Got Weeds?

Have you noticed all the weeds in your lawn after these more frequent rain events?  I see many of my neighbors pulling out the spreaders to apply Scott’s Bonus S to make sure their lawns remain green or spraying Round-Up to eradicate the dollar weed, spurge and other “weeds”.

If you are getting ready to fertilize or treat your lawn for weeds please think about natural alternatives that strengthen the roots of your grass, spot treat weeds and protect your pets and children from any toxic side effects.  These alternative treatments are all part of the Florida Friendly Landscape program.

My horticulture friend, Joe Sewards, with the Putnam County Agriculture Extension Center wrote a great article in the latest newsletter:

Everywhere I go I see signs reminding passers-by that it is time to weed-and-feed their lawns. A weed-and-feed product is one that combines fertilizer with weed control making it convenient to do two jobs with one application. While this is appealing to those who want a green lawn with relatively few weeds, it is not a recommended by the UF, IFAS Florida Friendly LandscapingTM program.

First, now that it is October, fertilizing turfgrass in our part of the state isn‘t recommended. The growth of turfgrass is slowing and the plants are now beginning to move carbohydrates produced by the leaves (grass blades) into the roots for winter storage. By fertilizing the turf now, especially using moderate to high rates of nitrogen common in many weed and feed products, turfgrass will stop storing carbohydrates in favor of green, lush growth. Remember, it‘s October! Temperatures have already cooled off significantly and even cooler temperatures are on the way. If the grass is growing too fast, it could be damaged significantly by cold temperatures. So, fertilizing now isn‘t a good idea. Wait until next spring.

If you feel that you must fertilize then, applying a fertilizer high in potassium (the third number on the fertilizer label) will help build stronger turf roots. Research has also shown that potassium (K) can improve cold hardiness. Avoid phosphorus when fertilizing turf. Current state regulations state that, unless indicated by a soil test, phosphorus applications (the second number on the bag) are unnecessary. Applications of phosphorus (P) are limited to 0.25 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. per application up to a maximum of 0.50lbs. per year. If you look at a bag of fertilizer, the middle number (P) should be as low as possible or, even zero.

As for herbicides mixed with fertilizers, although convenient, it isn‘t a good idea to apply fertilizers to the ENTIRE lawn. It is more efficient, economical and ―Florida Friendly to apply herbicides only to the weeds and not to parts of the lawn that doesn‘t have any. Now is a good time to control weeds in the lawn, that‘s true. However, spot treat only. And be sure that you are using a herbicide that is labeled for the type of turf you are growing. Herbicides that are appropriate for a bahia grass lawn, for example, aren‘t always appropriate for a St. Augustine grass lawn and vice versa. There are no products that control ALL weeds either. Some herbicides control broadleaf weeds; some control grassy weeds, some control sedges.

Most landscapes are a mixture of lawn, shrubs, trees, bedding plants, etc. If you apply a weed-and-feed product to your lawn that has trees in it, then, some of that herbicide will be absorbed by the tree roots. Landscape plant roots extend many times the diameter of the canopies. Even though the herbicide may not kill the tree out-right, there is evidence that these products can accumulate in the trees and shrubs over time, shortening their life span and other-wise causing stress. This is another reason to spot-treat the weeds in the lawn. If no other reason, by using less herbicide will save you money! Another important thing to remember is to ALWAYS read the label. All the information you will need to apply the product properly will be found here.

When in doubt, call the UF, IFAS Putnam County Extension Office and we will help you interpret the information on the label. This can save you time, money and the grief of damaging your lawn or landscape. With autumn now upon us, plant growth is slowing. If plants are damaged now, they may not recover in the spring or, at very least, they will recover slowly.

So, fertilize your turf sparingly, if at all, in the fall. Spot-treat weeds only. No weed-and-feed!  Keep herbicides away from desirable plants as much as possible. If you feel that you must fertilize your turf then, potassium (K – the third number on the fertilizer label) only. Read the label of the fertilizer AND the herbicide. Call the Extension Office if you have questions.

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