If bahia raises its seedy head, go on offensive

  • Follow Gardening

Bahia grass (highway grass) is a hard weed to control in the lawn. It's the grass that sends up those unwanted seed heads just a couple of days after you mow it.

Like most hard-to-control weeds, it's best to start early, so you should start controlling it as soon as possible after it completely greens up in the spring. This will usually be early to mid-May depending on weather conditions. But it is certainly not too late to do something about it this year. It will just be a little more difficult.

Killing is probably not a good description when it comes to control: Suppression is probably a better word, because you want to suppress the bahia in order to allow your desirable grass to take over.

While a herbicide may not kill the bahia after the first application, it will prevent any seed heads from popping up for several weeks. That's half the battle.

You need to know what kind of lawn you have so you can match the best herbicide with the grass.

One herbicide, imazaquin (sold as Image), can be used in all four of our lawn grasses (centipede, zoysia, Bermuda, and St. Augustine). Image is rated poor to fair in control but it is an especially good herbicide option for St. Augustine or when different lawn grasses are mixed together.

When using Image early in the summer, you should make a second application in about six weeks.

This late in the season, you may not benefit from a second application because somewhat cooler weather will be here by then and the bahia will slow or stop the production of seed heads.

If you have a centipede lawn, sethoxydim (sold as Poast, Vantage, or Post-Emergence Grass Killer) should be your first choice for control. This product can be used only on centipede as it kills or suppresses all other grasses, including crabgrass and Bermuda. So if you have other undesirable lawn grasses in centipede, you can take them out with sethoxydim.

For those of you with Bermuda and zoysia lawns, your best control option is MSMA or CAMA. Common brand names you will find in stores are Image with MSMA (not to be confused with regular Image) and Ortho Crabgrass Killer. Cut the rate slightly if you have zoysia, as it may cause a slight discoloration of the grass, but it won't cause permanent damage. After using the MSMA the first time, come back in five to seven days with another application.

The best herbicide for controlling bahia is metsulfuron. This is sold as Manor or Blade. It is the only herbicide labeled for turf that is rated good to excellent for bahia control.

The only problem is that it is packaged for commercial operators. Metsulfuron is sold in a 2-ounce bottle that costs about $140, so for most homeowners, this is not a practical option. You could consider hiring a company that uses Manor to treat your lawn.

Another option to consider is spot treating with glyphosate (Roundup) or some similar non-selective herbicide. Naturally, this would kill your desirable grass if you got any on it, but you might be willing to deal with the dead spots while your permanent grass grows back in.

And finally, for those who do not like to use herbicides or if you just have a few small areas, you can just dig up the bahia.

Cicada killers

Cicada killers are those big "bees" about 11/2 to 2 inch long, with black and yellow bands on the abdomen. They are solitary, and they go into the ground with the cicadas (locust) they have killed, thus their name. The cicadas are food for the cicada killer larvae after they hatch.

Many homeowners have said they have 50 holes or more in their yards, with the cicada killers everywhere. They usually sting only when they are severely provoked. You would almost have to hold one in your hand to get stung.

Still, if you want to treat, about any insecticide, such as carbaryl (Sevin), or any synthetic pyrethroid, sprayed or dusted into the hole, should work. The best time to do this is just before dark.

Grasshoppers

The big grasshoppers that are black with the orange stripes are called lubber grasshoppers. People think they are eating everything in the landscape, but actually they do not eat that much. They are just big and scary looking.

Lubbers seem to prefer areas with sandier soils. They hatch in the spring and grow to about 3 inches long. They are sluggish, making them easy to catch andkill.

If there are too many to control by hand-picking, insecticides can be applied. But they are not easy to kill once they become large. Good insecticides to use are Sevin, bifenthrin, permethrin and esfenvalerate.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service Office in Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.

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