Q.: My zoysia lawn is supposed to be brown in the winter and my strip of hybrid Bermuda also. There are hundreds of green weeds of all types everywhere, and they are only getting more numerous as we have rain and sunny days. It’s February and obviously the whole lawn will green up soon, but I don’t want a weedy yard. What to do?
A.: Weeds are a lifelong lawn problem, but there are remedies. I have a few solutions for you organic folks, but if you are willing to use chemicals, I’m your gal. Some weeds, like Poa annua, need fall and spring applications of a pre-emergent, which kills the tiny seeds before they emerge, more react positively (or negatively in our case – we want them all dead) to spring applications of weed killers. Sometimes, if you have no idea what kind of weeds you have, bring a sample to the County Extension Office and perhaps it can be identified. Then, at least you will know what kind or brand of chemical to purchase. Some garden centers also have knowledgeable people who can help with identification and recommend products.
From your description ,your lawn probably has some Poa annua (which will die back in summer’s heat and responds to a pre-emergent applied for several years in the late fall and early spring months – as will many of the broad leaf weeds encouraged by our mild southern winters). Left to themselves, weeds can decimate a lawn, taking over large areas and crowding out your desirable sweep of, hopefully, weed-free greensward.
If you are an organic gardener, try vinegar sprayed directly on the weed in question. You might have to do this several times. Also, salt sprinkled on the root area may work. I am not a fan of trying to go organic with lawn weeds. There are always way too many of them to be spraying each one individually.
I’m going to cut to the chase here and tell you my no-fail method of getting and maintaining a weed free lawn: Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns, concentrate. Available at your friendly garden centers. You want the one labeled “kills the weeds, not your lawn.” I use this brand and this method of eradication on my Zoysia and hybrid Bermuda lawns. The container lists these additional lawns that can take this post-emergent: bluegrass, fescue, St. Augustine, bentgrass, centipede, bahia, and rye. The container says not to use it on Floratam variety of St. Augustine in Florida. I consider fescue a crop, not a lawn. Fescue has to be reseeded annually and does not spread on its own.
After you have the Spectracide in hand, then look for the plastic bottle with a hose end sprayer on top. I happen to have the Ortho Dial n Spray multi-use hose end sprayer – yellow hose sprayer, red dial, clear bottle. So you see, I’m not loyal to any one garden supply company. It attaches to your garden hose. If you’re not sure about the bottle, ask a salesperson…… do not hesitate, that’s why they are there. The bottle has a dial on the top, set it to 4 oz. Pour in about 3 inches of Spectracide, attach your hose, turn on the water at the faucet and spray away. When you see the Spectracide disappearing from the bottle, add more until your lawn is totally treated.
Try to overlap just a little with your spraying. Your grass and weeds will get wet, and that’s a good way to tell where you’ve sprayed and where you haven’t. You can kill weeds in the sidewalk and driveway cracks at the same time. I have often over sprayed a second time on areas with really bad infestations of weeds. The grass always springs back. Zoysia and Bermuda spread with runners, and they will take over the dead weed areas in a season. These two lawn grass types grow thick and will choke out weeds once they get firmly established. If you see new weeds in the fall, hit ‘em again.
It’s a good idea to fertilize spring and fall for these types of grasses. I would wait about three weeks after the Spectracide application before fertilizing. If you see persistent weed growth, wait about a month to six weeks and apply it again. Read on the fertilizer bags at the store for the kind to use on your lawn as well as the frequency of application.
Mow grass weekly or at least every 10 days. In the recent summers’ droughts when little growth occurred, I mowed every two weeks or so. In a drought, raise your mower blade and leave the grass longer. If you don’t know how to raise your blade, there are notches on the sides of your mower, above the front and back wheels, moving the gadget that catches in the notches (isn’t this scientific?) will raise or lower the whole mower body to which the blade is attached. I can’t tell you which way to move them, I have to re-figure it out every summer. But you should do this. The longer blades of grass will shade the roots and help your lawn survive blistering heat.
I love a weedless lawn. Some of you could care less. If you are one of those people, just mow your grass/weeds very short…. It will look kinda OK.