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Hot Springs, Ark. – Weeds occur in every lawn, but they seldom become problems in
well-managed, vigorously growing turfgrass. Proper site preparation and turfgrass
selection before planting are essential to give a new lawn a healthy start. Once a
lawn is established, poor maintenance practices that weaken it--such as improper irrigation,
fertilization, or mowing--are the primary factors likely to predispose it to weed
invasion. Activities that lead to compaction also contribute significantly to turfgrass
stress, making it easier for weeds to invade. An integrated weed management program
can reduce most weed populations to tolerable levels and prevent large, unsightly
weed patches. Total eradication of weeds is not a realistic or necessary goal for
most lawns; however, with good management practices, a lawn can be practically weed-free
without the extensive use of chemicals.
Identifying weeds and knowing their life cycles are essential to management. Three
general categories of weeds may be found in lawns: broadleaves, grasses, and sedges. Take care to distinguish weedy grasses from similar-looking lawn grass species.
The life cycle of weeds may be annual, biennial, or perennial. Annual weeds are most
commonly identified as either winter/cool-season or summer/warm-season and survive
only one season. If not controlled before they flower, they can produce seed that
will sprout the following year. Biennial weeds survive for two growing seasons, reproducing
vegetatively or by seed; however, seed is not produced until the second year. Perennial
weeds survive many years, and though some may produce seed, many primarily reproduce
vegetatively by creeping stems (stolons and rhizomes), tubers, or fleshy roots. Perennial
weeds are the hardest to control once established.
Many lawns are watered incorrectly. Poor irrigation practices can weaken turfgrass
growth, allowing weeds to invade. Annual bluegrass, crabgrass, dallisgrass, and nutsedge
are just a few weed species that thrive in poorly irrigated lawns. To maintain a healthy
lawn, uniform coverage is needed. Sprinkler heads that are broken, obstructed, or
set too low or too high may not reach all areas of the lawn and can result in dry
or dead spots in an otherwise healthy turfgrass.
In general, deep, infrequent irrigation will encourage healthy root growth. Light,
frequent watering is only required when the turfgrass has just been planted and the
root system is developing. Watering established turfgrass lightly and frequently creates
a shallow-rooted lawn, making it less durable and allowing shallow-rooted weeds such
as crabgrass to get the competitive edge. Ideally, turfgrass should be irrigated deep
enough to penetrate the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Allow the soil to partially
dry out between watering. The top 1 to 2 inches of soil should be fairly dry before
water is applied again.
Water requirements vary among turfgrass species and also vary depending on climate,
time of year, and growing conditions. As a general rule, warm-season grasses only
need to be watered once or twice a week. Turfgrass growing on clay soils does not
need to be watered as frequently as turfgrass growing on sandy soils. Clay soils
retain water longer than sandy soils; sandy soils dry out quickly.
Each turfgrass species has specific mowing height requirements. Mowing some grasses
too short can weaken the turfgrass and increase weed invasions. Alternatively, if
some grasses are not mowed short enough, the thatch layer can build up, reducing water
penetration and weakening the turfgrass.
Mow grasses more frequently when they are actively growing. A standard guide is to
remove no more than one-third of the leaf blade at each mowing. If too much is removed
at one time, it can take some time for the grass to recover, giving weeds a chance
to invade. Lawns with weed invasions often appear uneven. Mow weedy lawns frequently
enough to avoid this patchy appearance and prevent flower and weed seed formation.
Be sure that mower blades are sharp enough so that the turfgrass is not damaged. If
mowers are moved from weedy lawns to other lawns, be sure to wash off the blades to
avoid transport of weed seeds. Avoid mowing lawns when the soil is wet, such as after
rain or irrigation; moving a mower over wet soil can lead to compaction.
To maintain a healthy lawn, follow fertilizing guidelines carefully. Do a soil test
prior to the growing season. This is a free service through the Cooperative Extension
Regular thatch removal will help keep your turfgrass healthy and competitive with
weeds. Thatch is a layer of organic matter (stems, stolons, roots) that develops between
the turfgrass blades and the soil surface. A thin layer of thatch is normal and even
beneficial; it can help limit weed germination.
If your lawn is properly maintained, herbicides will generally not be necessary. When
they are needed, use them as part of an integrated management program that includes
good cultural practices. No single herbicide will control all lawn weeds, and not
all herbicides can be used on all lawn species. You must identify your weed problem(s)
and turfgrass species before choosing an herbicide. For more information call our
office at 501-623-6841 or email me at email@example.com.
Master Gardener Information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They’re open to the public and guests
are welcome. For more information call the Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703
or email Allen Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest
volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC contact Jessica Vincent
on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email her at email@example.com.
We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.
For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available for our youth,
call Linda Bates at the Extension Office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
By Allen Bates County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Allen Bates County Extension Agent - Agriculture U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service 236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901 (501) 623-6841 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.