The season is in full swing in most parts of the country. This means, as usual, it’s a busy time for applicators and landscape contractors in general. Every season comes with challenges. And this season specifically, we’ve seen a wet, cold spring. This puts applicators behind schedule, causing stress that there is enough time in the day to get pre-emergent weed control applied to all the properties they manage. The last thing on our minds is summer issues with diseases and weeds.
However, now is the time to plan ahead with the goal of minimizing disease and weed infestations in order to reduce call-backs, lower stress levels, and keep your lawns looking green and healthy. What steps can you take now to ensure your customers’ properties look their best all summer long? We’ve reached out to our subject matter expert, John Huber for answers.
From John Huber
If you’re out applying, or already have applied pre-emergent weed control, you’ve taken a huge step in the right direction. It’s much easier to control turf weeds before they become established. Once weeds become fully established, it’s unlikely you will be able to eradicate them. The seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years which will have you struggling for years with a problem that could have been prevented right now.
With a little planning and preparation, you stand a much better chance of achieving your goal.
The Eight Best Cultural Practices
A thick, dense stand of healthy turf along with proper mowing practices is your first and best defense against invasive weeds.
Mow turf as high as possible. They don’t call it TALL fescue for nothing. This goes for all turf types. Even warm season turf such as Bermuda, Zoysia and Centipede grass can be mowed higher and still retain that well maintained appearance. By mowing tall and maintaining density, you will choke out weeds as they germinate by limiting sunlight and increasing competition for water and nutrients.
Mowing too short causes stress on the turf and will accelerate the burning of energy stores. This will make the plant weak and susceptible to diseases, insect pests, and lower the plants tolerance of extreme weather conditions such as cold, heat, drought.
Certain fertilizer programs, like ones from Hudson Valley Natural, can significantly reduce surge growth but sometimes, turf might need to be mowed more often than every seven days.
Know when to irrigate the turf and how much precipitation is required. Irrigation needs will differ depending on the region, turf type, the season, the amount of rainfall, day and nighttime temperatures, and soil structure.
Monitor rainfall with inexpensive rain gauges and do a water audit of the irrigation system. If you are unsure how to do this, consult your local Central Turf & Irrigation Supply subject matter expert. We can help you optimize your irrigation schedule to minimize issues. We provide ongoing support that will deliver positive results, beautiful lawns, and gives you peace of mind by reducing callbacks, labor, and maintenance time.
4. Tree, shrub and ornamental bed maintenance
Treat mulched shrub and ornamental flowerbed areas to control weeds. If weeds are allowed to flourish in mulch-bed areas and walkways, the weed seeds will wash or blow into your turf areas and germinate.
Use a pre-emergent weed control to treat mulched areas and walkways in the early spring and retreat them in mid-summer. Use an effective post-emergent weed control product to treat these same areas two-to-three times during the growing season, or hand pull established weeds after a good soaking from rainfall or irrigation.
We recommend a tank mixture of Cheetah Pro and Sure Guard to treat mulched shrub-bed and walkway areas twice a year for season-long control of most weeds. This is also a great add-on service for your existing customers and will spare you from call backs, high materials costs, unexpected labor costs and fuel costs.
5. Know and monitor outdoor environment conditions
Know what weeds thrive in specific weather conditions. Chemical selection needs to fit the weather of the season. Be sure to follow the label recommendations regarding temperatures when applying.
6. Soil structure
Soil structure plays a key role in determining what weeds will be prevalent. Many weeds prefer a tightly compacted, clay soil because compaction limits water and nutrients from penetrating into the root zone. Familiarize yourself with the soil structure preference of indigenous weeds. Amend soils when necessary.
7. Reduce the soil salt content
Reduce the amount of sodium in your soil by using the right fertilizer. We recommend a Hudson Valley Natural fertilizer program. Many weed species prefer a salty soil. HVN products and programs will reduce your salt index by up to 50% and minimize many of the weed species encroaching on your turf.
8. Soil Testing
Adjust soil pH and maintain a balanced pH to eliminate many weed species. Some weeds prefer an acidic soil, while others prefer an alkaline soil. Always test the soil pH before applying lime or other amendments to raise or lower soil pH. This will not only reduce the instances of weeds, but it will enhance the mineralization of plant nutrients for optimal uptake, leading to healthier turf and plants. Optimal soil pH for growing and maintaining healthy turf is between 6.0 and 7.0 with a pH of 6.7/6.8 being your ultimate target.
Herbicides are categorized into two groups. Pre-emergent weed controls and post-emergent weed controls. Herbicide selection should always be based on the growth stage of the weed.
As the names suggest:
- Apply pre-emergent control before weeds germinate and emerge into established weeds
- Apply post emergent weed controls after weeds have germinated and emerge from the soil to become established weeds
It’s much easier to control a newly germinated seed than it is to control a fully established weed. However, if you find yourself with stubborn fully established weeds, reach out to your local Central rep for help.
Know which weeds require different control methods and chemicals. Learn how to differentiate between broad leaf weeds (dicots), grassy weeds (monocots), and sedges. Indigenous weed species will vary from region to region. Each of theses weed types may require a different control approach.
For the best support, contact one of our Central subject matter experts in your region, visit your local extension service, or consult with the closest university or college that offers a turf science degree program. Most of these universities will have websites full of research and science backed solutions for weed control in your region.
Additives for performance enhancement
Use a surfactant or spreader sticker in your herbicide tank mix. This will breakdown the surface tension of the water in your mix and enhance the adhesion to the weed and penetration into the leaf tissue of the active ingredient. You can use less material and increase your eradication rate by including this one simple practice in your weed control regimen.
Resistance and variants
Many of the most popular and effective weed control products are no longer effective against weeds that a few decades ago were easily controlled by these same active ingredients. Like any living organisms, weeds will mutate and develop resistance to chemicals that have been overused.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, we all need to do our part to reduce fertilizer and chemical inputs by following the best cultural practices. Follow the instructions on the label to avoid overuse of fertilizers and chemicals that pollute the environment. Protect yourself and your applicators by using the proper PPE and following label recommendations and warnings. Consult with Central Turf & Irrigation Supply Subject Matter Experts to help you create an affordable, and results driven plan so you too can stay ahead of weeds this summer!
About John Huber
John is in his thirty sixth year in the Green Industry. John began his career as a greenhouse grower and spent 15 years guiding his own turf management company in southeastern Virginia using cutting-edge organic based technologies.
For the past 18 years, John has been involved in fertilizer manufacturing, formulation, supply chain and logistics, helping thousands of professional turf companies across the United States grow their business, increase the quality of their services and streamline their programs for optimal efficiency.