The Q&A Archives: Weeds

Question: My yard has many, many weeds with stickers. What can I use to get rid of them other than sitting on the lawn hand pulling? What type of mulch should be used? I live in El Paso, TX where it is very, very hot, so something to help conserve water would be great.

Answer: The key to keeping sand burrs at bay is to cultivate a healthy lawn. Sand burrs are what you would call a pioneer plant. When soil is disturbed, these hardy plants are among the first to show up and take hold. When soil in established areas starts to lose its fertility and its ability to support other vegetation, sand burrs are only too happy to move in and take over. Because this plant is an annual weed that reproduces by seed, one of the best solutions to controlling it is to apply a pre-emergent product like corn meal gluten. Corn meal gluten contains humic acid, which will prevent the germination of annual weeds while it builds up organic nutrients in the soil. Apply this in the spring when the soil temperature reaches about 52?F (late March/mid-April) and continue every 6 weeks through September. If you reseed your lawn in the spring, keep in mind that corn meal gluten will also prevent new grass seed from germinating. When used in combination with some old-fashioned elbow grease (pulling adult plants by hand), in 1 or 2 years you should see a noticeable difference in sand burr numbers. Spot spraying vinegar on young sand burr plants (at the 2-4 leaf stage) is also effective, but it isn't selective. Vinegar will damage anything it comes into contact with, including your healthy turf. Good luck!

As for mulch, you can use nearly any locally available organic matter. Compost, shredded leaves, peatmoss or straw are all good mulches.

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