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JAMES HODGES


Hopes for a late spring are quickly fading this week and along with the warm-up comes an earlier invasion of winter lawn weeds. Back in botany class, I can recall the term “Indicator Plant” used for specific or unusual plants that seem to inhabit certain types of habitats. Could certain weeds be indicator plants for certain home landscape and turf habitat changes that created recent weed and turf clashes?

What would constitute a weed habitat that replaced a once-thriving warm-season turf? There might be several condition changes that favored certain weeds in their invasion of turf habitats.

Are you creating good habitat for the weeds or maintaining good habitat for your specific warm-season turf? Most homeowners don’t see the invasion coming or are caught by surprise by what seems like an overnight weed invasion.

If one is to figure out what is causing habitat changes that aided in a weed invasion, don’t just consider last year’s hot summer and long drought. What happened with soil nutrition, acidity levels, and sunlight and shade changes caused by tree growth and water availability over the last five, 10 or 15 years?

Another term or scientific saying was “nature abhors a vacuum.” Which means when one plant is struggling with changing conditions, another more adapted plant can eventually replace it. This often happens with turf. One very important component to long-term stability, versus accelerated change, is maintaining good turf-management practices.

If weeds are appearing in large numbers in your turf, what has been your management the last five years? When and how much do you soil test? Have you fertilized or limed recently based on tests? Do you mow at the correct level for your particular turf? Do you avoid mowing when soil is wet to avoid compaction? Have you experienced any signs of insect or disease problems in the last few years and was there significant turf damage?

When weeds are in high numbers, it is very unlikely that an application of “weed and feed” will suddenly turn things around. As spring arrives, if your grass is not up to speed and weeds have the advantage, there are several activities to start turning around your lawn:

- Identify major weeds and your grass species.

- Take a soil sample to evaluate the nutrient status of the lawn.

- Look for major problem areas, such as shady areas, and evaluate what can be done to improve light or look at shade-tolerant ground covers or mulching as alternatives.

- Apply lime if the soil test recommends it.

- Apply recommended fertilizer on May 1 once grass has greened up.

- Take advantage of Clemson’s many bulletins on grass and weeds at its website, clemson.edu/extension/hgic/.Bulletin HGIC 2310: Managing Weeds in Warm Season Lawns is a great place to start.

4H chicken project

If your child loves chickens, sign them up for the Greenwood-Saluda 4-H Pullet Project, which is designed for youth who were ages 5-19 as of Jan. 1. Youth get a choice of a large flock (30 chicks) or a small flock (15 chicks).

Cost is $10 for non-4H members and free to those who sign up with 4H. Chicks will be available in early April. Youth will show their chickens at the Saluda Livestock show Sept. 14.

For information or to sign up, contact 4-H agent Lucy Charping at 864-223-3264, 864-993-5317 or email lucyw@clemson.edu. Register youth at the Greenwood County or Saluda County Clemson Extension office.

James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.