The Picture Perfect Plus Package, Part One
Nutsedge control is considered an elective option for turf management in RVA for two reasons. First, nutsedge isn’t a prevalent weed; not the majority of homeowners don’t have to deal with it, so its control would be excessive for the standard service plan. Second, it can be pretty tricky to treat; nutsedge is resistant to most basic herbicides, and the products that control it are more expensive than standard weed control plans. As a result, most professional lawn care companies that provide fertilizer and weed control services don’t bundle nutsedge control into their standard maintenance program. Most homeowners appreciate not having to pay for a service that they may not necessarily need. For those who do end up seeing nutsedge in their lawn, however, this summertime weed can be a nuisance, but there are treatment options available.
Yellow nutsedge, also known as nut grass or “that pesky grass over there” by some, is a perennial sedge plant found throughout most of the world. This member of the sedge family of plants is considered a weed throughout Virginia and appears in wetter lawn areas and flower beds during the summer, going dormant and disappearing from the surface once it gets cold again. Luckily, nutsedge is fairly easy to identify. First, it stands out against fescue despite its grassy appearance due to its brighter, lime green coloring. Second, its growth rate greatly outpaces fescue, standing twice as tall as fescue within a week after being mowed. Third, it has a distinct triangular stem with three flat sides and generally grows three blades out of a stem.
If you were to dig a nutsedge plant up, you would find “nutlets” at the base of the roots. These nutlets are what lend this sedge plant its name and are a great part of what makes it so maddening to some homeowners. The part of the plant that grows above the ground is easy to pull out by hand, but these nutlets are almost always left behind. As a result, a new plant will quickly grow back from the nutlet, making the problem seem like it just keeps coming back without respite. Interestingly, the nutlets of yellow nutsedge are also known as tiger nuts and are a key ingredient in the drink known as horchata.
Nutsedge in fescue lawn areas is mostly a cosmetic issue. While there can be some instances where nutsedge growth is thick and aggressive enough to outcompete stressed fescue during the summer, this is more of an extreme situation than most homeowners experience. Instead, nutsedge is undesirable due to how greatly it stands out against a fescue lawn, breaking up the uniformity desired with a professionally maintained property.
Because it’s impossible to eliminate yellow nutsedge by pulling it up and because it’s impractical and imperfect to try to dig it up, nutsedge is best to treat in the early and middle parts of summer with a selective herbicide designed to target sedge weeds. Selective herbicides are beneficial because they kill of the intended plant without damaging the surrounding fescue. The sooner sedge products like this can be applied post-emergence, the more likely they are to work systemically down to the nutlet, killing off the entire plant and reducing future occurrences. Late season treatments may kill off top growth without hitting the nut, winning the battle, but losing the war.
Nutsedge control is available through PPLM as either a stand alone service option by request or on a yearly anticipatory schedule for clients who know their lawn is prone to this issue. The decision between these two options simply depends on the lawn’s history compared to the client’s priorities and budget. While there is no preventive or pre-emergent treatment for nutsedge, if a lawn has a history of developing the weed during the summer, anticipatory scheduling of nutsedge treatments can provide a reduced cost and better efficiency in controlling the weed. If the history of the lawn is uncertain or the client prefers to play it by ear during the summer, as needed control is available at a slightly higher cost due to late notice and product being applied a bit more heavily. Two treatments during the summer are recommended to ensure better coverage through the multiple generations common with this plant.
Before it gets too warm, be sure to contact your PPLM representative if you would like to consider building nutsedge treatments into your customized Picture Perfect Program. When paired with fungus control and grub control, nutsedge control can be bundled into our Plus Package that covers the primary ancillary services desired to maintain a healthy and uniform lawn during the summer. Be sure to watch for the next two installments of this blog series that further discuss the other two parts of the Plus Package next.