henbit weeds in a field

April showers bring May flowers, but January brings winter weeds. This time of year, it’s easy to forget about lawncare, but many weeds thrive throughout the winter months, especially in wet weather like we’ve experienced recently. Left unchecked, these weeds will generate seeds that can wreak havoc on your beautiful lawn for years to come. No worries, this guide will help you identify, treat, and prevent unwelcome lawn guests.

Step 1: Identification

The first step to treating your weed problem is to identify it. The following list outlines the look and habit of four common southeastern winter weeds.

ANNUAL BLUEGRASS
Appearance 
Light green in color, annual bluegrass grows in clusters, featuring a coarse leaf and unattractive white seed heads.
Season
Annual bluegrass germinates in late summer or early fall, maturing in the fall. It remains green throughout winter and produces white seeds in spring.
Contributing Factors
Avoid overwatering when treating and controlling annual bluegrass. Since the roots are shallow, frequent watering encourages this prolific weed.

COMMON/STICKY CHICKWEED
Appearance
Common chickweed rarely grows higher than two inches. Its hairy stems produce bright green smooth leaves and small white flowers with five petals. Sticky chickweed looks similar to common chickweed but tends to be more upright with hairy leaves and stems that may produce glandular secretions—hence the name “sticky.”
Season
This winter annual germinates from January to early March in cooler areas but can sprout at a much higher temperatures in moist soil.
Contributing Factors 
Chickweed thrives in neutral pH soils with high nitrogen. Overwatering also encourages this invasive weed.

HENBIT
Appearance
A hairy winter annual, henbit features broad egg-shaped leaves and distinctive purple flowers.
Season
Henbit grows in warm spells during winter and remains fairly dormant in the cold.
Contributing Factors 
Shade, good soil and constant moisture contribute to the swift regeneration of henbit.

SWINECRESS
Appearance
Swinecress exists as a rosette until maturity, when a flower stem develops. Known for its feathery leaves and small white flowers, swinecress can release a skunk like odor, depending on the variety.
Contributing Factors
Swinecress tolerates low mowing and heavy foot traffic, making it difficult to control.


Step 2: Treatment

If you’re battling winter weeds, the first and most effective line of defense is hand weeding, especially for isolated patches. Be sure to pull up the full plant, including the roots. Wait until after a rain, when the ground is damp for easier pulling.

Treating larger areas of weeds in sparsely growing grass may require chemical treatment.

Selective herbicides, formulated for control of specific weeds, are useful in lawns but may not be suitable for use in flower beds. Read all labels carefully. Make sure that the herbicide is tailored to the type of weeds you need to eradicate and won’t harm the surrounding grass or ornamentals. 

Step 3: Prevention

The easiest way to control weeds is to stop them before they start. Begin by selecting and nurturing a quality turfgrass. Growing a lawn of dense vigorous grass helps strangle out pesky weeds. 

Also apply pre-emergent herbicides each fall and spring, following labels closely. These products won’t kill the weeds you can already see, but they are highly effective at stopping weeds from germinating in the first place.

Maintaining your lawn through proper care and use of pre-emergents will keep your lawn beautiful and virtually weed-free year round. If you have questions about which products to use on your weeds, our Certified Turfgrass Professionals are standing by to help at 770.832.8606 or info@NGTurf.com.