to HOME page
Turf
 
                   
 
 

General

Removing weeds
Hand weeding

Moss

Herbicides
Application

Herbicides table

Invertebrate pests
Ants
Porina (Wiseana species)
Grass grub (Costelytra zealandica)
Armyworms
Animal pests
Acknowledge-ments
 

Weed and pest control

General

Various perennial weeds that can thrive in short regularly mown lawns can be troublesome. They usually originate from seeds carried by wind or birds. Once lawn weeds have germinated, mowing then rapidly spreads them. Thus, early treatment of the weeds is required to eliminate them from the lawn.

Some weeds, e.g. cape-weed (Arctotheca calendula) and daosoes (Bellis perennis), may look attractive in utility lawns, but are undesirable in high-quality lawns. In some regions they are declared as noxious weeds. Many weeds survive regular cutting, and so must be controlled with herbicides or by hand weeding.

The most troublesome lawn weeds are winter grass (Poa annua), nut grass (Cyperus rotundus), slender speedwell (Veronica filiformis), wax weed (Hydrocotyl americana) and baby’s tears (Soleirolia soleirolii). These persistent weeds are not controlled by herbicides registered for lawns. Moss may also be a problem.

Other lawn weeds that are less of a problem as they are controlled by herbicides include yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum), bindii or Onehunga weed (Soliva pterosperma), broad-leaved plantain (Plantago major), self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella), lesser yellow trefoil or suckling clover (Trifolium dubium), and common white clover (Trifolium repens).

Good lawn care is an effective preventive measure. The presence of numerous weeds in a lawn usually indicates that the grass is not growing sufficient vigorously to prevent weeds from establishing. Low soil fertility and drought are the most common causes for poor growth of turfgrasses. Soil compaction and mowing the grass too short may also lead to invasion by moss.

to top of page

Removing weeds

Hand weeding

Removing weeds by hand is effective for a few scattered rosetted weeds such as English daisy (Bellis perennis), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and plantains (Plantago spp.) Use a daisy grubber or hand fork to lift the weeds, and then firm back the displaced turf.

Moss

Moss is prevalent in lawns where soils are compacted, have poor drainage, low fertility, insufficient light, closely cropped cutting regimes, and too acidic or basic soils. Moss can be removed temporarily using a special herbicide containing benzalkonium chloride, copper sulfate or dichlorophen (Table 6), followed by scarification. Iron (ferrous) sulfate in lawn sands can also be used to eradicate moss.

However, unless the soil is in a condition conducive for healthy turf, the moss will return, necessitating removing the underlying cause of moss intrusion. Improving soil aeration, drainage and fertility, and top-dressing on light soils to assist in water retention, could improve lawn health. Adopting an annual maintenance programme (Table 4) will alleviate moss invasion.

to top of page

Herbicides

The herbicides registered for use in turf and the weeds they control are listed in Table 1. They are selective for specific weeds, and usually do not harm the turf grasses when applied at recommended rates to lawns more than six months old. Higher rates may kill even a mature lawn. Younger turf may be susceptible to herbicides, even when they are applied at rates recommended on the label.

The herbicides translocate within affected plants from the leaves to the roots. Within a few days of application, the weeds usually begin to distort and shrivel.

Proprietary lawn herbicides often combine two or more active ingredients in order to control the widest possible range of weeds in one application. Active ingredients that are commonly mixed include 2,4-D, which is selective against broad-leaved rosetted weeds. Mecoprop kills small-leaved and creeping weeds such as clovers (Trifolium spp.) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Dicamba may be combined with 2,4-D or MCPA to widen the spectrum of control. Bromoxynil is usually combined with MCPA or dicamba to control Onehunga weed.

to top of page

Application

Apply the selected herbicide to a lawn in spring, about two to three weeks after growth commences, when plant growth is vigorous. Then, weeds are more susceptible to the effects of the herbicide, and the grasses will rapidly colonise the spaces vacated by the dead weed plants.

Allow at least three days after mowing before applying the herbicide, to allow enough time for the weeds to develop new leaf surfaces to absorb the herbicidal compounds. Further, wait three days after herbicide application before mowing the lawn to allow time for the herbicide to translocate to the roots.

Lawn weeds differ in their susceptibility to herbicides. Dandelions and plantains can be killed after one to two applications. Clovers may require two to three applications at four to six-week intervals. Creeping speedwell (Veronica persica) may survive several applications.

Check label for instructions on disposal of lawn clippings. For some herbicides such as chlorpyralid, clippings should not be added to compost heaps that are used as mulch around sensitive plants, or disposed of at any garden waste recycling centre. In such a case, clippings should be mulched back into the lawn, or burnt.

to top of page

Table 1: Herbicides registered for control of weeds in turf lawns.

Active ingredient Trade name Weeds controlled
methylarsinic acid AGPRO MSMA 600 Paspalum, summer grasses
bromoxynil, ioxynil, mecoprop Axall Allseed, buttercups, calandrinia, capeweed, chamomiles, chickweeds, cotula, cudweed, cut-leaved geranium, daisy, dandelion group, dichondra, docks, dove’s foot, field pansy, henbit, mayweeds, Onehunga weed, oxtongue, parsley piert, plantains, portulaca, pratia, scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, speedwell, starweed, thistles, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed
2,4-D, dicamba Banvine Chamomiles, chickweeds, clovers, cotula, cudweed, cut-leaved geranium, daisy, dandelion group, docks, dove’s foot, henbit, mallows, Onehunga weed, oxtongue, parsley piert, pennyroyal, plantains, scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, storksbill, thistles, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed, yarrow
bentazone Basagran Buttercups, calandrinia, chamomiles, chickweeds, cotula, mayweeds, Onehunga weed, parsley piert, plantains, scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, storksbill, willow weed
benzalkonium chloride, copper sulfate Mossoff Algae, lichen, liverworts, moss
dichlorophen Mostox Algae, lichen, liverworts, moss
benzalkonium chloride Yield Algae, lichen, liverworts, moss
chlopyralid Tango, Versatill, Void Chamomiles, clovers, cudweed, daisy, dandelion group, docks, mayweeds, Onehunga weed, oxtongue, thistles, willow weed, yarrow
dicamba Banvel, Crop Care Dicamba, Kamba 500 Capeweed, chamomiles, chickweeds, cut-leaved geranium, dandelion group, docks, dove’s foot, mallows, mayweeds, Onehunga weed, pearlwort, pennyroyal, plantains, self-heal, shepherd’s purse, sheep’s sorrel, thistles, willow weed, wireweed, yarrow
ethofumesate Claw, Ethosin 500 SC, Expo 500, Nortron, Pasture Clear Chickweeds, mayweeds, Poa annua, summer grasses
ioxynil Totril Super Buttercups, chickweeds, dandelion group, field pansy, Onehunga weed, oxtongue, scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, speedwell, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed
mecoprop, dichlorprop, MCPA Turfclean Calandrinia, chamomiles, chickweeds, clovers, daisy, dandelion group, docks, mallows, Onehunga weed, pearlwort, plantains, scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, speedwell, storksbill, thistles, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed
mecoprop-P Compitone Plus, Duplosan-KV Chamomiles, chickweeds, clovers, dandelion group, docks, pearlwort, plantains, scarlet pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, speedwell, thistles, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed
picloram, triclopyr Tordon Gold Buttercups, chamomiles, chickweeds, clovers, cotula, cudweed, cut-leaved geranium, daisy, dandelion group, dichondra, docks, dove’s foot, field pansy, horned oxalis, hydrocotle, mallows, mayweeds, Onehunga weed, oxtongue, parsley piert, pearlwort, pennyroyal, plantains, scarlet pimpernel, self-heal, sheep’s sorrel, shepherd’s purse, storksbill, thistles, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed, yarrow
triclopyr 600 EC Brush Off, Grazon, Scrubcutter, Victory Buttercups, chickweeds, clovers, cut-leaved geranium, daisy, dandelion group, hydrocotle, mayweeds, Onehunga weed, oxtongue, parsley piert, pearlwort, pennyroyal, scarlet pimpernel, thistles, twin cress, willow weed, wireweed, yarrow, Kikuyu (Victory only)

to top of page


Soldier’s button (Cotula australis) White clover (Trifolium repens)
Catsear (Hypochoeris radicata) Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata)
Parsley piert (Aphanes spp.)
Mouse-ear chickweed (Stellaria media) Creeping oxalis (Oxalis spp.)
Broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius) Californian thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Figure 7: Turf weeds.

to top of page


Invertebrate pests

Ants

Ants can deposit small heaps of fine soil on the lawn surface as they remove soil particles to extend their underground nests. Brush the soil mound away when it dries. The ants can be killed with insecticides carbaryl, permethrin powder, or pyrethrins washed into the nest site with water.

Porina (Wiseana species)

Caterpillar feeding can be masked by nitrogen fertiliser application.

Grass grub (Costelytra zealandica)

Controlled by drenching insecticide into the soil. Sometimes heavy rolling or wheel pressure at the right time can crush grub larvae when they are feeding close to the surface. A biological control agent (Invade) is available commercially for grass grub.

Armyworms

Lawns containing couch, kikuyu and paspalum grasses are particular affected by the dark-brown caterpillars of the armyworm. They grow to 40 mm long feeding on leaves, stems and seed heads of the turf grasses. The can be controlled with carbaryl or trichlorfon.

to top of page

Animal pests

Urine patches caused by dogs and cats can be dealt with culturally or with animal repellents. Dry soils and new lawns that attract cats can be wetted regularly to provide an unfavourable area for them. A thin layer of sawdust raked into the turf surface may prevent patches of lawn being ‘burnt’ by the high concentration of urine, as the microbes that colonise the wood particles utilise the surplus nitrogen, thereby attenuating urine’s toxicity. Repellents based on pepper dust or naphthalene need to be applied regularly, particularly after rain, and provide only temporary protection.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Bill Walmsley, New Zealand Sports Turf Institute, for his article which was abridged for the section ‘Perennial Ryegrass for Lawns and Turf’, and Sam Wakelin for the drawings in Figure 1, Figure 2 and 3. Thanks also to Robert Lamberts for the photographs of weeds.

to top of page