Introducing... the world's worst weed!

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If I asked you what weed gives you most difficulty, most would respond without hesitation: NUTSEDGE! 

Wikipedia claims nutsedge is the “the world’s worst weed!”  It is a problem in over 90 countries.  No other weed comes even close. 

Nutsedge is fast growing, has an upright growth habit and light green in color. Because it grows nearly twice as fast as your turf and is lighter, it ruins the best maintained lawns within a couple days of mowing.    

Nutsedge starts growing as soil temperatures warm up in May, and because it thrives in moist, tight soils, nutsedge is showing up with a vengeance in Oklahoma lawns this year.   

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What does nutsedge look like?

Commonly called nutgrass but is a sedge with a triangular leaf blade. It grows upright and is light green in color. 

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What are the best growing conditions for nutsedge?

Nutsedge thrives in moist, tight soils.  It is common to find it growing in areas of poor drainage, around irrigation leaks, and in lawns that are watered too frequent.  Once nutsedge is established, it thrives with normal irrigation and periods of drought.  Nutsedge prefers full sun and doesn’t grow well in shade.

Why is nutsedge so difficult to control?   Nutsedge is a perennial weed. Perennial weeds are always more difficult to control. But, nutsedge is one of the toughest because it spreads by underground tubers. The tubers grow 6-12” deep and are referred to as nuts - thus the common name of nutgrass. Nutsedge spreads by growing rhizomes which produces more nuts. Weeds that propagate through tubers and rhizomes are very difficult to control because unless you get control of the rhizome and tuber, the plant will sprout new growth within a few days. Also, tubers can remain dormant in soil for three seasons.

Why is nutsedge so difficult to control?

Nutsedge is a perennial weed. Perennial weeds are always more difficult to control. But, nutsedge is one of the toughest because it spreads by underground tubers. The tubers grow 6-12” deep and are referred to as nuts - thus the common name of nutgrass. Nutsedge spreads by growing rhizomes which produces more nuts. Weeds that propagate through tubers and rhizomes are very difficult to control because unless you get control of the rhizome and tuber, the plant will sprout new growth within a few days. Also, tubers can remain dormant in soil for three seasons.

What is the best way to control nutsedge?

Be proactive.  With the first sign of nutsedge, take action. Nutsedge is much harder to control once it has been allowed to spread and mature.  Weed killers labeled for use on nutsedge will be either a contact killer or a systemic.  A contact herbicide will kill only the leaves and the tubers and rhizomes will remain active if you make only a single application. Systemic products will translocate through the plant to the tubers and rhizomes. 

Remember, single applications of most herbicides labeled for nutsedge will kill the plant leaves but leave the nut ineffective.

Is pulling nutsedge a good idea?   Pulling nutsedge is only recommended when the plant is very small before nuts start to develop on the rhizomes. Once nuts start to develop, you must remove the nut when pulling the weed, which is typically 6-12” below the surface. If you pull the weed and leave the nut behind, new plants will emerge very quickly.  Research suggest that anytime the tuber is stressed, by either pulling the top off or by killing the top without killing the tuber itself (the result of a single application of an herbicide), the tuber multiples. Therefore, many people experience more nutsedge after they have pulled or sprayed.  Cultivating nutgrass, such as in landscape beds, is ineffective. All you are doing is redistributing the tubers and rhizomes.

Is pulling nutsedge a good idea?

Pulling nutsedge is only recommended when the plant is very small before nuts start to develop on the rhizomes. Once nuts start to develop, you must remove the nut when pulling the weed, which is typically 6-12” below the surface. If you pull the weed and leave the nut behind, new plants will emerge very quickly.

Research suggest that anytime the tuber is stressed, by either pulling the top off or by killing the top without killing the tuber itself (the result of a single application of an herbicide), the tuber multiples. Therefore, many people experience more nutsedge after they have pulled or sprayed.

Cultivating nutgrass, such as in landscape beds, is ineffective. All you are doing is redistributing the tubers and rhizomes.

What else can I do to be proactive in preventing nutsedge?

Aeration is a great way to reduce the chances of nutsedge starting and spreading.  Aeration reduces soil compaction and reduces the best growing conditions for nutsedge.  Our experience is that lawns which are aerated annually rarely have significant nutsedge problems. 

Water only based on need and infrequently.  Overwatering, keeping your lawn too wet, promotes the best growing conditions for nutsedge.

Correct water leaks in your sprinkler system promptly.  Nutsedge will stake a claim to any areas that become waterlogged.  

Along the same line of thinking, correct poor drainage areas.  Often patches of nutsedge is an indicator of poor drainage. 

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If you find yourself struggling with nutsedge, give Hall|Stewart a call, (405) 367-3873.  Our 7-Step Lawn Care Program includes nutsedge control.  One of the benefits of subscribing to our full program is we do not charge extra for nutsedge control.  Because we know the presence of nutsedge can quickly tarnish a great looking lawn, we use the most advanced nutsedge control herbicides available to the industry.

Lorne Hall