Henbit Thrives While Fescue Struggles

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 15, 2011

On its own, fescue doesn’t stand a chance. Lawn bullies crowd it out, undermine it and steal the vital minerals and water needed to sustain it. Fescue needs human protection. It’s a wimpy grass.
Too bad we didn’t decide that henbit was the ideal vegetation for lawns. There’s a bumper crop of henbit this spring — that purplish flower with early spring shoots that look like giant thumbs on the lawn before they burst forth. Or we could grow pigweed. Or dock. Or thistles, sorrel, dallisgrass, dandelions, goosegrass or … any of the scores of weeds threatening my lawn. They grow without prompting, nursing or special attention.
Fescue — hybridized, cultivated, fertilized, irrigated and nursed — could take a lesson in hardiness.
Like fighting a forest fire with a garden hose, I spent Saturday spraying weeds.
I’ve spent much of spring studying common weeds in this area. With the help of Virginia Tech and the University of Arkansas websites, I’ve been identifying the encroaching enemies of the turf, often cleverly named.
Foxtail. Johnsongrass. Crabgrass. Stinkgrass. Plantain. Carpetweed. Burdock. Milkweed. Pokeweed. Chickweed. Wild garlic. White clover. Buttercups. Marestail. Mulberry. Nutsedge. Primrose. Virginia pepperweed. Spurge. Field madder. Carolina geranium. Hairy bittercress. Chamberbitter. There are several hundred weeds identified. Even cedar trees are labeled as weeds.
I strapped on my four-gallon backpack sprayer and went to war on Saturday, spaying with 2,4-D, that miracle herbicide kills only broadleaf plants while leaving fescue unharmed.
My mother really dislikes dandelions, and I sprayed everyone I could find within a 100-yard radius of her home. Virginians treat the lowly dandelion with more …