Treating the most common lawn weeds
A lush weed-free expanse of green lawn may not be top of everyone’s gardening wish list, but it sure comes close!
There is a sense of achievement when the grass has been mown, the edges trimmed and unsightly weeds removed. Of all those tasks, getting rid of weeds in the lawn seems to be the most troublesome and time consuming.
What are lawn weeds
When we refer to lawn weeds we’re most often talking about broadleaf invaders – plants like dandelions, plantains and thistles that our early settlers brought with them from the old country to make them feel more at home in this inhospitable land.
However, broadleaf plants are not the only lawn weeds. Some grasses are also invasive and tend to be weedy, like winter grass and paspalum. Eradiating a pest grass in a lawn isn’t all that simple, because some of the products used to kill them may also harm popular lawn grasses like buffalo, for example. If you have a winter grass or paspalum problem, it’s best to talk to a turf specialist to see what they recommend that won’t damage your lawn.
Top 11 most common lawn weeds
An infestation of clover in a lawn is often indicative of a lawn in need of attention. Clover thrives in soils which are low in nitrogen as a result of infrequent or inadequate fertilising.
Common clover is the white flowered Trifolium repens, tri meaning three and folium leaf – three-leafed clover, although if you look hard enough you may find a four-leafed one occasionally! Pink and red clovers may also appear in lawns from time to time.
Growing vigorously from late autumn into winter, clover should be treated with a selective herbicide in mid to late winter, before it flowers. It may take two applications 6-8 weeks apart to gain effective control. Mowing to remove flowers before they set seed will also assist in reducing carryover from one year to the next.
A small-leafed perennial weed, creeping oxalis or creeping wood sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) is highly invasive and can spread through a lawn very quickly. It is often well-entrenched before it’s even noticed because it can ‘creep’ under the cover of grasses, putting down roots as it spreads. It is most often discovered when in flower. Its leaves are mostly light green but under some conditions, they may turn burgundy.
While creeping oxalis seems easy to pull out, each small segment or leaf left behind will root and continue the spread. It thrives over winter and flowers in early to mid spring. It may take two or three applications of a selective lawn weeder from mid winter into spring to eradicate it. It is essential to control creeping oxalis before flowering and setting seed.
Bindii (Jo-Jo, Onehunga)
The blight of bare feet on the grass in summer, bindii (Soliva sessilis) is a widespread weed known for its quite tiny but very sharp-needled seeds or burrs. It has small feathery foliage and looks similar to parsley but in miniature.
Bindii grows and flowers over autumn and winter, going to seed over spring and summer when outdoor activities are at their peak. The burrs may be spread by water but more often by pets and humans.
While bindii are fairly easily pulled out, the use of a selective herbicide formulated to effectively control bindii before it has the chance to flower and produce burrs is essential. The first spray should be in winter, as soon as the first young plants are seen. Two or possibly three repeat applications at six weekly intervals from the first should give you the upper hand before summer. Keeping your lawn well fertilised and healthy is the best defence against bindii.
While children may love picking the yellow and black daisy flowers of capeweed (Arctotheca calendula) to make daisy chains, lawn lovers everywhere dislike it intensely. Vigorous and invasive, the plants have deep roots and are difficult to pull out and they set copious amounts of seed if allowed to flower.
Capeweed is closely related to the sunflower. It thrives in poorly maintained lawns, so one key to eradication is to ensure your lawn is well fed and watered and without bare patches where this weed can gain a toe-hold.
Capeweed seeds germinate in autumn and the weed thrives over the winter months, flowering in early spring. Two treatments six weeks apart with a selective lawn weeder over winter should control it. Controling capeweed before it seeds is imperative for good control.
A soft leafed plant with tiny white flowers that thrives in mostly cooler climates, chickweed (Stellaria media) can be quite invasive in garden beds and lawns throughout winter. Despite its weedy reputation and ability to smother other plants, it is also edible – the flowers and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.
Chickweed is a “cool season” weed, rarely found once temperatures start to warm up in spring, so it’s important to eradicate it before it sets seed for carryover to the following year.
Great handfuls of chickweed can be pulled off lawns and garden beds, but it is essential to make sure the roots come out too, otherwise it will quickly re-sprout. Another weed that takes advantage of lawns in poor condition, it is easily controlled by lawn weeder products applied when the weed is actively growing but your best defence is to keep the lawn well fed and mown.
One of the true broadleaf, flat weeds that is a major pest in lawns, cudweed (Gnaphalium sphaericum) is prevalent in winter lawns, when it grows vigorously and out-competes most lawn grasses. Cudweed starts with one rosette-like plant with smooth green leaves (white on the underside) but quickly develops into an expansive group that can smother out extensive areas of lawn.
Like most other weeds, it’s important to gain the upper hand in winter, before plants flower in spring and then set seed. Hand removal using a pronged lawn weeder tool is quite effective. Selective broadleaf lawn weeder products will also control it, although it may take two applications 6-8 weeks apart.
Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is most probably one of the best known of all weeds, in the lawn and in the garden too. It’s a flat weed that produces yellow daisy-like flowers and round balls of tiny seeds each with its own very light ‘parachute’ that allows it to be blown on air currents for literally hundreds of kilometres. One of its best known attributes is the white, milky sap its flower stems and leaves exude when broken.
Possessing a sturdy taproot and growing in a flat rosette, the dandelion is invasive, smothers lawn grasses and thrives over most climate zones. While it is most active in winter and its main flowering is in early spring, dandelion will flourish at almost any time of the year, often during even the harshest of conditions. Controlling dandelions before it produces its fluff-ball seed heads is vital. It can be removed with a pronged lawn tool (make sure to remove the taproot entirely or it will regrow) or with a lawn weeder.
Dock & Sorrels
Docks and sorrels (Rumex spp) are members of the buckwheat family and edible. They are, however, also widespread weeds and problematic in lawns over many parts of Australia. They have deep tap roots and fleshy, sometimes leathery leaves growing in a loose rosette pattern. In a garden setting they flower and produce abundant seeds but generally in a lawn, regular mowing will minimise flowering.
Like most broadleaf weeds, docks will smother lawn grasses, leaving unsightly bare patches when they are either dug out or killed. They flourish over winter when lawn growth is generally slow and flower in spring and early summer. They can be controlled with one or two applications of a selective herbicide in early to mid spring before they set seeds.
Fleabane (Conyza spp syn Erigeron spp) is a grey-green to dark green, rosette forming weed that, in the lawn, remains quite flat due to regular foot traffic and mowing. In open ground, however, it can grow quite tall and will produce small daisy-like flowers followed by heads of seeds similar to those of the dandelion but smaller and somewhat denser.
It can be quite hard to control because has tough, woody stems and spreading roots. Like other flat weeds, if allowed to develop into colonies, it will smother large areas of grass. Because it is common on waste lands and its seeds are airborne, it can be quite invasive.
Fleabane grows strongly over the winter months then flowers and seeds from mid spring right through to autumn. Like all lawn weeds, the best time to apply a lawn weeder is while plants are actively growing in late winter but before they start to produce flowers.
Lamb’s Tongue (Plantain)
Lamb’s tongue or plantain (Plantago lanceolata) has elongated leaves with parallel veins and very distinctive tall flower and seed spikes. The plant forms one or more rosettes which, in a lawn that is mown regularly or has a lot of foot traffic, will be quite flat. It is one of the most common lawn weeds in Australia, occurring over most climates and regions but is perhaps worse in coastal areas with a temperate climate.
Lamb’s tongue grows over winter, seeds freely in spring and summer and spreads rapidly but is reasonably easy to eradicate in late winter using lawn weeder products. A follow-up application may be needed for complete control.
As its name suggests, wireweed (Polygonum aviculare, P heterophylla) is a low growing, sprawling weed with thin, wiry stems that often is so congested it looks like a tangle – hence its other common name, knotweed. It a long fibrous taproot and small, grey-green leaves with a sheath of white or purple around the base of each. It bears small clusters of white to pink flowers.
Wireweed seeds germinate in spring and summer, so effective control with a selective herbicide is best when plants are actively growing over late spring into summer – before it has the chance to set seeds.
Wireweed thrives in poor soils and occurs in neglected lawns in many parts of the country. While it is not often seen in lush urban gardens, it is considered an environmental weed of national significance. Wireweed can be difficult to control, sometimes needing more than one treatment.
So there you have it – 11 of the most common lawn weeds to invade Australian gardens. Most are persistent but can be eradicated completely with the right treatment and perseverance.
List of Edible Flowers
Edible flowers can be used to add a splash of colour to all kinds of foods, from salads to desserts to fancy cocktails. A single borage petal, carefully placed, can really enhance a slice of cake or an amuse bouche.
Before venturing out to the garden to harvest a bunch of flowers for the dinner table, it’s important to remember that some flowers are poisonous. Make sure to make a positive identification of each variety before using. Obviously, one should avoid flowers that may have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. It’s useful to either grow organic flowers, or harvest them from a location where no chemicals are used. Organic or not, all flowers should be shaken and washed in cold water prior to use, as they may to be homes for insects.
Pick edible flowers in the morning, when they have the highest water content. Keep them on some dampened paper towel inside a sealed container in the refrigerator for as long as a week. Wilted flowers can be revived by floating them in some ice water for a few minutes. Prepare them for eating just before serving in order to prevent further wilting.
Remove the stamens and styles from flowers before eating. Pollen can cause allergic reactions when eaten by some people, and it may overwhelm the otherwise delicate flavour of the petals. The exception here is the Violas, including Johnny-Jump-Ups and pansies, as well as scarlet runner beans, honeysuckle, and clover. The flowers of these varieties can be enjoyed whole, and will probably be more flavourful this way.
This list of Edible Flowers is not comprehensive so if you notice a flower missing from this list, please do further research before you consider it edible. Don’t assume that all flowers are edible – some are highly poisonous.
Agastache – Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is also sometimes known as licorice mint. Both the young leaves and the striking purple flowers have a mild licorice flavour. Pull the purple flower tubes away from the central structure of the flower and scatter them in salads or fancy drinks for a pop of colour and flavour.
Angelica – This relative of celery (Angelica archangelica) has licorice-scented, pinkish flowers borne in large umbels. The flowers make an interesting addition to salads, but it is mostly grown for its stronger-tasting leaves.
Apple – Be sure to only try flowers from trees that have not been sprayed. Apple blossoms (Malus spp.) have an appealing but delicate flavour and scent. They work particularly well with fresh fruit salads. Use in moderation, as the flowers contain very low levels of poisonous chemicals.
Arugula – Once this cool-season plant (Eruca vesicaria) begins to bolt, its leaves will have become tough and almost too spicy to eat. So let it bolt, and enjoy some of its very small, spicy, white or yellow flowers. They add a nice, unusual zing to salads.
Basil – Most growers use basil’s leaves (Ocimum basilicum) before the plant has flowered. After blooming, the character of the leaves changes and becomes less appealing, but the flowers can be eaten. They may be white to lavender, but they look stunning when sprinkled over pasta. Thai basil is sometimes allowed to flower before whole stems, with leaves attached, are harvested. The whole flower is edible.
Begonia – both tuberous (Begonia x tuberhybrida) and wax (B. x semperflorens-cultorum) begonias have edible flowers with a slightly bitter to sharp citrus flavour. Tuberous begonia flowers contain oxalic acid, so should be avoided by people suffering from kidney stones, gout, or rheumatism.
Bergamot, wild – This plant (Monarda fistulosa) may be listed as bee balm, Monarda, Wild Bergamot, Oswego Tea, or Horsemint. The flowers (and the young leaves) have an intense flavour of mint with undertones of citrus and oregano. This plant that has a scent highly reminiscent of Earl Grey tea. Somewhat confusingly, the “oil of bergamot” used to flavour Earl Grey is actually derived from citrus peel from the Bergamot Orange. Monarda flowers are formed by large clusters of edible tubular petals that can be separated before adding to cakes, fancy drinks, or salads.
Borage – This familiar garden herb (Borago officnialis) has furry leaves and exquisite blue, star-shaped flowers. Both have a cooling taste reminiscent of cucumber. Try some of the flowers in a summer lemonade or sorbet – or a gin & tonic! They work particularly well as garnishes for gazpacho, cheese plates, or just sprinkled over salads.
Calendula – All “pot marigolds” (Calendula officinalis) have flower petals that are edible. They have a nice flavour that ranges from peppery to bitter, and they add bright yellow, gold, and orange colour to soups and salads. They may even tint some dishes like saffron does.
Chamomile – Choose the German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla syn. M. recutita) for its daisy-like flowers. They can be used fresh or dried, and make a particularly nice tea that tastes vaguely like apples. Drink the tea in moderation – some allergy sufferers may have a negative response. Otherwise, sprinkle the petals into salads and soups.
Chervil – The lacy leaves of this shade-loving herb (Anthriscus cerefolium) are topped by delicate white flowers borne in umbels. Both the leaves and the flowers have a very mild anise or licorice-like taste. Add chervil to your dishes just before serving to maintain the best flavour.
Chicory – All endive varieties (Cichorium endivia & C. intybus) produce, at summer’s end, tall stems with striking, sky-blue flowers. The petals can be pulled off and added to salads for their earthy, endive-like flavour. The unopened flower buds can also be pickled like capers.
Chives – The flowers of chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are ball-like clusters of hundreds of little florets that can be separated and scattered onto salads for colour and a mild onion flavour.
Chrysanthemum – The edible chrysanthemum and garland Chrysanthemum (both are Leucanthemum coronarium) that we offer produce both edible young leaves and appealing white daisy-like flowers with yellow centres, or flowers that are entirely yellow. The petals of both types are edible and faintly tangy.
Cilantro – This leafy herb (Coriandrum sativum) is also known as Coriander. In summer heat it is quick to bolt, and will send up tall umbels of white flowers. These have an intensely herbal flavour, just like the leaves, roots, and seeds of the plant, and can be used as a garnish where cilantro leaves would otherwise be used.
Clover – The flower heads of clover (Trifolium spp.) are edible, and have a sweet, mild liquorice flavour. In fact, the whole above ground plant is edible, but it’s best to grow clover as tender sprouts or to use the flower tubes in moderation as a salad garnish. Mature clover is tough to digest, and may cause bloating.
Cornflower – The pretty, blue flowers of cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) have a slightly spicy, clove-like flavour with a subtle sweetness. Cornflower petals look wonderful in salads. Use torn petals as a garnish, or whole flowers in fancy drinks.
Dame’s Rocket – The petals of this tall relative of mustard (Hesperis matronalis) are pink, lavender, or white, and always come in fours. Perennial Phlox looks similar, and also has edible flowers, but always have five petals. The petals (and the immature leaves) of Dame’s Rocket are worth adding to salads, but have a mild bitter flavour.
Dandelion – The ubiquitous dandelion (Taxacum officinalis) is entirely edible. When picked small, and unopened, the flower buds have a surprising sweetness, reminiscent of honey. Young greens are also tasty either raw or steamed. Dandelion petals look very nice when scattered over pasta or rice. While dandelions are rather easy to come by, make sure to harvest them only from organic gardens. Avoid any grown near roads or picked from lawns where chemicals may be present.
Day Lilies – The fleshy, short-lived flowers of day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are sweet, with a flavour resembling mild melon or cucumber. Make sure to cut the tasty petals away from the bitter base of each flower. Try them in salads! Eat in moderation.
Dianthus – Look for the large-flowered carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus), and cut the sweet tasting petals away from the bitter white base of each flower. The bright red and pink petals have a mild clove flavour and are great for desserts or salads.
Dill – Stronger in flavour than the leaves, the flowers of dill (Anethum graveolens) can be used when cooking fish, or raw in salads. They are very small, yellow, and borne on tall umbels. Best used when they have just opened, as they set seed quickly.
English Daisy – The low growing flowers (Bellis perennis) have a bitter flavour, but are entirely edible. They are small enough to use simply by sprinkling the petals onto salads or other meals, and will not overwhelm stronger flavours.
Fennel – Both the garden herb and the vegetable Florence fennel(both are Foeniculum vulgare) will eventually produce attractive and tall umbels of tiny yellow flowers that have the same mild licorice flavour as the leaves. These work very well in desserts!
Fuchsia – Avoid nursery-bought Fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrida) flowers, as they may have been sprayed. Otherwise, the extraordinary looking flowers make great garnishes and have a slightly acidic flavour.
Garlic – Allowed to open, garlic flowers (Allium sativum) are pink to white, with florets that can be separated and inserted into salads for a mild garlic zing. However, allowing the plants to flower may divert energy that would otherwise go to the bulb. Many garlic growers prefer to cut the flower stems (scapes) before they open. These can be sautéed in butter for an intense, early summer side dish, or run through the food processor and mixed with Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts for a sensational pesto.
Hollyhock – The large, brightly coloured flowers of common hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) have almost no flavour of their own, but they sure look nice cut into salads or sprinkled over desserts. Be sure to use the petals only – cut these away from the central structure of the flower just before serving.
Honeysuckle – The long flower tubes of various honeysuckle species are edible, but Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is best, with its distinctly honey-like flavour. Do not eat the berries that follow, or any other part of the plant, as they are all poisonous.
Impatiens – The flowers of Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) may be bright white or shocking red, but the petals are edible and have a surprisingly sweet taste. They can be torn into salad or mixed into fancy drinks.
Johnny-Jump-Up – This plant (Viola tricolor) produces masses of small, brightly coloured flowers that have a faint wintergreen taste. They look great served on cakes, served with soft cheeses, or as a topping for salads. Use the whole flower intact.
Lavender – Pull the clustered flowers of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) apart and sprinkle a few pieces onto chocolate cake. Submerge one or two pieces in a glass of chilled champagne. The sweet, intensely floral flavour of lavender should be used with restraint, but adds an incredible to pop savory dishes as well as desserts.
Lemon Bergamot – Like its wild cousin above, Lemon Bergamot (Monarda citriodora) has a perfume-like, intense, almost astringent quality, but it is strongly scented with citrus. Use portions of the flower conservatively in drinks or desserts or in herbal teas.
Lilac – Like lavender, the flowers of lilac (Syringa vulgaris) have an intensely floral, almost perfumey flavour with lemon undertones. A little goes a long way, but one or two individual flowers added to a summer punch looks wonderful and tastes very refreshing.
Marigold – Both French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and African marigolds (T. erecta) produce flowers that are technically edible, but the pungent scent is probably worth avoiding. African marigold flowers are used as a food colourant in Europe, but have only been approved for use as a poultry feed additive in the US. However,T. tenuifolia has a refreshing citrus, lemony flavour, and its petals work well torn into salads or smart drinks.
Mint – All mint varieties (Mentha spp.) have minty-flavoured, edible flowers that may be sweet or lemon-scented, or even with chocolate overtones depending on the type.
Nasturtium – All garden nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) produce edible flowers and leaves. Even the fresh seeds can be pickled like capers. Curiously this familiar garden flower is a cousin of the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, mustards, etc…). All parts of the nasturtium have a pleasant, sweet, peppery flavour. The flowers can be used whole to decorate salads and a variety of other foods, but you may want to remove the long spur at the back of the flower, as this is the nectary and may harbour small insects.
Pansy – The flower petals of the familiar garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) are edible and highly decorative. The petals have little flavour, but the whole flower can also be used. It has a grassy, wintergreen undertone that works well in fruit salad.
Pea – Edible garden peas (Pisum sativum) produce edible flowers that look great in salads. Serve a blend of peas in a meal: shelled peas, pea tendrils, pea pods, and some flowers for garnish. Note: Ornamental sweet peas are poisonous.
Perennial Phlox – Be certain that you’ve got the tall-growing perennial garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), and not the inedible annual, creeping type before you try the flowers. The perennial type bears pink to white flowers with five petals that have a pleasant, peppery flavour. They look great and taste great in fruit salads.
Primrose – With its bland, but highly colourful flowers, primrose (Primula vulgaris) is worth cultivating if only to tear its petals into a few summer salads. The flower buds can also be pickled, steamed, or fermented into wine.
Queen Anne’s Lace – The Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) produces tall umbels of exquisite, tiny, white flowers, each one marked by a blood-red centre. Although this plant is grown for its decorative, edible flowers, it can cross-pollinate with its close relative the carrot, so if you happen to be growing carrots with the intent of saving seed, avoid this plant in your garden. The flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace have a mild, carroty flavour. Be absolutely certain that the plant you are harvesting is not the invasive weed known as Wild or Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), which looks very similar. The stems of Queen Anne’s Lace are hairy, while Poison Hemlock has smooth, hollow stems with purple spots.
Rose – Another surprisingly edible garden flower is the rose (Rosa spp.). Although its petals are intensely perfumed, their flavour is subtler and a bit fruity, with complex undertones that depend on the variety and soil conditions. The petals of all roses are edible, but you should remove the bitter white base of each petal. Be sure to use only rose flowers that have been organically grown from a reliable source, as nearly all nursery or cut flower roses will have been treated with pesticide.
Rosemary – It takes nimble fingers to pull the strongly scented flowers of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) from between the tightly packed leaves. The leaves contain more oil than the flowers, but both are similar in flavour. Use the flowers as you would the herb. Flowers are deep blue to pink, depending on the soil.
Safflower – The dried yellow flowers (Carthamus tinctorius) are sometimes sold as Mexican saffron, and used like saffron as a food dye. Otherwise, fresh petals can be torn into salads, soups, and sauces. They have a very mild flavour of their own.
Sage – The deep blue flowers of sage (Salvia officinalis) add an interesting mild-sage flavour to salads or savory dishes. Pull individual flower tubes from the stems and use with discretion, as the taste is strong.
Scarlet Runner Bean – The flowers of this vine (Phaseolus vulgaris) are vivid, intense red, and also delicious. They make excellent garnishes for soups and salads, providing a real visual high note.
Sorrel – Like the leaves of sorrel (Rumex acetosa), its flowers have a strongly lemony flavour, and can be scattered over salad or used in sauces. The flavour comes from oxalic acid, so should be avoided by those with kidney conditions or rheumatism.
Squash – Both male and female flowers of all squash and zucchini varieties are edible, and have a faint squashy flavour. It may be sensible to only use the male flowers, as they will not form fruits. They can be torn into salads or stuffed with savory items like herbs and goat cheese, and then fried in a light tempura batter. There are many squash blossom recipes online.
Sunflower – It’s still a little known fact that unopened sunflower (Helianthus annuus) buds can be steamed or sautéed in butter and served whole. They have an artichoke-like flavour. Alternately, the petals can be pulled from the edge of the opened flower and added to soups and salads. Their flavour is somewhat bitter.
Violet – Many varieties (Viola spp.) are suitable for decorating food. They come in a range of sweet, perfumed flavours, and a wide range of colours. Some of the tiniest violet flowers make the best additions to cakes, drinks, and salads.
List of Common Weeds That Look Like Grass
You’ve been working hard on cultivating the perfectly manicured lawn, taking all the necessary steps to plant seed or sod, fertilize, and mow appropriately. Despite your best efforts, there seem to be patches of your lawn that don’t match the rest. There are some common weeds that look like grass which tend to blend in with a lawn and thus can be more difficult to identify and target when compared to the average dandelion.
In this article I’ll help you identify these grass-like weeds and offer advice for how to combat and eliminate them from your lawn.
Common Weeds That Look Like Grass
Click to jump to a specific weed that resembles grass
Also known as finger grasses, crabgrass can be an invasive type of weed that looks very much like grass.
It often sprouts in smaller patches throughout your lawn and has a distinctly coarse texture compared to the rest of your lawn. Thankfully, crabgrass is an annual plant so it only survives for the season and then dies.
That said, it spreads quickly, and because of its thick blades and lateral growth, it can quickly do permanent damage to your lawn by crowding out and smothering the grass surrounding it.
The best way to get rid of crabgrass is by preventing its germination using a pre-emergent herbicide that can be commonly found in combination with fertilizer that you can spread in early spring.
Once crabgrass has germinated, the best way to get rid of it is by pulling it or using a direct herbicide.
Thankfully, crabgrass is not perennial so it is relatively easy to get rid of it with some diligence, and once you improve your lawn the canopy will be too dense for crabgrass to grow.
Wild garlic and onion
While it looks very much like a tall grass, wild onion and wild garlic are very fragrant and thus these grass-like weeds are pretty unmistakable once you get close enough to smell them.
If you finish mowing and it smells like you’ve been making pasta sauce, there’s a good chance you have some wild onion and/or wild garlic hiding in your lawn.
Wild onion and wild garlic also become noticeable as they grow faster than regular grass and quickly surpass the height of your lawn.
They grow in clumps, so if you have them, the rate of growth and growth habit make them pretty easy to identify.
For those who love garlic and onion as an addition to many dishes, this may be more of a fortuitous find (transplant them!). However, even the biggest garlic fans probably don’t want a swath of it in the middle of their lawn.
Thankfully, these weeds that resemble grass tend to only grow in early spring and late fall, becoming dormant in the summer season.
To remove them from your yard, dig them up (I recommend transferring them to a pot or herb garden) – just make sure to get bulb and all, or they’ll come back.
Herbicides will also work to kill wild garlic and onion, just make sure to check the label of the product your purchase to ensure that wild garlic and onion are included in the list of weeds it treats.
Before it matures and blooms, nutsedge can look much like a tall grass.
Unlike crabgrass, Nutsedge is a perennial weed that can be quite invasive and difficult to get under control due to its hardy root systems.
It can also be spread throughout your lawn (or from a neighbor’s lawn) both by airborne seeds as well as underground rhizomes or tubers. It will continue to come back year after year unless you get it under control.
Sort of like fight club, the first rule of Nutsedge is not to pull Nutsedge.
If you try to combat it by pulling it, you’re likely to leave behind tubers or rhizomes that will end up sprouting.
One of the most effective ways to prevent Nutsedge is to grow a thick and hardy lawn that will crowd out Nutsedge, and prevent this invasive grass-like weed from being able to properly root and grow those rhizomes and tubers that make it so invasive.
But if you have it, recommending that you hop in your time machine and take steps to prevent it doesn’t help you.
If you have Nutsedge in your lawn, there are specific herbicides that can be applied directly to the base of Nutsedge to kill the entire plant including the underground components, and while I always recommend an organic approach when I can, in this case this will be your best course of action.
Another common weed that looks like grass is couch grass or common couch.
Sometimes referred to as quack grass, this is another invasive species that is hardy and can propagate quickly in your lawn via rhizomes as part of a complex and fibrous root system.
This makes it hard to pull in its entirety.
It also spreads via airborne seeds, thus being able to travel longer distances and quickly find a home in thin lawns.
Similar to many of the other grass-like weeds, prevention by crowding out seeds is the most effective way to prevent these species from invading, which is why proper and regular lawn maintenance and improvement are always my best defense against lawn weeds.
This weed gets its name from the appearance of the mature heads that bloom on these grass-like stalks. The heads look like small fuzzy foxtails!
They can grow anywhere from 10cm to 100cm tall and are very common in prairies and meadows. Despite its cute name, it is an invasive species that can be quite problematic, especially for farmers, and a nuisance to lawn owners everywhere.
This hardy annual plant with hundreds of seeds per foxtail plume spreads easily, as these seeds can travel great distances with enough wind.
Despite how hardy these lawn weeds are once established, they are quite a picky species when it comes to germinating. They prefer moist soil and are easily crowded out by densely planted lawns or fields.
Green Foxtail also prefers warmer soil in the range of 15 to 35 degrees Celsius (59-95 degrees Fahrenheit), but this weed can germinate at any point in the season as long as conditions are favorable.
Like most lawn weeds, Green Foxtail can be controlled with some herbicidal solutions, but the best way to prevent this invasive species is by crowding it out with a thick, healthy lawn.
Another hardy perennial, Smooth Bromegrass, is highly adaptable and it is able to grow even in cold conditions and survive for quite a long time once established.
Like Nutsedge, Bromegrass can grow rhizomes underground through intricate root systems, which will help it to spread across your lawn quickly … especially if your lawn is thin.
These qualities make it an invasive species that can easily get out of control.
However, Bromegrass serves an important purposes as hay and grazing fields for livestock and it can also help to prevent soil erosion due to this strong root system.
Despite these qualities, most homeowners probably don’t want it in their lawn. To control and eliminate Smooth Bromegrass in your lawn, I recommend mowing it down low and attempting to crowd it out with a thick, healthy lawn canopy. In a worse-case scenario, you should opt for an application of herbicide designed to target this grass-like weed.
Also known as “poverty rush” or “path rush”, this grass-like perennial tends to grow in clumps, which is similar to crabgrass.
It is propagated by above-ground seeds as well as below-ground tubers that form with the help of the root system. The deeper root structure with rhizome propagation makes slender rush a particularly invasive species to get under control in lawns, because it can still be present even if you can’t necessarily see it yet.
Herbicides are not usually an effective way to control slender rush.
Manual weed management tends to be the most effective way of dealing with this invasive weed that looks like grass. This can involve pulling weeds by hand. Do so carefully, and be sure to get the root system as well.
The other options is a mowing routine that doesn’t allow for the plant to mature and spread seeds above ground.
You’ve likely heard this species discussed in the context of a grass, however it is an invasive perennial that has characteristics of a weed, particularly if your lawn is primarily a different type of turfgrass.
Similar to some of the other species discussed above, tall fescue has the ability to propagate via rhizomes underneath the ground. It is highly drought resistant, and in areas where it has been planted it has often taken over, crowding out other species of grass.
If you wanted to get rid of tall fescue grass that has run wild in your yard, you’d probably have to solarize it. Solarizing involves covering up large areas of grass to deprive it of sunlight and also increase the heat underneath the tarp so that it kills everything underneath.
Herbicides could also be used, but it would take a large amount which could get costly and be harmful to the environment, so I recommend solarizing tall fescue.
Restoring Lawn and Order
It’s interesting to compare various grass-like weeds and perennials that are less desirable than the perfectly manicured lawn.
Eliminating Weeds That Look Like Grass
Careful selection of grass species is important in establishing a lawn.
It’s also possible to crowd out many of these invasive species by planting additional grass seed seasonally (overseeding) to create a thick and lush lawn.
Pre-emergent methods can also be an effective backup method of prevention, and using a pre-emergent every spring for several years as you overseed, fertilize, and use proper irrigation to improve your lawn can help to create that thick, dense lawn canopy that will prevent weeds from taking root in your grass.
Finally, spot treatment with the appropriate herbicide can nip any problematic weeds in the bud.
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by Sarah The Lawn Chick
I’ve learned to love caring for my lawn naturally and enjoying it daily. On this blog I’ll share some of my best tips and tutorials to help you make your lawn the best on the block!
16 thoughts on “ List of Common Weeds That Look Like Grass ”
Need help with naming an invasive looking weed that has leaves that look like a rocket, long thick body with small wings. It’s overtaking my raised beds. I have a photo.
I’ll see if I recognize it! Email me a photo (my first name @ lawnchick.com)
I have a few new spring weed grasses popping up that I didn’t see last year. Are you ok with sending the pics to your email for your opinion?
Sure, Brian – I may not get back to you until this weekend but I’ll take a look as soon as I can!
I just discovered your website/posts while researching ‘weeds that look like grass’. I breed, raise and train springers which are flushing dogs. Recently, I came back from an excursion and one of my springers got a ‘grass thorn’ stuck in her paw. I always check for these things but somehow I missed this one. Nasty little thing but it was removed and after treatment, my dog was right-as-rain!
I was researching lawns / grasses etc. as I’m planning to re-do my yard, making it more ‘dog friendly’. I was shocked to learn that Tall Fescue grass is considered an invasive weed on your website. This was the grass that was ‘highly recommended’ for those who have dogs. As I’m not keen on putting anything in that resembles bamboo in it’s underground system (I’ve had a 30 yr battle with this horrific stuff), can you suggest anything else? Any information you may provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the comment. Springers are great dogs!
There are a LOT of different types of fescue, and as with any grass … what some consider a weed, others consider the foundation of a beautiful lawn. If you like the characteristics of fescue, I’d recommend you consider Turf Type Tall Fescue. It’s an improved variety designed for lawns and something I think you’ll be really happy with if you’re determined to go with a single type of grass for your yard.
You can read more about all of your options for Fescue here, and I have a comparison of TTTF and Kentucky Bluegrass which you may find interesting here.
You also may be interested in my article about how to grow grass with dogs that love to destroy it, which has some good tips on maintaining your lawn with four-legged friends. You can check that one out here.
Finally, I’d suggest that it might be a good idea to get a blend of grass seed, with whatever you settle on as the primary seed. I’m in New England and my lawn is a mix of Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and a few different fescues. Getting a seed blend that’s made for your area will give you good results, and provide good coverage in different areas of your lawn (full sun, part shade, shade, wet, dry, etc.). I think that’s easier to maintain than having to baby a single type of grass on parts of your property where growing conditions might not be ideal. With a blend of seed you allow different grasses to become dominant where the conditions are best suited for them, and your whole lawn looks and feels healthier.
Hope this helps – good luck!
Hi Sarah! Thank you so very much for all your help! This is the most information I have ever received! I love the idea of mixing grass seed … this could be a very good solution. My lawn is not very big … I have four ESS and of course they have worn paths to their various ‘barking stations’ ! The lawn is basically sunny and has thrived well. But, over time, some of the grass has worn despite my best efforts at ‘re-seeding’. I was relieved to learn that there are many types of Tall Fescue Grass. I would really like to see some great photos of lawns using this variety: google just doesn’t cut it!
Again, thanks so much Sarah. I live in BC., Canada so our climate is quite different from yours. Fortunately, living in the southern part (coast), we experience quite a mild climate, lots of rain in the winter with very little snow and our summer highs almost never reach higher than 34C. I will take all your suggestions under advisement and begin my research pronto!
You bet, Sharleen! Good luck and have fun with your project!
I have an area of lawn that has really compact soil, where a portion of the section gets scorching sun and the remainder is covered in shade. This year, I’ve tried growing Bermuda grass, but that is only taking somewhat in the sunny area. It has been so bad for so long that I’m now researching “weeds that look like lawns” that I can plant in this area and just be done with it! We are in central Virginia and have hot/humid summers and still some winter.
The transition zone can be tough for grass for some of the reasons you’ve outlined here. I’d try the Combat Extreme Transition Zone seed blend from Outside Pride. I’d plant it in September to give it the best chance of success so it can establish itself as things start to cool down in your area and it can build roots and come back strong and healthy for next season. The Outside Pride website has a calculator specific to this seed that will tell you exactly how much you’ll need to order and spread (I’d go a bit heavy, but that’s me). Here’s a link to an article with some resources to measure the lawn area you plan to re-seed so you’ll know exactly how much you need. I’d give this one (or one like it) a try before you throw in the towel. You need a good blend that can take sun and shade, and a fescue blend should be best for you as it’ll have the deep roots needed to withstand your summer heat.
Do you know what species prefer weeds to monocultures? All pollinators! Please consider why you feel you need a vast monoculture of grass in the first place.
Totally agree with you – I have huge perennial beds filled with native, pollinator-friendly plants that are in flower from spring through late fall for exactly this reason. I’m of the mindset that you can create a beautiful lawn for your family to enjoy while also supporting pollinators.
I have quite a few resources on this site that address this subject, as well. Here are a couple you may enjoy:
Thanks for your comment!
I just happened upon your website, Sarah. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with those of us who want weeds diminished in our lawns. Is there a specific herbicide that we should consider in dealing with nutsedge? Thanks for your attention to this matter. Frank
I’d try the Ortho Nutsedge product. It’s probably something that’s available locally, but you can also get it online (Amazon link). I like it because it comes ready-to-use in a hose-end sprayer. For those of us who don’t really like mixing herbicides, that’s a benefit.
As with any herbicide, I recommend testing it out in a small area before you spray it all over your lawn just to be sure it’s effective and that it isn’t going to kill your turfgrass in addition to the Nutsedge and cause a big headache for you.
We’re trying to identify a grass-like plant in our lawn (we’re in New Hampshire). I think it looks like a flat circle of knives. Pretty, but not the nice soft grass you’d want to walk through barefoot.