Mow or Spray Weeds?

News Column
By: Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent–Ag/NR
Smith County

 

To Mow or to Spray

To mow or to spray, that is the question?  People may be asking themselves this question on a regular basis when it comes to weed control.  What one product can I spray that will control all the weed species in my lawn or pasture?  Well the answer is it depends.

A weed is in the eye of the beholder.  What I mean hear is what one person calls a weed others may see as a desirable plant.  A weed is a plant that is growing out of place or that its purpose has not yet been determined.

Weeds may be an annual, perennial, or biennial plant.  Weeds may also be classified as grassy weeds, broadleaf weeds, or woody weeds.  Control for each of these will vary according to stage of maturity of the plant and the desired plants you want to keep and not remove.  Weeds are opportunistic meaning they will grow when conditions allow and where competition is not a problem.  A dense stand of grass both in a lawn or pasture can compete well and keep a certain amount of weeds out.  Also, a fertile lawn or pasture is another important option as weeds grow well in infertile soils.

An annual is a plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.  Winter annuals germinate in the fall, elongate producing a stem in the spring, flower, produce seeds, and die in early summer.  Summer annuals germinate in the spring, elongate producing a stem in the summer, flower, produce seed and die in early fall.  Annual plants are easily controlled in the seedling stage or when the plant is young.

A perennial is a plant that grows for many years.  Although, perennial plants may go dormant in certain times of the year, they come back year after year.  Our grass is a perennial plant as it goes dormant and comes back year after year.  Examples of perennial weeds are grass species, blackberry and dewberry, and some brush species to name a few.  A perennial plant is easily controlled when the plant is in the bud stage or when it is flowering and setting fruit.

A biennial is a plant that completes its life cycle in two growing seasons.  The first year the plant germinates and grows an above ground stem called a rosette sending down a taproot for food storage.  The second year, the plant goes through stem elongation, flowers, produces seed, and dies.  An example of a biennial plant is a thistle variety.  A biennial plant is easily controlled when in the rosette stage.

So back to the question, do I mow or spray?  Well again it depends.  Right now we have a number of annual weeds that have produced seed.  One such plant is Woolley Croton or what many in East Texas call “Goat Weed” or “Dove Weed.”  You can spray to control this weed, but being an annual the best time to control it is when it is young in the seedling stage.  Mowing might be a better option this time of year as this plant has gone to seed and the herbicides will not kill the seed.   Again, to mow or spray will be a decision made by the individual landowner.

One problem with mowing regularly is when you mow weeds; we are also mowing a certain amount of grass.  That may not be a problem unless you are trying to grow forage for livestock and in this case we might need all the grass we can grow.  A dense stand of weeds can impact our lawn or pasture grass quantity and quality.

It is important to read and follow all label recommendations when deciding to use herbicides in your lawn or pasture.  The label provides information on application rates and information to keep from injuring our desired plant species.  Some labels are for lawn and turf use while others are for agricultural use.  These usually do not overlap.  Do not rely on memory when making herbicide applications.  Read the label carefully.  Whether you decide to mow or spray, do some calculations to determine cost and long term goals for the desired plants you want to keep.

Extension programs serve people of ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

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