Controlling the winter annuals in your yard

Published 9:53 pm Friday, October 21, 2016

By Ty Torrance

How many of you can remember the weeds that decided to pop up in your yard this spring that seemingly came out of nowhere?  If your yard looked anything like mine, it appeared that I had planted the henbit myself.  Well, now is the time to do something about it.  The weeds that we see flowering in lawns in the early spring are what we refer to as winter annuals.  This means that they germinate in the fall, grow throughout the winter and flower and die in spring. 

I know sometimes it is hard to tell yourself to spray for weeds that you can’t see yet, but I promise they are coming. Once your lawn has a purple shade to it form the henbit flowers, it is too late.  Although we have some really good herbicides, the timing of their application is critical for good control.  Ask any farmer around here with a pigweed problem, and they will tell you that, “Timing is everything”!

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Applying a herbicide in the fall will help reduce or eliminate your need to do anything in the spring.  The best way to prevent winter annual weeds is to kill them before they germinate.  You can accomplish that with herbicides referred to as preemergent herbicides.  As the weed seed attempts to germinate, the preemergent herbicide that you apply will kill it.  If you have centipede or St. Augustine grass you can use atrazine in the fall to control most of your problem weeds.  Some cautions for atrazine: do not apply too close to ornamentals or shrubs, do not apply during spring greenup, and do not over apply.  “If a little is good a lot will be better”, does not apply this situation. If you have bermudagrass you can also use atrazine, but you have to wait until the grass is completely dormant. 

For those of you with either bermudagrass or zoysia, you have a few more options.  All of those products that are advertised for crabgrass control can be used to control several winter annuals.  Products with active ingredients such as pendimethalin, oryzalin, and benefin are good products that will control annual bluegrass, chickweed, and henbit.  A herbicide application now could provide a month of preemergent control depending on temperature and rainfall.  For longer control a 2nd application may be necessary.

I know how things go though, you get busy with fall and the holidays and next thing you know it’s January. 

By then all of these weeds are up and growing, but doing so inconspicuously.  Hopefully, this will help you prepare to deal with winter annual weeds in your lawn.

If you have any questions, please call the office at (229) 248-3033.