By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
So far 2016 has been shaping up as a good growing year for Wakulla County lawns and gardens. The rain has been adequate and timed so to keep the ground moist, but not too soggy.
That is the good news, but there is bad news too. Weeds in Wakulla County like the same environment and are growing aggressively like weeds will do.
Many gardeners are feeling overwhelmed at the onslaught of unwanted vegetative invaders. Dig one up and ten more appear to take its place.
As the frustration grows, the search is on for a universal one-spray-does-it-all solution to the weed problem. Alas, there is no treatment which will kill all the weeds and leave the landscape untouched.
To be successful at controlling unwanted plants, also known as weeds, with herbicides takes a series of steps. The gardener must become a plant detective who notices the important details.
The first step is to identify the plants to be controlled. To defeat, or at least stymie, the adversary, it must be known.
Ask questions like what are the leaf’s appearance, shape and color? Is it a broadleaf or is it a narrow grass-type leaf? Does it have a smooth texture or does it have veins or a velvety surface?
Does the plant have blooms, and if so what is the color(s), shape and where are they located on the plant? Are seeds or seedpods present?
All these traits are critical to identifying the plant or plants populating the landscape as undesirables. The recognition will determine the available treatment options.
The second step is to consider where the weeds are growing. The location of the infestation will narrow the choice of treatments.
Are they in the turf, plant beds or cracks in the driveway? Each location has its treatment advantages and limitations.
Weeds in flowerbeds will need a selective herbicide or removal by hand. Broadleaf weeds in turf are more easily treated with selective herbicides, but use requires prudence so as not to accidently damage nearby shrubs.
Weeds growing in driveway cracks will require a non-selective herbicide. Caution is again advised as wind drift or runoff may take the herbicide off target and damage desirable trees, plants and shrubs.
The weed’s stage of growth is important to know. A weed seedling is much more vulnerable than a mature plant and easier to eliminate.
Additionally, if the mature plants have set fully developed seeds then the next generation is already on site and awaiting germination. A pre-emergent herbicide may be the best option before the next growing season starts.
Lastly, it needs to be determined if the weed is actively growing. Most post-emergent herbicides work only when the plant is actively growing.
If a plant is under drought stress or at the end of its active growing season, the herbicide will have little to no effect on the weed.
Other influences on lawn weeds include mowing, insect pressure, and the soil’s ph which measures acidity or alkalinity. As the temperature increases, so does the amount of work in the home landscape.
On the internet, Weed Management in Home Lawns (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep141) is an excellent resource. A great weed identification book is Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses, available online at www.ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu.