Texans fight an uphill battle against the climate to maintain lush, green lawns. While we get wrapped up in mortal combat against scorching heat and epic droughts, another foe wages a battle against us: weeds. Unlike our turf, weeds couldn’t care less when it comes to drought, heat, and neglect. In fact, the conditions that kill the landscapes we love only make them stronger. Once we let down our guard, they sprout and spread. Once these invaders have made landfall, our only hope is to stop them from advancing. Here are some tips for controlling the worst weeds in Austin.
The best defense against weeds is a vigorous lawn, since that makes it challenging for weeds to gain traction. Your yard is only as safe as its weakest patch of grass. Weeds are opportunists looking for a bare spot where they can put down roots and establish themselves. A number of weeds are waiting for their chance to pounce, but they tend to leave mowed, fertilized, healthy turf alone. Most weeds won’t withstand regular mowing. Bermudagrass, Zoysiagrass, and Saint Augustinegrass all enjoy Austin’s hot, humid summers and with proper care will form a dense mat that resists the enemy.
When you see weeds invading your lawn, don’t look the other way. Once you allow a weed to go to seed, your front line is compromised, and you’ll have to spend a season working offense. To avoid this, when you spot a weed poking up through the turf, immediately remove it from the roots. String trimmers, aka “weed whackers” are only a temporary fix because when roots remain in the ground, the weed can pop right back up to fight another day.
Drop your weeds in the trash to make sure they don’t make a comeback – some weeds can regenerate if you just cast them aside on your lawn.
Know Your Enemy
Developing a strong knowledge of the weeds you’re fighting will help you defeat them. The main categories of noxious weeds in Austin are broadleaf weeds and grass-like weeds. Each requires different techniques to defeat.
Dandelions can be either biennial or perennial but usually burst into full bloom in late spring or early summer. The dandelion’s distinctive appearance makes it easy to identify. There are multiple effective ways to win the war against dandelions. The easiest is to mow often before the flowers have gone to seed. Next, pull them up by the roots. Finally, apply a selective weed killer directly to the plants.
Thistles are weeds that can also be either biennial or perennial and can be very tough to fight once established. They can reach a height of several feet and can take up the whole lawn if you let them. Though stubborn, this is one weed that’s easy to control: cut to the ground with a hoe or pull up from the roots. Just remember to bag up the thistle you cut, as they will go to seed wherever they land.
The bane of all homeowners and turf managers, crabgrass is a vigorous weed that thrives under the conditions that kill everything else. It grows flat along the ground, and this low profile allows it to stealthily spread right under the cutting line of mowers. The best way to fight this weed is to apply a pre-emergent weed control treatment at the end of winter before the ground warms.
This warm-season annual grass is tough as nails – mature blades are difficult to cut with a mower if the blades are not razor sharp. Although the first frost of the winter will kill the plants, each plant can produce up to 50,000 seeds. The best method for limiting their expansion is to apply a pre-emergent in the weeks before it sprouts.
The war against weeds is the longest-running battle in human history. Even the most vigilant homeowner finds weeds in their turf from time to time. So keep your eyes peeled and your battle gear handy, because you never know when the weeds will find you.
Interested in learning more about gardening and lawn care in Austin? Visit our Austin TX lawn care page.