Gene Fox: The joys of homeownership

Published 11:48 am Monday, January 24, 2022

It was a long weekend at my house, I mean in addition to the Martin Luther King Holiday. All of the kids were home which is a pure joy. We have a couple that like to cook and all of us like to eat so the kitchen got a good workout over the weekend as did the dishwasher and the kitchen sink which decided to get clogged! Well the kitchen sink is tied to the washroom sink which overflowed because it is lower than the kitchen! We used all of the towels in the house to get the water mopped up!

Saturday, my older kids went to Greenville to go shopping with my wife leaving my sweet 5-year-old Willa to hang out with me. One of her very favorite things to do is to wash the dishes. Of course, I have no problem helping her to indulge in her favorite water past time. I was cooking the last of the cabbage from my garden and we were talking while she washed and I dried the dishes. I decided I had better start another load of towels leftover from our cleaning antics to get those ready for Saturday night (pre-church) showers. When I walked into the washroom, all that water from prolonged dishwashing had over flowed the washroom sink once again. What a mess! Ah, the joys of homeownership!

This time I was bound and determined to get everything flowing like normal so I went outside and began working on the drain at the cleanout. Now this drain is separate from the bathroom or laundry even though it shares a line with the washroom sink. I found and uncovered the cleanout in the yard to begin the process. In finding it and clearing away the debris to work on it, I noticed a few things: first, there was lawn burweed growing all around it, second, I had Bermudagrass that was green!

This season has been really crazy so far with the warm temperatures. I mentioned in last week’s article that I attended the Green and Growing show, one of the presenters there is located near Wilmington. He had several pictures showing green Zoysiagrass from the Wilmington area at Christmas. I couldn’t believe it to be honest!

This tells me a few things, namely that everything is out of whack! The lawn burweed is a typical winter annual that becomes a problem when it goes to seed in late winter/early spring. The crazy thing here is that it is usually very difficult to find until late February/early March. Due to its prostrate growth habit, it stays along the ground and hides somewhat from sight. Bermuda and/or other warm season grasses may not have hit good dormancy yet. One of the most common practices on Bermudagrass is to spray round-up in the month of January to clean-up any leftover winter annuals. This is a very safe practice when the grass is dormant but there is a good chance it isn’t dormant! Now on Bermuda, it most likely won’t kill it but it could certainly delay green-up in the spring by spraying Round-up when it isn’t dormant. This can happen if you spray it too late as well.

Even though this has been a crazy season so far, things are working towards normalcy. We have had several nights this week that have had lows in the 20’s. In fact, as I write this, predicts 10 nights (Thursday (20) thru Saturday (29)) in the 20’s with five of those nights predicted to be under 25°. This is good because those temperatures will force dormancy in our warm-season grasses so we can start fresh.

Moving forward, our prescription is to get a pre-emergent herbicide (PRE) application out in the first two weeks of February. This will prevent our warm season annuals from getting a foot-hold before green-up. Look for something that is safe for your grass and be weary of using DNA herbicides in the spring (prodiamine, pendimethalin, trifluralin, oryzalin, and so on). These are root inhibitors that can really hurt you in the long-run on stoloniferous grasses (basically all warm-season turf). This is the reason we often see clubroot conditions on warm-season turf in the spring into early summer. Warm-season grasses reproduce using stolons (stems that grow across the top of the soil) that root at the nodes. If you are using a root inhibiting PRE, these stolons can’t root at the nodes, the burnt roots and long stems become wasted energy.

If you have any winter weeds that have emerged, it is best to get those cleaned-up right now, however you need to choose your application time wisely! It does no good to put post-emergent herbicides (POST) out when the weeds are not actively growing. It is best to apply herbicides in the winter during times when we get those above average temperatures for a couple of days in a row. So, be watching the weather to look for 3-4 days in a row when temps get into the high 50’s to low 60’s and make sure to spray your POST during that time. Otherwise, it is really a waste of money.

Also, do not think that you can spray a PRE and it will take care of those weeds that have already emerged. This doesn’t work in most cases unless you are using something that has both PRE and POST activity such as mesotrione (Tenacity), atrazine (Atrazine), or simazine (Princep). By the way, you will notice that the new atrazine/simazine labels are going to begin making their way to the shelves now. Atrazine will only be used for spot-spraying (less than 30% of the whole lawn), applied by backpack sprayer only and simazine will have to be watered in immediately or used at a lesser rate. Be careful with mesotrione too if you are getting close to green-up, it can cause bleaching of the grass for a few weeks.

Next, we want to apply a POST sometime after green-up to clean-up any weeds that our PRE application missed or that germinated after it wore off. One of the safest on all warm-season turf is Celsius. This is an expensive product but it gets the job done. There are also several 3-way and 4-way products that will do just fine that you can find at many of the local hardware stores. These are comprised of 3-4 chemicals that work together to take out your emerged weeds. Always keep in mind that typically the smaller the weed is when you pray it, the better chance you have of killing it. Once weeds get larger, we can often only hurt them, not kill them. Lastly, read the label! There is a good bit of information here that will both keep you safe and ensure that your herbicide is effective.

If you are having trouble with growing in your home landscape, call the Extension office at (252)946-0111 or email Gene Fox at I will be starting Master Gardener Volunteer training sometime in March, if you would like to know more about this opportunity, visit I will have a commercial ornamentals and turf class coming up in February. If you need pesticide or landscape contractors credits, please keep an eye out for this class, it will be February 24. If you are looking at getting your commercial ornamentals and turf license, there will be a pesticide class and exam coming up at the Vernon James Center in Plymouth. This will be February 15-16, sign up online to ensure your place in the class. Until then, Happy Gardening!