Winter weeds in Virginia can be a disappointment after seeing great success from fall seeding and other Virginia lawn care services. Because most lawns in Virginia are comprised of turf type tall fescue, fall is a renewal period in which lawns recover and repopulate after the stressors of summer. However, winter can bring about some problems with this revitalized turf because of the limitations in winter weed control as well as the rate at which weeds in Virginia like to take hold.
There are two main reasons that it can be difficult to navigate winter weed control in Virginia. First, once temperatures get cold enough and the ground freezes, many herbicides and fertilizers should be applied with caution due to the increased risk of run off. Second, most herbicides should not be applied within a certain period of a lawn being seeded. When fescue seed germinates, it is very fragile for the first couple of months. While selective herbicides being applied to a fescue lawn should always be safe for adult fescue turf, it is typically recommended that fescue seedlings have matured enough to have been mowed properly multiple times before any herbicides are applied.
The reason that most fescue lawns do not receive a pre-emergent weed control for winter coverage is also tied to seeding. Pre-emergent herbicides work by killing a seedling as soon as it germinates. Unfortunately, most pre-emergent herbicides, like the ones used in the spring for summer coverage of weeds in Virginia, have this effect on fescue seed as well. This is the opposite of what is desired when applying fall seed. While there are some pre-emergent weed control options that do not work against a fescue seeding, these are usually very expensive and less consistent, making their use impractical for most companies providing Virginia lawn care.
That being said, it is expected that most turf management companies will be able to treat for winter weeds in Virginia by their final application of the year, then again with their spring treatments just a couple of months following. What is important for a homeowner to remember in this process is that because of the lack of pre-emergent winter weed control, new weeds will grow up in between these winter post-emergent treatments. Below, we have listed several weeds in Virginia that are typical to see growing in lawns during the winter.
Henbit & Deadnettle
Henbit and deadnettle are two of the most common winter weeds in Virginia both because of their prevalence as well as their visibility. This is why “henbit deadnettle weeds Virginia” is one of the most commonly searched topics related to Virginia lawn care. These plants are closely related and in the mint family. Because they have similar leaf shapes and both produce purple flowers, they are easy to mistake for one another. However, as you can see in the pictures below, henbit is typically “leaner” with heart shaped leaves and a tall, tight stalk. On the other hand, deadnettle (also called purple deadnettle or red deadnettle) with more jagged “teeth” on its leaves, which are also flared out farther from the stem.
Bittercress, Speedwell, & Chickweed
Hairy bittercress, speedwell, and chickweed are three broadleaf weeds that are common in Virginia during the winter and spring and are often mistaken for one another. This is not necessarily because they look as similar as henbit and deadnettle do, but rather because of their general commonality, easily mixed up names, and frequency in our area. Bittercress has low growing broadleaf foliage that sends up stalks of white flowers once spring temperatures begin to rise. Speedwell follows a similar pattern of development, but its flowers are blue in color and stay close to the ground with the leaves, which can grow in dense mats. Chickweed grows similarly to speedwell, but its flowers are white, and its leaves are generally smoother.