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Invasive Weeds: How to Control Nutsedge in Your Lawn

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.

The Enemy: Nutsedge sprouts up through the grasses in my lawn

The Enemy: Nutsedge sprouts up through the grasses in my lawn

Rid Your Lawn of this Invasive Weed

How To Kill Nutsedge: I like a green lawn but I'm not a fanatic about it and when it comes to lawn care, I have a high tolerance for clover and other weeds mixing in with the turf grass. Diversity makes for a healthier lawn that is more drought tolerant and pest resistant, and it is less expensive than maintaining a cultured lawn of purebred bluegrass. As long as the lawn is green and the grass looks pretty good when it's all cut to the same height, then I'm happy.

I wasn't concerned when the first few light green shoots of this little weed began to sprout among the blades of grass. In fact, I barely noticed the small patch of this grass-like plant. Sure, it grew faster and taller than its surrounding neighbors and it was a lighter and brighter shade of green when the lawn was mowed. But it was green and it looked like grass.

The little patch of strange looking grass began to spread very quickly, and it soon covered a large area of our front yard. It seems that nutsedge spreads faster than perennial rye turf grass or even crabgrass. It spread quickly, even in our established lawn. By the following spring, the nutsedge patch had spread out several feet in every direction. Worse yet, new islands of nutsedge were popping up throughout the front yard, and it looked as if the weed was poised to take over the lawn. I needed to do something to stop the nutsedge invasion!



What is Nutsedge?

Know the Enemy!

Nutsedge is perennial grass-like plant that spreads by seed or through underground rhizomes and tubers. Its three-side stalk easily identifies nutsedge as a member of the sedge family. Pluck a stalk from the ground and gently roll it between your thumb and forefinger. If the plant is a nutsedge, you will feel the triangular shape of the stalk.

Once it becomes established in a lawn, nutsedge spreads quickly and aggressively during the warm summer months. It is very difficult to control. Within a few days of mowing the lawn, the bright yellow-green nutsedge leaves grow taller than the rest of the grasses. As the cold weather approaches, leaf growth slows and the nutsedge seems to recede and disappear among the blades of turf grass. But it is still there, laying dormant for the winter and getting ready to burst forth in greater numbers in the following spring.

There are two types of nutsedge found commonly in lawns and garden beds throughout North America: Yellow Nutsedge and Purple Nutsedge. The two plants closely resemble each other and though I think the invader in my front yard is the Yellow Nutsedge variety, I'm not really sure. It doesn't really matter if it's yellow or purple: it was spreading quickly and I wanted it gone.

The Organic Approach

If you catch the invaders early enough while their numbers are small, you can remove the individual nutsedge plants by pulling them out one-by-one. Grasp the base of the plant as close to the ground as possible and pulling up gently, wiggle the roots free form the soil. Be careful to remove the entire plant from ground - if even the tiniest tuber breaks off and remains in the soil, the nutsedge will grow back and sprout again.

Tediously, I pulled hundreds and thousands of these little plants from the lawn and neighboring planting beds. Okay, maybe not thousands but I sure pulled out a lot of these irritating little plants! No matter how many were yanked out of the ground, I barely made a dent in the infestation. It was time for more drastic actions.

Nutsedge Killer in action: Day 2 after application

Nutsedge Killer in action: Day 2 after application

When the Organic Method Fails....

There are several products available that claim to kill nutsedge. I tried a couple of different general lawn care products that target weeds, with different levels of success. However, the nutsedge seemed too tough for the general-purpose weed killers.

Then, a friend recommended Ortho Nutsedge Killer for Lawns, so I ordered a couple of bottles. This product comes premixed in a small spray bottle which makes applying the Nutsedge Killer as easy as spraying the offending plant with the lethal dose. Coverage is somewhat spotty, and I used almost a bottle and a half to spray about a ten-square foot area, plus hitting several of the isolated little islands of nutsedge that popped up here and there around the lawn.The impact was almost immediate and within 48-hours, the nutsedge was already turning brown and starting to wilt. As you can see in the photo, the nutsedge is dying back but the surrounding turf grass looks fine.

Nutsedge Killer really worked!

Nutsedge Killer really worked!

After three or four days, the nutsedge has died back significantly. It was easy to see which stalks that I missed with the initial spraying, so I hit these on Round Two. Within another day or so, the nutsedge was in full retreat. Nutsedge is tough stuff, and the manufacturer warns that repeated applications may be necessary to eradicate the plant. In my case, total annihilation is not necessary: my goal is to limit the invader so that it does not dominate my front lawn. So far, this product is worth the minimum investment of time, effort and money in controlling the troublesome weed.

Just in case you're wondering: No, I do not work for Ortho or any of its distributors. I don't even own any of their company stock. But I am tired of buying products that don't work, or feeling that I didn't get my money's worth. This product was recommended to me so I tried it, and I was happy with the results so I'm passing this along. Your results and opinions may vary.

This Stuff Works!

Nutsedge Killer for Lawns

Are there problems? Yup. For one, the bottle is too small and the contents don't cover much surface area. Working the spray bottle trigger quickly tired out my trigger fingers on both hands. You have to bend over and close to the ground in order to target the enemy with an accurate blast from the sprayer, and it's easy to miss individual plants when trying to cover a dense population of nutsedge over a fair-sized area.

Expect to apply multiple applications. This isn't a guarantee that this product will work for you but if you are trying to control this botanical pest, buying a bottle or two is a small investment and it seemed like a low risk. I'm sure that I'll need to buy more in the future, because nutsedge is a tough perennial and there are still lots of little tubers just beneath the surface that are waiting for their turn to sprout. If too many do, they'll get hit with another dose of Nutsedge Killer.

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Hoe Do You Control Weeds?

Nutsedge Tries a Comeback

As expected, the nutsedge returned again in the spring. But the number of villainous grassy shoots is significantly less than last year (and the year before that), and the infested areas are fewer and much smaller. Still, there are numerous little islands of invaders to deal with, plus a number of renegades sprouting up here and there around the yard.

Overall, I'm still pleased with the performance of the Nutsedge Killer. So far, I've used four bottles over three summer seasons. The nutsedge infestation is in retreat, but I have not wiped out all of the offensive little plants. The battle rages on!

Nutsedge tries a come back.

Nutsedge tries a come back.

Do You Have Nutsedge In Your Lawn?

My Freshly Mowed Lawn

My Freshly Mowed Lawn

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Anthony Altorenna

Tell Us About Your Weedy Woes

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on June 01, 2018:

I have a very diverse group of weeds in what's left of my lawn. I stopped watering it a year ago because of the California drought, and am planning to xeriscape as soon as I can afford to. I'm actually having a good time trying to identify all the different weeds before I pull them out or cut them down to meet fire regulations. I'll have to take a close look to see if nutsedge is one of my grassy weeds. I have a lot of Bermuda grass and burclover and a heavy clumping grass with very tall spikes. It's too strong for the weed eater, but my hedge shears get the spikes down to size. I don't like to use any herbicides.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on August 04, 2013:

There certainly are a lot of evasive weeds moving in. My husband made the mistake of going out to a local field to get dirt for the lawn. He brought home more than just dirt with him and we have been fighting the evasive weeds in our backyard since then. Lesson learned.

anonymous on September 14, 2012:

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! This is stuff is out of control. Completely consumed my back yard in a matter of weeks. Thanks for the hookup on the solution- I'll be heading to Ace in the morning.

pawpaw911 on August 07, 2012:

Very well written as usual. Like to pics. Looks like that stuff really works.

anonymous on August 04, 2012:

They say a weed is only a weed when its where you don't want it. You have me thinking of my sister who has been moving her favorite creeping ground cover weed from the vegetable garden to the flower garden. That's quite a testimony of success and I'm sure those with stock in Ortho will be smiling as the purchase of Nutsedge Killer soars!

MillBucks on July 24, 2012:

Great write up on this pesky weed, I have some of this growing in my lawn but did not know what it was named. Thanks so much for pointing it out so I can start my treatments to eradicate it. So glad I came across this great lens.

anonymous on July 23, 2012:

Very informative as always! Living in a city takes the joy out of outdoor gardening! :(

flycatcherrr on July 21, 2012:

So that's what it's called!

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on July 20, 2012:

I didn't know this weed was called nutsedge. I have been pulling it out after rain storms when the ground is soft, but I may be losing the battle.

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