How Do I Get Rid of Dallisgrass?

“How do I get rid of Dallisgrass?” Question from Mil of Knoxville, Tennesee

Answer: Dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum, USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9) is a weedy perennial grass that originates from South America. It forms coarse, stiff clumps that spread and grow quickly–faster than most turfgrasses. There are several ways to rid it from your lawn or garden. Sadly, none are an easy fix. Here are the top four methods:

Top 5 Methods for Removing Dallisgrass

  1. Manually remove plants early in the season to catch them early and stop them from setting seed–This may sound obvious, but quick removal is always one of the best ways of stopping weeds. A long-handled Ho-Mi is a great tool for the job. long-handled tools reduce back stress and sharply pointed Ho Mis make root removal easy.
  2. Mow your lawn on the low end. This keeps dallisgrass from setting seed and spreading. In the meantime, you can slowly remove annoying clumps bit-by-bit, and seed over the open areas with the lawn grass of your preference. Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss is a great amendment to apply for better grass seed establishment.
  3. Apply corn gluten or other preemergent herbicides in spring to stop new Dallisgrass seed from germinating.
  4. Selectively spray clumps with any quality herbicide for grass, and then remove the dead clumps.

(For more tips, click here to read my response about removing Bermuda grass.)

I hope that these tips help.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Soil

Why Doesn’t Weed and Feed Kill All of My Broadleaf Weeds?

“I put weed and feed (broadleaf weed killer) down, but the plantago weed is still there. Why?” Question from Sandra of Cottage Grove, Minnesota

Answer: There could be several possible reasons. Before covering them, let me give an overview of how most weed and feed lawn herbicides work. Broadleaf weed killers that also feed grasses only kill broadleaf weeds, like dandelions, plantago, and clover, not grasses. Non-organic weed and feed products typically contain the chemicals (2,4-D) and mecoprop-p, for weed control.  2,4-D and mecoprop-p are most active at killing weeds after they have sprouted (annual weeds are easier to destroy). Here are several reasons why your perennial plantago may still be surviving.

1. You did not apply at the right time. Broadleaf weed killers must be used when plants have sprouted and are actively growing. If applied too early in the spring, they are not as effective.

2. Weeds seeds are a problem. These chemicals are not as impactful on weed seeds, so it is important to apply them after weed seeds have sprouted. (Very early in the season, try using corn gluten, an all-natural pre-emergent that stops weed seeds from germinating.)

3. Encourage thick grass and thatch. Thick grass discourages weed seeds from sprouting. Mow grass higher to encourage a lush lawn, and don’t rake away the thick layer of thatch (the carpet of dead grass below the living grass) because this also keeps weed seeds at bay. There are always loads of seeds below the thatch just waiting to sprout.

4. Perennial weeds are tougher. Plantago is a perennial weed, and these are a lot tougher for herbicides to kill. Be sure to follow application guidelines and warnings for full effect. Most guidelines suggest the product be applied again in the fall.

Chemicals in traditional weed and feed products are pretty harsh. If you are interested in a comparable organic option, there are several all-natural broadleaf weedkillers on the market.

In the meantime, pulling up really large, annoying plantagos is an option. Getting the worst specimens out of the way will likely make you feel better until the next application.

I hope that this information helps!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Thyme Lawns

Vita Sackville-West’s twin time lawns are shown in the foreground of the beautiful landscape at Sissinghurst Castle.

In Queen Elizabeth’s day, everyone had to bathe at least once a year, whether they needed it or not. Clothing was not washed more frequently either. This period, with its voluminous skirts and skintight corsets, made communal living quite odiferous after awhile. The only solution was to cover up the stink with the scent of garden herbs. Continue reading “Thyme Lawns”

Create a Natural Prairie Garden By Repurposing Old Lawn Soils

The first settlers of the American prairie could not farm the land. First they had to strip away thick sod layer to expose this extraordinarily fertile soil. Sod was so dense, the slabs were stacked into earthen houses known as “soddies” on the open range. But the sod held more than grass, it was its own natural prairie garden that included a wide range of large prairie perennials.

Wild Meadow - Photo by Maureen Gilmer

This is the origin of our easiest and most magnificent perennials. Among them are purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, blazing star and Joe Pye weed. All of these evolved to live in concert with our native bunch grasses to create prairies that range from very dry (mesic) in the south and the verdant tallgrass prairie in the north. There is no better model for switching out your lawn to a beautiful, natural prairie garden that lures wildlife and provides vital backyard habitat.

The problem is that turf grass lawns are a heavy feeding monoculture that depends on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to maintain its beauty. Strip away this turf and what’s left beneath is ground worn out by chemical fertilizers much like the cotton fields of the South that were so lean newly freed African Americans could barely eek out a living. These worn out soils starve the microbes to death due to lack of organic matter. That’s why it’s so important to beef up that former turf grass ground to make it more fertile and supportive of a natural prairie garden.

Whether you’re planning a prairie, food garden or a new landscape, that soil must be very well amended if it is to grow a variety of plants again. You’ll want to provide amendments that do three things: boost nitrogen, introduce new microbes and provide plentiful organic matter to feed the microbes.

Echinacea and Bee - Photo by Maureen Gilmer

Because turf grass acts as a barrier, this heavily compacted ground has not experienced new organic matter for many years. Your first step is to turn every inch or rototill to aerate the ground. Then add Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, which are rich in humus. Be generous with these rich materials and work them in as deeply and thoroughly as you can. Remember, this is food to grow your microbe populations.

To compensate for nutrient deficiencies, particularly nitrogen, use potent organic fertilizers. To really boost the nitrogen levels in year one, use fast acting alfalfa meal. Then add a good all-purpose fertilizer to increase your phosphorus and potassium levels. Finally, distribute Black Gold Earthworm Castings for its heavy load of microbes ready to feed on all that new organic matter.

Bluestem - Photo by Maureen Gilmer

The sooner you apply this prescription the better your new, natural prairie garden will perform. With each month that passes it will grow progressively more fertile. You can plant the beautiful perennials and grasses right into the newly amended soil, or start a new food garden right in your own ground.

This preliminary soil work is vital for anything you plan to grow in lieu of lawn. Such a formula turns secondary earth into first class agricultural soil much like that ground that grew the first incredible bumper crops of corn and wheat. So whether you wish to look out on a flowering prairie or a garden filled with organically grown vegetables, all that’s required is to rehabilitate the soil and Mother Nature does the rest.