Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

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!

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Eliminating dogbane from transplanted milkweed in Franklin Lakes NJ
May 10, 2010 - We transplanted milkweed from the wild into our garden. Included in the clump of milkweed was dogbane. We weren't aware of how invasive dogbane is. We've has some success in digging it out but we'...
view the full question and answer

Do white-tailed deer consume King Ranch bluestem?
October 25, 2013 - Will white-tail deer in central Texas consume King Ranch bluestem ?
view the full question and answer

Plants for slope in central Alabama
July 26, 2011 - Our home is atop a 20-25' eastern facing sandy loam slope in central Alabama. It was previously covered w/ kudzu. After 3 yrs. of eradication of the kudzu we are ready to plant with native grasses/pl...
view the full question and answer

Chinaberry trees coming up volunteer
October 14, 2007 - I have several chinaberry trees that have sprouted after my neighbor trimmed his tree. I have cut these trees down to the ground a couple of times, but they just send out new shoots. Any idea on how...
view the full question and answer

Non-native mimosa failing to bloom in Leitchfield KY
October 29, 2011 - I have a medium size mimosa tree here in KY that usually blooms beautifully; it did not bloom at all this year. It leafed out well, needs a few dead limbs pruned, but seems otherwise healthy. Please t...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.