Weeds and the silly season

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I was listening to meteorologist Joe Bastardi on the radio several days ago talking about the cold December on the East Coast. He said this pattern repeats itself every 11 years based on sunspot activity. I do seem to remember that December 1999 was pretty cold, but December 1988 was too long ago for my synapses to fire on that. Whatever the reason, it looks like December will be either the coldest or the second coldest on record. 

The good news, according to Bastardi, is the rest of the winter will have normal or above-normal temperatures. That’s music to my ears, but that does bring up some lawn care and plant management issues.

If your lawn has winter annual and cool-season perennial weeds filling in the weak places, now is a good time to apply control measures. One of the more effective and inexpensive products that can be used on centipede, St. Augustine and Bermuda is atrazine, which is sold as Aatrex, Purge and in a lot of cases just “atrazine.”  This is an old herbicide that has the unique ability to control many existing weeds and prevent others from sprouting. Atrazine is the only control available to homeowners for annual bluegrass.

Most folks rely on mixtures of broadleaf weed killers like Speed Zone or Trimec. If you don’t have centipede or St. Augustine, go for the regular formulations instead of the “southern” ones. Since centipede and St. Augustine are sensitive to higher rates of 2, 4-D, the “southern” formulations have less of it. Unfortunately, that reduces the effectiveness of the product on lots of our common weeds, so you’ll get better control for weeds in zoysia and Bermuda lawns with the standard products with the extra 2, 4-D. 

Either way, these products work best at temperatures between 50-80 degrees; so mild days this time of year are perfect. You have the right temperatures and small weeds that are easier to control with less herbicide. Give them a few more weeks and the control job will be much more difficult.

A new product, metsulfuron, does a good job on lots of broadleaf weeds. It’s also good for the environment because the use rates are incredibly small (0.75 ounces per acre). The problem is that you’ll probably have to get a professional with the right equipment to help you with it.

The silly season of butchering crape myrtles is upon us. No matter what you see being done by your neighbors and everyone else, there is no good reason to hack crape myrtles back severely. As long as they are growing well, they will bloom whether you prune them or not. If you have to prune severely each year to keep them in bounds, consider changing to a variety that better fits the space. There are great crape myrtles in sizes ranging from 4-40 feet in a host of colors.