Posted by Brent Wilson on 8/1/2017 to FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Not to be confused with the desirable landscape plant Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra), spurge weed, or what some folks call "sand mats," are unwanted warm season weeds that can be difficult to control in landscapes, gardens and lawns. Spurge weed is mat-forming and fast growing and will often spread to form colonies in areas where there is enough sunlight and moisture for them to thrive. In this article, we'll be looking at effective methods of control in landscape and garden bed plantings.
If it were an attractive evergeen groundcover plant spurge might not be so bad, but it's not attractive and goes dormant during the winter. In addition to its lack of aesthetic appeal, spurge can also be a hazard to humans. When pulling spurge weeds a white milky sap oozes from the broken stems that can cause skin irritation to sensitive folks and mild to serious eye irritation in most folks. Needless to say, when pulling this weed it's best to wear protective gloves and clothing so as to avoid coming into contact with the diterpine esters in its sap.
How To Control Spurge Weed
Spurge is a weed that can be very hard to control due to its quick seed production and roots that take hold fast. However, with the proper techniques and products, you can control spurge and possibly even prevent an infestation before it starts.
Spurge won't grow where the sun doesn't shine. So the best way to prevent spurge is to have other healthy plants, such as shrubs and groundcover plants, covering the ground.
But what about newly planted landscape beds where there is space between plantings? Of course you'll want to get some mulch on the ground to help suppress weed growth and to help retain and conserve moisture, but eventually these mulches will decompose into rich organic matter that provides the perfect environment for weeds seeds to sprout.
Landscape fabric can be helpful to prevent weeds from sprouting. But, as mentioned, mulches will decompose to form soil that weed seeds will sprout in. So you'll have to remove and replace mulch applied on top of landscape fabric every so often to avoid this problem.
Perhaps one of the best ways to prevent spurge in landscape beds, where other desirable plants might be growing, is by the application of a weed preventer product such as Hi-Yield Herbicide Granules Weed & Grass Stopper, which is listed for use in non-lawn areas and contains Treflan. Weed preventers work by killing weed seeds as they sprout, so timing of application is very important to increase their effectiveness. Spurge seeds germinate in spring when soil temperatures are around 60 degrees F. Therefore, for season-long control, you want to apply the weed preventer in early to mid spring.
Note: Make sure to read and follow instructions on the product label before applying any weed prevention chemical.
If spurge has already sprouted in your landscape beds you'll have to take steps to eliminate it.
The best way to eliminate or kill spurge growing in planted or mulched landscape beds, where shrubs and other plants might be growing, is to pull or spray the seedlings as soon as you spot them. Young spurge plants are easier to pull because they won't have the strong root system they develop as they mature. Too, young plants won't have the seeds that can be dispersed to form new colonies.
If you'd rather not pull or dig to eliminate spurge plants growing in your landscape and garden beds, you can carefully spray with a broad spectrum weed killer listed for use around (but not on!) desirable ornamental shrubs and other plants, such as Hi-Yield Killzall, which contains 41% glyphosate. Glyphostae kills weeds dead...roots and all. Depending on the time of year, and how fast weeds are growing, it can take 7 to 14 days for glyphosate to kill a weed.
When spraying glyphosate weed killer on weeds growing around desirable plants, do so on a calm day to avoid spray drift. It's also helpful to adjust your sprayer nozzle so that it sprays more of a stream or heavy spray rather than a light mist or fog, which can drift
Note: Make sure to read and follow instructions on the product label before applying any chemical.
Avoid Spreading Spurge
If there are mats of spurge already growing in your landscape or garden beds, avoid walking across the plants as the seeds they produce can stick to the bottom of your shoes, which will transport them to other locations in your landscape.
If you are using tools to dig up spurge weeds, make sure to clean them after use before using in a different location.
It's best when digging plants up to place the plants in a garbage bag or bucket as you go rather than piling them up on top of the ground. Also avoid raking pulled mature plants over a soil surface, which will spread seeds.
Spurge likes wet soils. Therefore, reduce irrigation if possible to prevent the rapid growth and infestations.
Hope you found the information in this article helpful. If you need more details or have any questions don't hesitate to contact us.
Plant Long & Prosper!