For Release April 8, 2003

Oh Those Pretty Spring Lawn Flowers!

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

We all look forward to spring. The trees are blooming and leafing out. The grass is turning green. Spring flowers are blooming, which is good unless the flowers are in your lawn and not in your flower bed! Lawns throughout the area are suffering from three consecutive dry summers. Mother Nature is trying to help out by filling in those thin and bare spots with a little color of her own. But that color is not green, it is purple and yellow and white and blue and most homeowners are not happy about it!

These spring flowers, that bring the wrath of so many homeowners, are a symptom of a problem, they are not the real problem. The real problem is that the stand of grass is such that it is allowing sunlight to reach bare soil. This means that the lawn is too thin or is regularly mowed too low. So while you are out there spraying those weeds, be thinking about how you are going to deal with the real problem to prevent weeds in the future.

Letís put some names to these villainous plants! The ones with purple flowers, and often with purplish or reddish leaves, is henbit. If you roll the stem in your fingers you will see that it is a square stem (it is in the mint family). The yellow flowers are probably the well known dandelion. There are several white flowering weeds this spring including common chickweed, mouseear chickweed , jagged chickweed and shepherdís purse. The little blue flower is speedwell. Later on there are many other weeds that could be blooming, but these are the cause of most early season flowers in lawns.

While these plants are quite diverse, they do have some common characteristics. Most of these are annuals that sprout and start growing in the fall. Most of them, henbit particularly, will die by early summer even if you do nothing now. They are all fairly easily controlled but you need to use a great deal of caution with those weed control products.

The preferred time to deal with these weed problems is in the fall, specifically late October or early November. At that time, many of these are small seedling plants, that are easily overlooked, are easily controlled. Many of them may not sprout until well into October or November. This is the situation we are facing now. With all the dry weather these weeds didnít sprout until after we started getting rain in October. So the treatments that may have been applied in September or early October were ineffective because the plants werenít growing then.

If you decide to treat now, still remember to mark your calendar for late October to treat again. In the meantime try to get your lawn thicker and healthier!

Many of the plethora of weed control products will work on these weeds. Crabgrass preventers will not, as the preventers only work on germinating seeds, not emerged weeds. Make sure the product indicates that it will control growing dandelions, henbit, chickweed, etc. You can use liquid or dry (granular) forms of these products with equal success. You just need to be be sure to read the label and follow the directions.

The active ingredients in these herbicides do not know the difference between the henbit you want to kill and the rose bush, grape vine or tomato plant you donít want to kill. Therefore, do not use these herbicides when their is very much wind or when the temperature is over 80 degrees. Whenever possible use low pressure and a coarse droplet spray pattern. And most importantly, do not over apply! Read and follow all label directions!



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