Weeds, Grass and Nutsedge Control
Weeds in a flower bed are about as welcome as flies on a picnic.
And, like flies, they come back again and again if they are
perennials. Perennials such as bermuda come back from the roots
even when every top is cut off.
What is a weed? It is a plant out of place. Bermuda grass
in a bermuda lawn is great, but not in a flower bed. Ralph Waldo
Emerson said of weeds, “What is a weed? A plant whose
virtues have not yet been discovered.” Thousands of plants
we use today were once just “weeds” because man
had not yet found a way to use them. Thus, we have “chosen
plants”—the crop or plants we want to grow—and
any other plant growing among the “chosen” is a
Weeds are pests to our crop plants because they rob our chosen
plants of light, moisture and nutrients. Most weeds are more
vigorous and stronger than crop plants. They come up faster
and grow more rapidly.
Why are weeds so much stronger than crop plants? Probably
because their genetics have not been altered by man. All, or
nearly all, crop plants were once wild and in a keen race for
survival without any help from man. Man walked through a field
and saw a stalk of wild wheat with slightly larger kernels.
He selected this as seed to get more grain from the next harvest.
But for every plus, there seems to be a minus. The very genetic
code that gave the larger grain carried a weakness such as a
root system that is not as strong.
So now we have a new variety of wheat we might call “Big
Seed”. While Big Seed was gaining genes (inheritance units)
for big seeds, it was losing some of its genes for vigor. During
all this time, its wild brother-sister plants had kept their
small seed but had lost none of their vigor. Their seeds were
small and unattractive to man. Who needs large seeds for survival
anyway? Plants grow not to please man but for their own purpose,
which is survival. When man selects plants for features other
than survival such as big seed, he must enter the picture to
make up the difference.
This is why you need a good hoe to be a good gardener. The
hoe was primitive man’s chief tool to help his crop plants
prosper by chopping down the competition (weeds). It still is
for the homeowner. Weeding by hoeing is one of the best ways
to control weeds in the flowerbed or home vegetable garden.
Hoeing should be done when weeds are small. Cut the tops off
by shaving the surface or cutting barely under the surface.
Nothing is gained by digging deep. Exceptions to this bermuda
grass and Johnson grass.
Hoeing is a form of cultivation or tillage. A roto-tiller
or a plow is a set of power-driven hoes. Cultivation is needed
to control weeds primarily and not to loosen the soil once your
crop is in. You usually gain nothing by keeping the soil loose
around your plants by cultivation. In fact, when home gardeners
cultivate, usually more harm than good is done. If you must
cultivate, do it very shallow.
The most obnoxious of the weeds has to be nutsedge—referred
to by most folks as nutgrass or other unprintable terminology.
There was a report released which revealed that nutgrass (or
nutsedge) was the world’s most serious weed problem. Can
you imagine that? Well, yes, you probably can if you are one
of the many homeowners who is plagued with it in your lawns
I once saw a neighbor apply an arsenical chemical such as
MSMA or DSMA with an eyedropper to nutgrass growing profusely
in his lawn. It was almost a daily ritual for weeks. But sure
enough, his nutgrass disappeared and his St. Augustine lawn
was not damaged. The glyphosate products such as Roundup and
Kleanup can also be used in this manner but remember, THE CHEMICAL
KILLS WHAT IT TOUCHES unless washed off immediately. A simpler
application technique involves buying back a wick hoe that applies
the weed killer via a wicking apparatus when rubbed on target
weeds. These are available in local nurseries and resemble a
sponge mop with a hollow PVC handle in which to pour the herbicide.
The best answer to nutgrass control lies in establishing and
maintaining a healthy, dense turf. Nutgrass does not compete
well in a dense turf of St. Augustine, zoysia or bermuda if
they are in vigorous growing conditions. Lawn problems, such
as soil compaction, lack of water, inadequate fertilization,
disease and insect damage allow weeds and nutgrass to become
well established in the lawn.
If you have large patches of almost pure nutgrass in the lawn,
it is more practical to use a chemical specifically for nutsedge,
such as Manage or Image. Manage seems to be more reliable and
fast acting. In flower beds and garden areas, the nutgrass problem
is more easily solved. Eptam has been very effective if it is
well incorporated into the soil at the level of t he nodule
without damaging existing ornamentals. Eptam can be used around
a wide variety of ornamentals and garden plants, but use it
strictly in accordance with the directions on the label.
However, some weeds are so persistent that folks give up trying
to kill them and start eating the once-were-weeds. Examples
of this include purslane (used for salads), nutgrass (originally
introduced as a “nut” crop) and practically all
of the herbs which “connoisseurs” now rant and rave
about. Maybe it is time to ignore the weeds and just start eating
them—then they will surely die!
For more information about nutsedge and bermuda grass control,