JoAnne Skelly: I’m a grass warrior

I have been a grass warrior lately. Grass persists in exploring and establishing in areas I don’t want it: under shrubs, twined in flowers, out of the edges of the lawn, under the trees, in the field and so on.

As a grass warrior, I have employed various attack strategies from hand-digging, weed-whacking and mowing with three different mowers – a riding mower, a small area electric mower, a rough area mower and finally, a tractor. Thank goodness I have my own mechanic living with me who keeps all the equipment in excellent working order or grass would take over my landscape world.

Being a grass warrior requires tenacity, doggedness and endurance because grasses never give up. The prolific annual grasses flourish early. However, because they complete their life cycle within one year, they are shallow-rooted and easy to pull.

The perennial grasses are another story. They grow year after year putting down strong roots. They are difficult to pull, generally requiring a shovel rather than a trowel to get them out. In addition, any roots left behind re-sprout, growing multitudes of new plants.

I avoid herbicides these days in order to maintain a healthy soil biome, which then allows plants to thrive. However, some folks resort to herbicides. I’m often asked if the active ingredient, glyphosate, which is in 750 products including Roundup, is a good grass control.

Glyphosate is a non-selective, post-emergent herbicide. This means it kills almost all actively growing plants when it is applied to leaves or freshly cut stems. If you spray it on grass growing in your flowers or shrub beds, you probably will kill the flowers as well as the grasses and shrubs. If you spray it on your lawn weeds, it may kill them, but also the lawn. There is a lot of controversy about glyphosate these days with some research saying it is carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and other studies saying it isn’t.

There are selective post-emergence herbicides that target only grasses but also other monocots, such as irises and lilies. These include various products with one of the active ingredients fluazifop, fenoxaprop or sethoxydim.

Products may come pre-mixed or require the addition of a surfactant or sticker-spreader ingredient to water in a tank sprayer. Before buying or using an herbicide, READ and understand the LABEL.

Since I will continue to avoid herbicides, I will remain a constant digger, mower or weed-whacking grass warrior. Are you one too?

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator emerita with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


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