May 22, 2018

Don't Ever Pull These Weeds

Today I was in my yard when I noticed a small patch of nutsedge growing under one of my new trees.  Since our house is new, much of the soil on our property was brought in from off-site to fill and level.  Along with this new soil came weeds that we didn't have before.
Nutsedge is one of them.

Yellow nutsedge, or nutgrass, is a common weed in lawns and flower beds, and it's notoriously difficult to kill.

That's okay, I'll just spray it with a weed killer.

Now, you might be thinking, I can just buy a spray to kill it.  WRONG.  Technically, you can buy a spray that claims to kill it, but before you grab the chemicals, look at these ridiculous instructions (or skip this section if you're not interested.)

First you spray it on in the same way as most herbicides, except a few days after the initial application you'll have to water it in with exactly 1/2" of water so that the chemical gets into the roots of the weeds. (Too much water and it all washes away, too little and it won't reach the roots.)  You won't even know if you've applied it correctly until a month later because the weeds take 3-5 weeks to die.  And you're supposed to re-apply it in 6 weeks.  And you can only apply it while your grass is in the active growing stage.  But not when it's growing slow, or your grass will be discolored for weeks.

Did you catch all that?  How many people do you think actually apply this stuff correctly?
As a mostly natural gardener, and a beekeeper, I don't use or recommend chemical herbicides anyway.

Fine, I'll just pull it, then.

Bravo for being so motivated, but even that doesn't work.

Why is nutsedge so hard to kill?!

Nutsedge gets its name from the nut-like structures attached to its roots.  One plant will send out underground runners (they're actually called rhizomes, in case you're interested) in multiple directions.  Each of these rhizomes is capable of starting a new plant.  This alone would make them difficult to kill (think bermudagrass) -- but wait, there's more! -- attached to these rhizomes are "nuts" (they're actually called tubers), which are also capable of starting a new plant.  Most herbicides can't reach these vegetative structures below the ground, and if you pull the plant, the "nuts" almost always break off and stay underground and start new plants.
If all of that isn't terrible enough, the plant also spreads by seeds.

If you have a small patch of nutgrass, don't ignore it. Take care of it before it gets out of control.

Bond Cast Aluminum Transplanter

If I can't spray it or pull it, what do I do?

This might be an unconventional recommendation, but if you really want to get rid of nutsedge for good, dig it up.  Carefully!
I start on one of the plants on the outer edge of the clump and work my way in.  I dig my favorite hand trowel down into the soil a few inches away from the base of the plant and press the handle toward the ground to wedge the plant loose, but I don't pull it out of the soil until I have loosened up all the plants that are attached to it by runners.  Eventually you'll have a string of several plants, all connected by underground runners.
This takes some time, but it is time well spent because once you dig up all the nutsedge and their pieces, it's gone for good.

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