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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 06, 2008

From: Hewitt, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Elimination of nutgrass
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Nutgrass has taken over my vegetable and perennial garden to the point that I can not see my plants or granite sand paths. The two major areas are about 600 square feet in total. What can I do to control this. It has affected my love of gardening: I'm ready to either move or pour concrete. My husband tells me to find a third alternative. Thank you for any advice. Ann

ANSWER:

Sadly, nutgrass ranks right up there with poison ivy as gardener's Public Enemy No. 1. First, read this previous answer from Mr. Smarty Plants that pretty well lays out the truth of the matter. As you will note in that answer, herbicides are not really effective because fresh plants will come up from the tubers, deep below. Just yanking at the nutgrass will cause it to break up at soil level, and it will have grown one to two inches by the next day. On the granite path, the problem would be even worse, because the soil will be dry and the nutgrass will easily break and come right back.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends neither for nor against pesticides, but the granite paths may be a case where you don't have much choice. However, you will have to use a great deal of caution to keep the spray off your vegetables and perennials. Spray on a still day, keep the sprayer low to the ground, and put some kind of a barrier, like foam board or cardboard between your spraying and the plants you are trying to save. As we said, the nutgrass will come back up, but at least you have a level start. Pull it up, and do your best to get as many tubers as you can.

Now, on the flower and vegetable gardens themselves, we're really sorry, but it's going to have to be pulled out, slowly and carefully, getting as many tubers out as possible. And it's going to have to keep on being done from now on. Nutgrass is very resistant to herbicides, but your other plants are not.

We hope you don't have to go to concrete. And we don't want you to give up gardening. Don't let the nutgrass win!

 

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