The Pesky Nature of Nutsedge
How wonderful it was to get a little rain this summer! We watch as our gardens seemingly double in size as plants soak up the desperately needed water. But, be on the lookout! Some other unwanted vegetation will undoubtedly be popping up in our freshly moistened soil. One culprit in particular flourishes after a good hard rain, or anytime for that matter! Nutsedge, or Cyperus esculentus, more commonly known as “nutgrass” is a grass-like weed that peppers gardens and yards throughout Central Texas. This vibrant, luscious-looking monocot pops-up in two different varieties: purple nutsedge, which is dark green in color and bitter in taste, and yellow nutsedge which grows in pale-green hues and holds a sweeter taste. While grass-like in appearance, it is not a “true” grass, but more closely related to the papyrus, a plant commonly used in Ancient Egypt as a writing surface.
While especially pesky in nature, nutsedge truly is a remarkable survivor. Numerous tubers spread beneath the ground- each hold the potential to sprout seven individual plants. Believe it or not, the tubers themselves are naturally coated in a chemical enzyme that keeps the nutsedge from growing until water in the soil rinses this inhibitor from its surface. Once the tubers are “washed,” nutsedge greenery shoots through the soil, spreading throughout the wet sections of your lawn or garden beds. In weeding, each plant appears to give easily. However, when one shoot is removed, the underground tuber effortlessly replaces it with another. In a single year’s time, one nutsedge tuber is able to produce 1,900 new sprouts and 7,000 new tubers.
With its fast-acting proliferation, simply pulling nutsedge shoots from your green space may seem like a never-ending battle! But rest assured gardeners, there is hope. The best time to treat this problem with herbicidal methods is before the rainiest parts of spring, preferably early May. While this promises increased control over the rapidly regenerating tubers, it is not always possible (especially when it is August!) At this point in the season, we have the hot summer sun working in our favor. Continuous cultivation of the tubers through rototilling or other tilling methods may uproot the tubers and dry them out. You can beat the nutsedge cycle if kept up for at least 12 weeks.
This also may not be the best option when working with pristine lawns or flower beds. Instead, seek out garden products that have the active ingredient imazaquin and prepare for multiple applications. If you find that your yard is weed-infested beyond reasonable measure, it may call for more drastic measures.
The Texas Cooperative Extension office recommends a direct application of herbicides that contain glyphosate or glufosinate for heavy-handed long-term control. To increase effectiveness, add a teaspoon of dish soap (or surfactant) to each gallon of water to help the mixture “stick” to each plant. Additionally, an added half-cup of ammonium sulfate has been shown to increase success in killing off many weed types. Be warned that these chemicals are not selective. They can kill favorable plants as well as nutsedge! In order to reduce environmental harm, use a targeting method that focuses solely on the weed at hand. A wipe-type application, while utilizing small amounts product, should adequately conquer the ever-sprouting nutsedge tubers.
We hope this information arms you in the great nutsedge battle of 2012. If you would rather have us step in and tackle these persistent weeds, email us! We at YardFarm Austin as always here to help.