If you aren’t a master at identifying the various types of lawn weeds that grow in your yard, getting rid of them can become an excruciating process. There are a number of weeds that grow throughout areas of the United States. Be sure to take a look at our Identifying Common Lawn Weeds blog to make sure you are purchasing the appropriate herbicide for the specific weeds you are seeing. This week, Sod U takes a closer look at spurge and discusses how to eliminate it from your yard for good.
Spurge is a common summer annual weed found throughout the United States that can invade weak areas of lawns, gardens and even sidewalk cracks. Although this is mostly a summer weed, it is common for it to continue growing in areas of the southern United States into the winter months.
This broadleaf weed is easy to spot as it has a red hairy stem and forms a dense mat of dark green leaves close to the ground that allow it to survive under low mowing heights. Typically, this weed can grow in various soil conditions and will thrive in warmer areas of the lawn where turfgrass is thin, allowing it to smother the remaining turf and take over. Spurge is also a sign that nematodes (microscopic worms that live in soil) may be present in your lawn. Learn more about nematodes here.
Pictured above from left to right: A young spurge plant and a mature, large spurge plant.
The growing season for spurge begins when the soil temperatures reach 60 degrees, allowing the seeds to germinate. Plants will continue to grow throughout the season until the soil temperatures drop and a frost occurs; however, this weed can often be a bigger problem in southern states because the season for growth is much longer. Seeds will begin to sprout rapidly, and newly sprouted plants can produce seeds of their own in as little as five weeks. Therefore, it is extremely important to identify the problem early and treat quickly before the weeds become overwhelming for the remainder of the season. Seeds produced by the plants in the later half of the season may remain dormant until the following spring, making consistent identification and treatment key.
Spurge Non-Chemical Control
Before moving to chemical treatment options, it is important to consider ways to strengthen your lawn so that spurge cannot become a problem in the first place. One of the most important things homeowners can do is to maintain a healthy, thick lawn, as spurge thrives in thin areas of turf. To do so, proper mowing, irrigation and fertilization should be used so that the lawn is as healthy as possible to prevent weed pressure before it begins. Sod University recommends Lawnifi®, a powerful fertilizer program powered by Catalyst Technology™️, which allows consumers to apply 80 percent less product with better results. The Fall Fertilizer Box consists of three bottles—Boost, Maintain and Recover—to apply at specific times to help your lawn get the nutrients it needs during the fall season. For those who prefer traditional granular fertilizer applications, Lawnifi Foundation is a granular fertilizer used for residential lawns and gardens that can be used throughout the different seasons all year long. You can learn more in Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
Luckily, spurge is not a very competitive weed, so a dense lawn will prevent weed seeds from germinating. When a small patch of spurge occurs, hand pulling is an option because the plant is connected to one central tap root. However, when hand pulling, it is important to wear gloves so that milky sap from the weed does not irritate the skin. It is also essential to get the entire root of the plant when pulling by hand or it will be able to grow back.
Spurge Chemical Control
When chemical controls are necessary, there are many options for both pre- and post-emergent control. A pre-emergent herbicide is as its name suggests: an herbicide that prevents weeds before they appear, whereas a post-emergent treats weeds once the weeds are already present. The application of a pre-emergent herbicide should begin when the soil temperature is around 55 degrees—right before the seeds start to germinate—so that the product is present when the plants begin to grow. A common pre-emergent option is Prodiamine 65 WDG (active ingredient Prodiamine), which can provide season long control of spurge and many other broadleaf weeds. If the weeds are already established, a post-emergent herbicide is also an option, but should ideally be applied when the weeds are still young as the mature plants are more difficult to kill. Some common post-emergent control options are Hi-Yield Atrazine (active ingredient atrazine), SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf, SpeedZone Southern Herbicide or Q4 Plus, all of which can quickly control spurge and other broadleaf weeds and can be applied throughout the entire lawn area.
As always, read the label carefully before applying any chemical for spurge control to ensure that the product will not damage your lawn and that you are using the correct application rate!
For more information on weed control fundamentals, check out our Weed Control blog and our Identifying Common Lawn Weeds blog to learn about the different types of lawn weeds. With temperatures starting to cool, common fall and winter lawn weeds may start to make an appearance in your yard. Sod University discusses the importance of applying a pre-emergent to your lawn and garden during the fall and also makes some product recommendations in a separate article. Visit How to Use a Pre-Emergent Herbicide in the Fall to learn more.