch just showed my last mile at 23 minutes.  It took me 23 minutes to go the first mile and then I began to worry if I had enough in me to finish.  Paulette took off quickly up the hill and began opening up a lot of space between her and myself and as I turned around I could see several other runners close behind me.    It was this point that I decided that I either needed to make the decision to carry on and finish, or turn around and drop out of the race, risking falling farther in the series standings.  In my head I kept saying if you can just make it to the top it’s all downhill from there.  So I decided to open up a gel for some extra energy and push on and finish the race.


Since I was falling apart it was only fitting that as I opened up the gel it was completely melted and I dropped it all over my leg.  Now my shorts were stuck to my thigh, I was hungry and more of a mess than I was 2 minutes ago.  Slowly but surely I made my way up to the top of Goat Camp and even though I had now been passed by several people.  The worst was over and now all I had to do was run a short ½ marathon and it would be all over.  The trails opened up for a while and I coasted at a whopping 10-12 minute a mile pace for as long as I could go before taking a break to cry about my hip to the rocks around me.

After realizing that I need to just suck it up and get moving we caught a nice downhill portion of the trail.  I started to make up ground on a few of the runners that had passed me and even though it didn’t feel the greatest to run I knew the faster I moved, the quicker I would be done.  Coming around a sharp turn my watch beeped indicating that I just crossed the 23 mile mark and there would be aid any second now.  I could see the small white canopy off in the distance and I began to remove my camelback and sprint towards the crew.  I tossed my bag in their hands when I arrived asking them to fill it with Gatorade and I reached for some water to throw over my face.  This aid station was in such a remote location that I couldn’t believe they trekked the tables, water, and food all the way in there but thankfully they did.  I took a quick break, cried a little to the volunteers who told me that I will exit here, climb up one last mountain and then I am home free to the finish.  Yeah right!!!  That didn’t sound too bad at all so I put on my backpack and began a slow shuffle up the hillside.  This was not a large hill but after 23 miles and a bad hip it felt like I had to climb up to the top of Camelback Mountain three times over.

Upon getting to the top of the hill I rejoiced because I thought the tough part of the course was behind me.  I coasted down the hill side and along the mountain when out of now where I just dropped to my butt in utter pain.  From the runners perspective behind me it probably looked like I had gotten hit by sniper fire, but my hip just gave out and onto the trail I fell.  I laid there while one runner passed me and I fought off the cramps in my calves while I regained the strength in my legs to get up.  As I said earlier I seem to fall in the junior parts of the trail and I thought the tough part of the course was behind me. I probably should have looked a little closer at the map because the next 4 miles consisted of small tide pools in the rocks, through a deep sandy wash, and many failed attempts to propel my body up and over some of the large boulders.  These were not that big of rocks but lifting my leg up to do so just wasn’t happening, and I actually fell backwards three times trying to get over the same rock.  This would have been pretty embarrassing if someone was around but thankfully I was in no man’s land in the race.  This part of the race would normally really excite me but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how great the course was because I was too busy telling myself to put one leg in front of the other and keep moving.

The wash seemed to go on forever and finally I saw a friendly face in the distance who told me that I had a mile and half to go till the last aid station.  He said that I looked great and there weren’t too many people in front of me.  I knew that was all lies but it did boost my spirits  until I realized just how long it was taking me to run that infamous mile and a half.  I thought I was almost there when I saw another volunteer in the distance and he yelled out to me that had about 400 yards to go till the aid station after I got around the next curve.  I ran, and ran for 5 more minutes and finally turned around and said this is the longest 400 yards ever only to hear him say,”what was I going to tell you, it was another ½ mile, you might have given up.”  Now I wouldn’t have given up, but I would have complained more.  Just as I turned to talk to him to get the real distance I heard my least favorite sound on the trail and that was the hiss of the rattlesnake that I just kicked a rock into.  The snake immediately went into the strike position, but I was so freaked out that I had already jumped over him when I heard the hissing.  I was now awake and my body seemed to be freaked out just enough to get me to glide into the last aid station standing.  I had the volunteers fill my bag again with Gatorade and even though I had drank a gallon of Gatorade, taken 10 salt tablets, and electrolyte jelly beans I still felted a little dehydrated.  I splashed some water on my face, ripped my iPod out of my ears and jammed it in my pocket thinking I could sprint the last three miles and be home free.

The sprinting lasting about 200 yards and then it was over, my hip was officially done for the day and it let me know it.  As I drew closer to the white tent and finish line in the distance I tried to push harder and harder, but the pain just wouldn’t go away.  I crossed the finish line in 15th place with a time of 5:42:32.  The only thing going through my mind was getting ice on my hip and I collapsed in the chair just across the finish line.  After getting my breath back and talking with my wife and a few friends I found out the winner had come across in 4:58 and it was the runner in 2nd place in the series.  Not only did he win the race, he beat a group of elite runners from up north and runners from out of state, he also was the new Aravaipa Ultra Series Champion.  Michael Carson deserved the title as he was clearly the better runner not only that day, but even if it was my best day on the trail.  I would love to blame my hip for the loss and say it just wasn’t my day, but I need to be realistic and acknowledge he is clearly a better runner.  I finished second overall in the Ultra Series just 125 points behind Michael Carson and for just starting running a year and a half ago I couldn’t have been happier.  Yes I would have loved to have won the series but it now gives me something to strive for next year.  If you enjoy running and want to get into trails Aravaipa running does one amazing job of putting together different race distances and courses all while providing the best gear and food.  Hopefully you have enjoyed my race reports and I will type one up after I run the 50 Mile Zane Grey Race on the Highline Trail in Payson, AZ in mid April and give you some updates as I continue my training for my first 100 mile race in South Dakota in August.


Feel free to hit the “Ask Jay” button at the top right of this page if you have any questions!