Woes with Winter Weeds

2019 was North Carolina’s warmest year on record since 1895. With very few days of wintry chill during December, January, and February, Mother Nature has consistently moved the mercury higher for us in 2020 and made it a warm and wet winter. This combination of a mild climate with lots of rainfall has created a perfect breeding ground for growing weeds.


Henbit, chickweed, dandelions, clover, and Carolina geranium are just a few of the unwelcome and early spring surprises that are waiting for you. These weeds are called winter annuals. They germinate in late summer and early fall and grow throughout January and February. At this stage they aren’t really noticeable as small green dormant plants. In March they flower, produce seeds, and become large, colorful, and unatrractive eyesores in the lawn. Here in Gastonia, North Carolina, winter annual weeds are already up and growing.

Henbit broadleaf weed

White clover broadleaf weed Dandelion broadleaf weed Chickweed broadleaf weed Carolina geranium broadleaf weed

After dispersing seeds, many of these annual weeds will die with the onset of warm weather in late spring. So, why should you treat them? Seeds disperse into the ground and the life cycle repeats with germination during hot weather. Breaking this cycle is the key to controlling winter annuals. Selecting the best chemical formulation as well as the application timing is critical in lawn weed control.


Landscape supplier store with a variety of herbicides

There is a long aisle of weed killer choices at all lawn and garden centers. Before we get to amines vs. esters, let’s make our goal clear and straight forward. (1) We need a “selective” product vs. a “non-selective” (kills all in its path). (2) We are trying to eliminate “broadleaf” weeds, not “grassy” weeds, nor “sedges”. Now for the final selection: a formulation with amine salts or esters? It’s not that complicated – we need both to be added to our arsenal for the big picture.

Ester formulations are more volatile and are a good choice for cool weather (early spring and late fall). Amine salt formulations are relatively non-volatile and are preferred for applications in warm weather (late spring to early summer). Less volatile chemicals have less drift and are safer to use in the vicinity of landscape plantings. Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina we use esters for spot spraying actively growing broadleaf weeds in late February, March, and early April when the temperatures are approximately 55 to 70 degrees. As temperatures increase, esters are more prone to volatilization, and a switch should be made to amine formulations. We use amine salts to blanket spray actively growing broadleaf weeds from mid April through late May. Once the temperatures exceed 85 degrees of ambient temperature, we discontinue turf herbicides until late fall. Lawns are eligible for fall applications of cool weather esters at least 6 weeks after seeding in late September/early October. During all herbicide applications, whether spot spray or blanket spray, best success is achieved if treatment is applied mid mowing cycle.

With a combination of good lawn care practices and careful timing of the appropriate pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides, Morrison Lawn & Landscape can help you to successfully manage crabgrass. If you are have interest for us to visit your Gastonia, NC property for a free consultation for lawn service, contact us today at (704) 813-2545. Click here to contact us via email.