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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Weeds, Grass and Nutsedge Control

Weeds in a flower bed are about as welcome as flies on a picnic. And, like flies, they come back again and again if they are perennials. Perennials such as bermuda come back from the roots even when every top is cut off.

What is a weed? It is a plant out of place. Bermuda grass in a bermuda lawn is great, but not in a flower bed. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of weeds, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Thousands of plants we use today were once just “weeds” because man had not yet found a way to use them. Thus, we have “chosen plants”—the crop or plants we want to grow—and any other plant growing among the “chosen” is a weed.

Weeds are pests to our crop plants because they rob our chosen plants of light, moisture and nutrients. Most weeds are more vigorous and stronger than crop plants. They come up faster and grow more rapidly.

Why are weeds so much stronger than crop plants? Probably because their genetics have not been altered by man. All, or nearly all, crop plants were once wild and in a keen race for survival without any help from man. Man walked through a field and saw a stalk of wild wheat with slightly larger kernels. He selected this as seed to get more grain from the next harvest. But for every plus, there seems to be a minus. The very genetic code that gave the larger grain carried a weakness such as a root system that is not as strong.

So now we have a new variety of wheat we might call “Big Seed”. While Big Seed was gaining genes (inheritance units) for big seeds, it was losing some of its genes for vigor. During all this time, its wild brother-sister plants had kept their small seed but had lost none of their vigor. Their seeds were small and unattractive to man. Who needs large seeds for survival anyway? Plants grow not to please man but for their own purpose, which is survival. When man selects plants for features other than survival such as big seed, he must enter the picture to make up the difference.

This is why you need a good hoe to be a good gardener. The hoe was primitive man’s chief tool to help his crop plants prosper by chopping down the competition (weeds). It still is for the homeowner. Weeding by hoeing is one of the best ways to control weeds in the flowerbed or home vegetable garden. Hoeing should be done when weeds are small. Cut the tops off by shaving the surface or cutting barely under the surface. Nothing is gained by digging deep. Exceptions to this bermuda grass and Johnson grass.

Hoeing is a form of cultivation or tillage. A roto-tiller or a plow is a set of power-driven hoes. Cultivation is needed to control weeds primarily and not to loosen the soil once your crop is in. You usually gain nothing by keeping the soil loose around your plants by cultivation. In fact, when home gardeners cultivate, usually more harm than good is done. If you must cultivate, do it very shallow.

The most obnoxious of the weeds has to be nutsedge—referred to by most folks as nutgrass or other unprintable terminology. There was a report released which revealed that nutgrass (or nutsedge) was the world’s most serious weed problem. Can you imagine that? Well, yes, you probably can if you are one of the many homeowners who is plagued with it in your lawns and gardens.

I once saw a neighbor apply an arsenical chemical such as MSMA or DSMA with an eyedropper to nutgrass growing profusely in his lawn. It was almost a daily ritual for weeks. But sure enough, his nutgrass disappeared and his St. Augustine lawn was not damaged. The glyphosate products such as Roundup and Kleanup can also be used in this manner but remember, THE CHEMICAL KILLS WHAT IT TOUCHES unless washed off immediately. A simpler application technique involves buying back a wick hoe that applies the weed killer via a wicking apparatus when rubbed on target weeds. These are available in local nurseries and resemble a sponge mop with a hollow PVC handle in which to pour the herbicide.

The best answer to nutgrass control lies in establishing and maintaining a healthy, dense turf. Nutgrass does not compete well in a dense turf of St. Augustine, zoysia or bermuda if they are in vigorous growing conditions. Lawn problems, such as soil compaction, lack of water, inadequate fertilization, disease and insect damage allow weeds and nutgrass to become well established in the lawn.

If you have large patches of almost pure nutgrass in the lawn, it is more practical to use a chemical specifically for nutsedge, such as Manage or Image. Manage seems to be more reliable and fast acting. In flower beds and garden areas, the nutgrass problem is more easily solved. Eptam has been very effective if it is well incorporated into the soil at the level of t he nodule without damaging existing ornamentals. Eptam can be used around a wide variety of ornamentals and garden plants, but use it strictly in accordance with the directions on the label.
However, some weeds are so persistent that folks give up trying to kill them and start eating the once-were-weeds. Examples of this include purslane (used for salads), nutgrass (originally introduced as a “nut” crop) and practically all of the herbs which “connoisseurs” now rant and rave about. Maybe it is time to ignore the weeds and just start eating them—then they will surely die!

For more information about nutsedge and bermuda grass control, see: