Weed Control in Fescue Lawns

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Using Less Pesticides in Lawns

Preventing  weeds, insects and diseases is the key to using less pesticides in lawns. There are many things we can do to help our turfgrass resist pests. A healthy properly cared for lawn can choke out weeds and reduce our need for herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

Integrated Pest Management

If we employ a pest management philosophy known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM we can reduce pesticide use. This philosophy states that you should use all tactics available to you to control pests with pesticides as a last resort. Hand pulling weeds, planting disease resistant plant varieties, proper mowing heights and keeping plants healthy are all ways to prevent or solve pest problems without using chemicals.

Tips for Keeping Lawns Healthy

-Keep fescue lawns healthy by soil testing every three years and liming according to test results. Healthy lawns will be thick and outcompete weeds.

-Prevent weeds in fescue by mowing higher. Longer fescue will shade the soil and reduce weed seed germination. Longer leaves produces more food from the sun making grass plants stronger.

-Fertilize adequately but do not over fertilize. Properly fertilized lawns can use the nutrients to grow better and resist pests.

-Aerate and overseed lawns in the late-summer or early fall during the months August through September. Aeration reduces soil compaction, improves water drainage and allows air to enter the soil which improves root growth.

-Do not overwater lawns. Soggy soils can lead to root diseases and leaf spot diseases.

-Isolate your lawn from other lawns as much as possible. Prevent the spread of weeds, insects or diseases by cleaning mowing equipment frequently.

healthy lawn

A lawn that is mowed to the proper height of 3-4 inches, fertilized properly and irrigated reasonably will resist pests such as weeds, insects and diseases.

Sometimes we must use pesticides but let’s reserve them as a last resort. I encourage all of my clients, homeowners and lawn care companies, to employ IPM when making pest management decisions.

***NOTE – All pesticides should be used with caution. Users are required to read the label before using any pesticide. 

Preemergent Herbicides

-Preventing weed seeds from germinating can be achieved by using preemergent herbicides. Spring and Fall applications of herbicides such as bensulide, dithiopyr, pendimethalin, and prodiamine may effectively prevent broadleaf weeds.

Getting Bermudagrass Out of Fescue Lawns

-Products containing Fenoxaprop; For use on Kentucky bluegrass, Perennial, Ryegrass and Fescue lawns. Not for use on Bermudagrass, Bentgrass, St. Augustine (including Floratam), Centipede, Bahia, or Zoysiagrass lawns.

-Products containing Topramezone will kill Bermudagrass in fescue.

Getting Other Warm Season Grasses out of Fescue

-Products containing fenoxaprop and quinclorac kills grassy weeds such as crabgrass, goosegrass, and dallisgrass. Remember, do not spray when temperatures are over 85.

-Products containing Topramezone will kill goosegrass, dallisgrass, crabgrass and some broadleaf weeds.

Getting Cool Season Perennial Grasses out of Fescue

Unfortunately, there is no chemical labeled for control of perennial cool season grasses such as orchardgrass in fescue.

 Getting Annual Bluegrass out of Fescue

-Prevent ABG in fescue using preemergent herbicides. Fall applications of herbicides such as bensulide, dithiopyr, pendimethalin and prodiamine may effectively control annual bluegrass.

-Selective postemergence annual bluegrass control options in cool-season lawns are limited. Ethofumesate controls established annual bluegrass in perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and dormant bermudagrass

Getting Broadleaf Weeds Out of Fescue

-Broadleaf weeds can be killed with postemergence herbicides that selectively kill broadleaf plants in lawns. In particular, herbicides with the active ingredient 2,4-D work well on chickweed and other broadleaf weeds. These chemicals can be used on grass that is not dormant, including fescue. Do not use on a fall-seeded fescue lawn until it has been mowed four times.

Getting Nutsedge and Kyllinga out of Fescue

– Products containing sulfentrazone or halosulfuron kills tough weeds such as purple and yellow nutsedge, chickweed, spurge, knotweed, kyllinga, plantain, clover, and other listed weeds in fine and tall fescue, creeping bent grass, perennial rye grass, Kentucky, as well as on warm season grasses like bermuda grass, bahia grass, centipede grass, carpet grass, kikuyu grass, zoysia grass. It is recommended to apply on weeds when they are less than 3 inches high to achieve best results.

***NOTE – All pesticides should be used with caution. Users are required to read the label before using any pesticide. 

Written By

Steve Pettis, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionSteve Pettis, Jr.Extension Agent, Agriculture - Consumer and Commercial Horticulture Call Steve Email Steve N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center
Updated on Mar 15, 2022
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