Be proactive when controlling cool-season broadleaf weeds

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Henbit is one of several cool season broadleaf weeds that can pose a problem for lawns. The plant is easily identified by it profusion of small purple or white flowers (shown here in detail).

Henbit is one of several cool season broadleaf weeds that can pose a problem for lawns. The plant is easily identified by it profusion of small purple or white flowers (shown here in detail).

Cool season broadleaf weeds are a major problem throughout Texas where mild temperatures stimulate luxuriant growth during winter and spring. These weeds including dandelion, chickweed, henbit, burweed and clover are particularly troublesome in early spring when warm season turfgrasses are dormant.

Controlling broadleaf weeds helps turfgrasses develop a dense, uniform cover that resists further weed invasion, reduces mowing requirement and improves the appearance of a property. And with the lack of water for irrigation, every bit of water that we can give the grass and not the weeds will help the overall health of your lawn.

Regular mowing and proper fertilization during late winter and spring improves the appearance of turf areas and reduces the competition weeds provide, but does not eliminate them from the turf. Chemical control with nonselective herbicides in dormant Bermuda grass or with selective herbicides in others will remove weeds from the turfgrass.

When selecting an herbicide, accurate identification of weeds is the first step to successful weed control. The following is some common broadleaf weed descriptions and control methods.

Henbit is a cool season, annual broadleaf weed. Seedlings begin to emerge in early fall and grow throughout the fall, winter and spring. Henbit can dominate turfgrass in the spring. A member of the mint family, it has characteristic square stems. Flowers, conspicuous in early spring, are tubular and pink to purple. Henbit is most effectively controlled with herbicides in the fall while plants are small and immature. However, products containing dicamba and 2,4-D have demonstrated effective control in the fall and early spring. In dormant Bermuda grass, glyphosate will also control henbit.

Although white clover is a desirable species in pastures and rangelands, several species of clover are troublesome in turfgrass since they develop dense patches of lush vegetation that compete with grasses in the early spring. Clovers can be perennials or annuals depending on the species. Leaves are trifoliate. White clover has a spherical cluster of white or pinkish flowers while Burclover has yellow flowers. Clover can be controlled post-emerge with hormone products such as triclopyr and clopyralid or products containing dicamba and 2,4-D.

Another troublesome weed in lawns in our area is dandelion. Although it is found in every southern state, it is most troublesome in the cooler regions where it persists year-round. Dandelions are most recognizable by their seed heads. The seeds are brown, one inch-long, narrow, with a parachute-like pappus attached to a long beak at the upper end. Dandelions are readily controlled by 2,4-D, or products containing 2,4-D, if applications are made in fall or early spring before the plants begin to flower. After flowering begins, 2,4-D will twist and curl the leaves and flower stalks, but the plants often survive the treatment.

For further information on this topic, contact the extension office at (940) 538-5042 or Missy at mlhodgin@ag.tamu.edu.

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Missy Hodgin

Missy Hodgin serves as the agriculture extension agent for Clay County, Texas. the mission of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to serve Texans through community-based education.

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