That #&$%! Nutgrass


How to control sedges, nutsedge, or what is commonly called ‘Nutgrass’ is a frequent question for one of our most obnoxious weeds. And it is a question for which I just don’t have a lot of good answers. My buddy Gerald Crump gives me grief every week at Lions Club for not knowing the best way to get rid of his ‘nutgrass’! There is an old joke in our area that the best methods are to either fence in some hogs to root it up and eat the nuts (tubers), or just sell your house and move!

Sedges are not truly grasses. They all are in the Cyperaceae family, and have several different variants that we see in home landscapes and agricultural land. According to one of my excellent weed identification books, “Weeds of Southern Turfgrass” by the Cooperative Extension Service with the University of Georgia, there are eleven different varieties that cause us grief. These include Surinam sedge, False nutsedge, Annual kyllinga, Purple nutsedge, Cylindric sedge, Texas sedge, Purple (or Saw) sedge, Globe sedge, Annual sedge, Green kyllinga, and the pernicious Yellow Nutsedge (most commonly known as Nutgrass).

The common, but again incorrect name for these sedges is Nutgrass. These are not botanically a grass at all. A common rhyme for botany students to remember them is “sedges have edges, rush is round, but grasses have nodes from their tips to the ground.” When you pick the stem from a sedge and roll it between your fingers, you’ll fell that it has edges. Cut the stem in half and study the cross-section and you’ll see that the stems are triangular.

Both Yellow and Purple nutsedges hold a certain disdain in landscapes as they have underground tubers that make them even more difficult to control. The Yellow nutsedge has tubers at the end of their whitish roots (properly called rhizomes). The Purple nutsedge has similar tubers but are darker in color and are connected in chains by dark, thin, wiry rhizomes. 

Though they are regularly present, we are seeing an abundance of them this year likely because of the excessive rainfall that we’ve had. Sedges’ ideal habitat is moist to wet soil. So much so that a common recommendation to control sedges in the landscape is to properly water the soil. A deep and infrequent watering schedule solves multiple problems – including the eradication of a suitable habitat for sedge.

This record rainfall has kept ground moist that normally has not been moist. Every sedge seed has had plenty of opportunity to germinate and thrive.

Control measures need to be persistent to get ahead of this persistent problem. IF you have just a few, repeated and consistent hand pulling might be effective. Be sure to remove the underground tubers and roots.

If your landscape is overrun with sedge, pulling will not be effective. Even mulching at a typical recommended depth won’t stop them.

One of the best herbicides that I’ve heard work is anything with the active ingredient halosufuron-methyl. Some of the more common trade names with that active ingredient include Sedgehammer, Sandea, Halomax, Profine, Permit, Prosedge, Nutgrass Killer, and Halosulfuron. Be sure to visit your own local feed store or garden center and look for this active ingredient.  

As always, follow the label. While labels contain an abundance of information, I always look up at least three pieces of information: the application site, the application rate, and warnings.

If the application site says only lawns, then it has no business in a flower bed or vegetable garden. If the application rate says 2/3 oz per acre, then no more should be applied. Lastly if the label warns against using this where surface water is present, then we cannot use it where surface water is present.

To my good buddy Gerald, he has the options listed above other than fencing in hogs or putting his house up for sale. But I’m still going to recommend a good realtor to him at our next Lions Club meeting.

Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

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