I see a lot of yards around town, including my own, that has a lot of really
pretty flowers. There are yellow ones and purple ones and little blue and
white ones. Oh, these aren´t in flower beds, they are literally in the yard!
Many homeowners are going to call these weeds. They are all up in arms
and wanting to get out there and spray them NOW! Unfortunately, to turn an
old phrase, the horse has left the barn and there´s no need to close the door
For reference purposes, the yellow flowers are dandelions, the purple flowers
are henbit, the little blue flowers are speedwell and the little white flowers are
chickweed unless they are in a clump with dark green grass like leaves and
then they are star-of-Bethlehem which we won´t talk about. Call me for
control options on that one. Dandelions are technically perennials, but all the
others are annuals, specifically winter annuals. These all, including the
dandelions, likely germinated and started growing last fall. While the
dandelion will continue to grow after blooming, the other three are already
starting to make seed and then they will die. By early June they´ll be slowly
withering away to nothing only leaving behind a pile of seed.
One of the things that makes a plant troublesome to the point that many call
it a weed is its ability to bloom and quickly set viable seed. Some trees can
take all summer to create a viable seed. Some of these plants can do it in
less than two weeks. Which means that going out now, after they have
started blooming, and spraying with the strongest herbicide you can, the
plant is already making seed and other than burning everything away with a
blow torch, you aren´t going to stop it. Once you see the blooms, it is too late.
Not only that, but a full grown, mature plant is much harder to control than a
small seedling that has just a few leaves and not much of a root system. It´s
that way with any plant we are trying to control.
About now, some of you are likely saying, "But I treated my lawn last fall and I
still have those blasted weeds!" There are many things that can cause
herbicides not to work or appear not to work. Application failure. Not applying
the proper amount of herbicide to the correct lawn area. Rain to soon or to
long after an application.
The most common issue, though, is applying the herbicide too early in the
fall. The herbicides we use are generally only going to work on plants that are
up and growing at the time of the treatment. While all of these start
germinating and growing in late August or early September, the seed
continues to germinate on in to October. When these seedlings first
germinate and start growing in the fall they are quite small and easily
overlooked. If you aren´t looking for them you will likely never see them.
They´ll get up to a few leaf stage, get a good root system established and
then get ready to go into winter. These plants have a very low threshold to
start growing so warm days in January and February will get these plants
active and henbit especially can be blooming by late February.
I prefer to wait to treat these weeds until the latter half of October or even
early November. We often have warm enough weather and good enough
growing conditions that we can treat well into November. By then the soil is
cool enough that germination of seeds is pretty much over. If you spray in
September, you´ll get some of the seedlings, but miss a lot of them so they´ll
be blooming in March and April. Be sure to read and follow label directions
on whatever liquid or dry product you choose to treat with. Pay close
attention to make sure that you are applying the right amount of product for
the square feet you have to treat!