Weed Avengers: How to manage nutsedge

June 14, 2021 -  By
Nutsedge often has a lime-green color and grows about twice as quickly as regular turfgrass. (Photo courtesy of PBI-Gordon Corporation)

Nutsedge often has a lime-green color and grows about twice as quickly as regular turfgrass. (Photo courtesy of PBI-Gordon Corporation)

If customers complain about a quick-growing weed that’s towering over the rest of their turf, they might have nutsedge in their lawns. Properly identifying and treating this aggressive weed are the keys to successfully managing it, as two lawn care operators (LCOs) share.

How to identify

Nutsedge has a lime-green color and grows about twice as fast as regular grass. Its blades are also thinner than those on other grasses, with a triangular stem.

Adam Linnemann, owner of Linnemann Lawn Care & Landscaping, says his customers often refer to nutsedge as water grass. His team will ask the client to describe the color, how quickly it grows or send a photo to confirm it’s nutsedge. Years of experience have been the biggest help with identifying the weed, he says.

Linnemann Lawn Care & Landscaping provides landscape, hardscape, lawn care, lighting and snow removal services throughout the eastern St. Louis metro area, on the Missouri-Illinois line. Its customers are 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial, and the company has an annual revenue of $1.2 million.

When to apply herbicides

Nutsedge control is included in Linnemann’s lawn care program because of its prevalence in the area. The company applies FMC’s Dismiss NXT herbicide, which includes the active ingredients sulfentrazone and carfentrazone-ethyl, as soon as nutsedge appears, generally between June and August. Linnemann appreciates the quick results.

“The main reason we like it is that two days after spraying, the nutsedge is already dying,” Linnemann says. “That’s good for us and the homeowner.”

Jeffrey Juchnowicz, president of Terra Garden Solutions in Naples, Fla., battles both nutsedge and kyllinga, which produces nutsedge seed heads and is more difficult to manage. So, he turned to a product that treats both.

His company applies PBI-Gordon’s Vexis granular herbicide six to 10 times a year, depending on the lawn’s needs. “It doesn’t stunt turf like other
herbicides,” Juchnowicz says. Vexis features the active ingredient pyrimisulfan.

Terra Garden Solutions provides lawn care and pest control services to an even mix of residential and commercial properties. The company has an annual revenue of $3 million.

Best cultural practices

In addition to applying herbicides, keeping a thick lawn and avoiding bare spots help prevent nutsedge. LCOs also should ensure there aren’t low spots or other areas that hold water.

“We see it more if the lawn doesn’t drain well,” Linnemann says. His technicians instruct customers not to walk on the treated area until it dries and to avoid mowing for one to two days after the application.

Preventing severe lawn conditions like excessively wet or dry areas
also helps, Juchnowicz says. Mowing more often has also helped his team reduce occurrences.

“You’ll notice that when you have areas on the property like a drainage ditch, side yard or backyard with drought damage, these are the areas that will have nutsedge first,” Juchnowicz says. “Once it gets into an area, it spreads into a circular-type pattern.”

Mistakes to avoid

Be cautious if mixing herbicides, like a broadleaf and sedge herbicide, for example, Juchnowicz says. If herbicides are improperly mixed, the chemicals can cause more turf injury than if applied separately. 

Also, Juchnowicz says it’s important not to rely too heavily on a single herbicide. LCOs need to give systemic products time to work.

“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with herbicides,” he says, noting replacing the initial product with another herbicide too early could lead to a reduction in its efficacy.

“Don’t treat sedge as a short-term issue,” Juchnowicz says. “It spreads, and it’s one of the tougher weeds to get rid of. Be diligent to recognize when it’s starting to germinate and give it a week or two after it germinates before treating to get a consistent spray.” 

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