Monday, May 7, 2012

Fighting nutsedge

If you have a garden, lawn, or just about any kind of place where weeds are a problem, you probably have been fighting nutsedge (commonly called nut grass). It is an invasive weed we battle year after year, especially in our summer garden. We primarily have yellow nutsedge that forms little yellow balls of flowers which reminds me a little bit of stinging nettle as it matures.

According to all I have read, it is a perennial problem not only in our area but around the country. If you have someone fertilize and de-weed your yard, you probably don't have such a problem there but in vegetable gardens it can be a real pest. It grows up almost everywhere and if you are trying to grow an organic garden, as we are, the fight continues each and every year.

There are some really good weed killers on the market and many people can keep the nutsedge pretty much at bay using these but when you have a garden where chemicals are a no-no, just the words "weed and killers" are bad words. In a lawn where children and animals might play or roam, it is not such a good idea to ever apply weed killers.

There are some chemical-free ways to help control nutsedge. Tilling in the spring can help because it disrupts the growing process but it will not be a permanent solution.

Our battle method of choice is to mulch and pull. The best way is mulching and then pulling up any nutsedge that sprouts up. When I say mulching, I mean mulching heavily. Adding several layers of newspaper or a layer of kraft paper can help. The black cloth that some use for weed control is good, too. None of these methods are foolproof, though. This is a weed you will have to always fight.

Above is an example of mulching around our new squash plants. This year we are working a hard as we can to keep things mulched but as we go along the rows we pull up the nutsedge as fast and as early as we can. If left alone, this weed will reproduce up to seven times from the roots and spread like wildfire.

I prefer to pull them up after a rain when the ground is softened because I am then more likely to get the rhizone underneath. It helps to get the above ground plant but you can't stop it without getting the nut-like rhizone that grows from 1 to 6 inches underground.

If you have yellow nutsedge as I have, you could even eat the football-shaped, nut-like rhizone. (Though I have no plans to do this!) If you have the purple variety the roots are a bit different and are not edible. The purple kind (an African variety) is even more invasive than the yellow. It is, of course the kind with purple flowers.

I have also read that if you spray a mixture of straight vinegar and molasses on the plant when it is young, this will kill the top of the plant and the rhizone will not be fed resulting in an eventual death of that plant. This will also take repeated applications. It is just a tough plant to fight.

I hope this helps. We are not as bothered by it as we were when we first started our garden. After a few years we also feel we have more control. It is just something we must fight. Sometimes we win, sometimes the nutsedge wins but it is a constant struggle to win out over the weeds.

Posted by Deberah Williams


  1. i have a tool that is wonderful for this problem. i inherited it when my father in law died and you may have one too and not realize what a useful tool it is. i will bring to the next meeting to show you.