Dandelions flowering in turf
Understand the life cycle of your turf weeds and know the best time to eliminate them.
Now that spring has finally sprung and the rains have been replaced with a couple days of sunshine, one of the most predictable of all weeds is flowering in turf: dandelions. The dandelion flower is a rite of spring and perspective on them varies from utter disdain to a nice yellow flower for a Mother’s Day bouquet.
If you’re of the former persuasion, resist the urge to go out and try to eliminate them with a broadleaf herbicide during this initial flower flush. Wait until the bright yellow flowers transition to the puff ball stage and then treat with a broadleaf herbicide. Keep in mind that weeds are always trying to tell a story and in the case of turfgrass, many weeds are indicators of voids or poor turf density. Dense, healthy turf is more resistant to weed invasion, so if you can promote a healthy lawn with mowing high, mulching clippings back onto the turf and proper fertilization, you’ll likely have fewer weeds to control.
In addition to dandelions lighting up the landscape, there are many winter annual weeds that are currently very active. For many of these weeds this spring, flowering is a sign that their life is about over. Proper identification of what weed you are dealing with can save you time and money. Currently, common chickweed, henbit, shepherd's purse, yellow rocket and corn speedwell are all flowering. Without understanding their life cycle, some might think this is a great time to control these weeds. However, these weeds are all winter annuals; they germinate in the fall, overwinter, and then flower and produce seed in the spring. If you apply herbicide now they will be dead and gone in two to three weeks. If you do nothing, they will be dead and gone in three weeks. If that didn’t register the first time you read it, read it again as you can save some time and money and go back inside and sit down instead of worrying about killing these winter annuals.
If you have any questions about weed identification in turf areas, make sure to visit the MSU Turf Weeds web site.