Summer Grass Weeds

Though the warm weather in Queensland can mean some lovely summer days, it can also mean something a little pesky for your lawn - summer grass weeds.

Image courtesy of Lawn Solutions Australia.

The thing about summer grass weeds that makes them trickier than most is that they can not be easily treated with common broadleaf herbicides. Almost all summer grass weeds require specific herbicide products for treatment, and we discuss three specific summer grass types in this information post - summer grass, paspalum and crabgrass/crowsfoot.

If you would like to know more about summer grass weeds and their treatment, speak to your local turf provider or contact Rosemount Turf on (07) 5448 6398.

Types of summer grass weeds

Summer Grass

Also known as Digitaria Sanguinalis and Digitaria Cilaris.

Image courtesy of Lawn Solutions Australia.

Summer grass generally occurs once a year, during the warmest months, then go to seed leading into autumn where it can emerge over several years. There are two varieties of summer grass, both of which look very similar and if left without treatment, can grow as high as 30cm and 1m wide, thriving in conditions of both high temperatures and humidity.

Summer grass has soft, hairy leaves that grow in clusters along the ground and the grass roots at the node (joint) and the sheathes of the leaf are usually purple tinged at the base. As summer grass spreads by seed, it is super important that you act before this happens, otherwise you will be treating it for longer than you would like to be.

Paspalum

Also known as Paspalum Dilatatum.

Image courtesy of Lawn Solutions Australia.

Paspalum is a perennial grass weed, meaning it is continually occurring. Paspalum generally occurs in the south-eastern states of Australia, starting in clumps and then spreading throughout sparse and poor performing lawns.

Paspalum has a purple tinge at the base of broad grass leaves which stem from a central crown. It primarily grows throughout the warmer months, from late spring to early autumn, and spreads through the transportation of sticky seeds. These seeds easily attach to pets, shoes and objects before falling off in a new location, where they continue to thrive.

Crabgrass/Crowsfoot

Also known as Eleusine Indica or Digitaria (Finger-grasses).

Images courtesy of Lawn Solutions Australia.

Crowsfoot goes by many names, but the ones most commonly used in Australia are crowsfoot and crabgrass. It pops up from late spring to early summertime each year, and is easily recognisable due to its ‘tufts’, staying fairly flat to the ground with almost white flat sheathed stems and smooth strap-like leaves. Crowfoot grass seed heads can have as many as ten spikelets on each long stem. In an unhealthy lawn, if left to seed and spread, crowsfoot will quickly infiltrate right through the entire lawn.

When it comes to control and treatment, crowsfoot is really quite difficult to control - it can tolerate low mowing and will thrive in nutrient deprived and compacted soil conditions, germinating in the soil when temperatures reach above 15°C and can grow extremely quickly once active.

Summer grass weed prevention

If you are searching for the best way to control and prevent summer grass weeds, there is one answer - maintain a healthy lawn. A healthy lawn means that summer grass weeds are unlikely to both infiltrate your turf and spread further, which is the best control. Additionally, being proactive and removing any summer grass weeds as soon as they appear and before they go to seed will be the key to preventing them from spreading out of control. It is always easier to control weeds from the outset rather than to try to remove them once they get out of hand.

Another trick is choosing a turf variety that is appropriately suited to your area, meaning it will remain healthy and better maintained all year round. For additional assistance, always mow your law to the right mowing height for your chosen variety, and you’ll have a leg up on any potential weed invasions.

Treatment of summer grass weeds

There are a few different ways you can treat summer grass weeds - we have listed some of the most common below. If you are still having some concerns, speak to your local turf supplier for further assistance.

Hand removal

All the summer grass weeds we have listed above can be removed by hand, but this may not get rid of them completely - they will likely continue to pop up in sparse and unhealthy areas in your lawn. In order to avoid this, try and ensure your grass both spreads and thickens across your yard - this will make it difficult for any weeds to infiltrate.

If you are choosing to remove the weeds yourself, make sure you dig underneath the crown, below soil level and remove the entire root of the plant. Always be incredibly careful not to spread any seeds during the process but, if you act quickly, you should be able to treat them fairly easily.

Post-emergent herbicides

If you are finding that summer grass weeds have spread all through your lawn, you may find a selective herbicide that contains DSMA is your best option. Paspalum, Nutgrass & Clover Weed Killer and herbicides formulated with the active DSMA will control paspalum, crowsfoot/crabgrass and summer grass.

Post-emergent herbicides can be mixed into a pressure sprayer, with the addition of a surfactant or wetting agent or a couple drops of dishwashing liquid to ensure it adheres better to the leaf. 

For the best results, spray the summer grass weeds when they are actively growing during the summer months. Repeated applications may be required in order to fully eradicate them from your lawn, and make sure you adhere to the application rates and instructions on the label for the best results.

If you are looking to treat individual tufts of summer grass weeds, a non-selective herbicide (like glyphosate) may be a good option - such as Round Up or Zero. If you choose to go down this path, make sure you are very careful - these kinds of products will kill everything they come into contact with. The safest way is to use a small paintbrush and carefully brush the glyphosate only onto the invading weeds leaf.

*Note: For buffalo lawns, it is strongly suggested that you only spot spray the weeds and not spray your entire lawn - this can cause harm to your turf overall.

Pre-emergent herbicides

Finally, if you are looking at stopping summer grass weeds, you can use a pre-emergent herbicide like Oxafert. This is a great way of stopping these weed grasses from germinating from the soil in the first place. In order for them to work effectively though, you need to apply them before emergence which, for many of these weeds, would mean applying in early to mid-spring, but they can be applied at any time.

Do you have any experience with summer grass weeds in your lawn? What did you find worked for your lawn the best?

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