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weed seed head spike

Winter annuals. These weeds overlap two calendar years but last only 12 months total. They germinate and develop from late summer to early fall, remain semidormant during the winter and then flower in spring. Come late spring or early summer, they mature and die off as the weather warms.

To the untrained eye, distinguishing turf grass from grassy weeds is tough because the two can look identical. But with practice and persistence, you can learn to identify lawn weeds—and even the difference between grass and sedge—by inspecting the primary vegetative characteristics of your lawn.

What’s the Best Weed Control?

Here are some of the features our TruGreen® experts use to weed out the bad grasses.

◆Guarantee applies to full plan customers only. ✦Purchase of full lawn plan required for Healthy Lawn Analysis, which is performed at the first visit.

Because each yard is unique, TruGreen® customizes a grassy weed control program for your lawn. The plan of attack depends on your region, type of turf grass and the specific weeds invading your lawn.

A typical puncturevine plant will produce 200 to 5,000 seeds during one growing season, depending on available soil moisture and other environmental factors. These seeds and those that did not germinate from previous seasons will contribute to the potential weed population the following year.

Mulches can be used to control common puncturevine in ornamental plantings, orchards, vineyards, vegetable crops, and gardens, if they screen out all light. To be effective, organic mulches should be at least 3 inches thick. However, puncturevine burrs that fall onto mulch surfaces can establish on the mulch surface due to the puncturevine’s deep taproot. Synthetic mulches, which screen out light and provide a physical barrier to seedling development, also work well.

Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) is an aptly named summer annual found widely in California. Native to southern Europe, it can grow under a wide range of conditions, but its success is likely due to its ability to thrive in hot and dry conditions where other plants cannot. It can be a major problem in orchards, pastures, turf, and along roadsides and ditch banks. Although it is known to be toxic to sheep, its main weedy characteristic, as indicated by its common names of puncturevine or caltrop, is its spiky seedpods. (A caltrop is a metal device, used to deter passage by vehicles with pneumatic tires or the hooves of horses; it has four projecting spikes so arranged that when three of the spikes are on the ground, the fourth points upward to poke a tire or hoof.) The seeds of puncturevine are enclosed in a hard caltrop-like case that can injure livestock, people, and pets when stepped on and can even puncture bicycle tires. Another common name is “goathead.” Growing up in Fresno it was always a problem with bike tires. It seemed that more time was spent tire repairing than riding the bike.

Chemical control is generally not necessary for the control of puncturevine in the home landscape. However, in large areas, or places where there was a heavy infestation in previous years so that it’s difficult to remove by hand, hoeing, or tilling, herbicides may be used to control puncturevine.

In most situations, puncturevine is best controlled by hand removal or by hoeing to cut the plant off at its taproot. Monitoring the area and removing the weed throughout the late spring and into the summer will greatly reduce the impact of the weed the next year. Shallow tilling (about 1 inch deep) of seedlings or small plants can be effective in larger areas. Deeper tilling is not recommended since this may bury seeds and they may be able to germinate for several years afterwards. Hand removal, hoeing, or cultivation should be initiated prior to flowering and seed production. Mowing is not an effective method of control since the plant grows low to the ground.