Gardening in Texas is always an adventure. The weather can be wreak havoc on our efforts to have a lovely lawn and garden. The heat and drought of last summer stressed or even killed many North Texas lawns, making them especially vulnerable to a prolific invasion of weeds this spring.
Even when the weather is constantly changing, one thing that remains constant is that weeds will grow where you least desire them. Nature abhors a vacuum and if there is bare ground with access to sun and water, weeds will sprout.
What is a person to do? Thank goodness a timely application of a preemergent herbicide product can prevent weeds before they start. Unfortunately there is no set date to apply these products. Most products recommend early spring or “before the germination of target weeds” and again in early fall.
Boy I wish I had a crystal ball so I would know exactly when weeds were going to sprout. A good rule of thumb to follow in spring is to apply when the crocus bulbs begin to bloom or when the yellow forsythia blooms begin to fall.
Of course these events are dependent on the weather so it is important to pay attention to what is going on outside. It will be necessary to apply earlier than normal this year due to our mild winter and unseasonable warm January temperatures. A good target for this spring’s application would be the first two weeks of February.
There are two basic categories of weeds, grassy weeds which includes crabgrass and Johnson grass and stickers or grass burs just to name a few and broadleaf weeds which includes dandelion, henbit, chickweed and clover and many others. Preemergent products also come in two different versions, one designed to work on primarily grassy weeds and one that will work on broadleaf weeds. Each product will list the weeds controlled by name on the label. Both can be applied on the same day in separate applications and can be watered in together for protection against both types of weeds.
There are many brands and combinations of ingredients on the market. Some have a fertilizer in the mixture, some contain a post emergent herbicide (weed killer for existing weeds) but they all prevent future weeds by creating a chemical barrier on the surface of the soil that prevents seeds from germinating. Once preemergent herbicide is applied it is important not to break the barrier by working the soil in that area.
Corn meal gluten is an organic alternative to chemical preemergents. It also does double duty as a fertilizer and works by killing the roots of sprouting seeds.
Because these products prevent all types of seeds from sprouting know that you should not apply to newly seeded lawns or anyplace where desirable reseeding plants grow.
Follow package directions carefully for the appropriate wait time to begin using preemergent products on newly seeded lawns. As always, read and follow all manufacturers’ instructions concerning precautions, application rates and frequency of application.
Hopefully this year will be blessed with a mild summer, plenty of rain and beautiful landscapes ... at least we can hope. I heard it happened once, but I think I was too young to remember.
Stacy Estep of Burleson is a Johnson County Master Gardener and Wildbunch writer and TNLA certified. She is a volunteer for Texas AgriLife Extension. For information, visit JCMGA.org.