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Monday, June 1, 2015

Damn the Torpedo Grass! Pull Weeds Ahead!

I stopped mowing my own grass years ago because I got tired of pulling my back out on a near-weekly basis. I am not fond of yard work, anyway. I perform some yard work because I hate a messy yard worse than I hate doing yard work. But I don’t do the major upkeep myself. Instead, I hire a lawn service. They will, I discovered, cheerfully pull their equipment-laden trailer to your house and mow, edge, and blow off your driveway. Paying a lawn company and avoiding the doctor’s office is about a wash, in my estimation.

    Having a lawn is a responsibility. If you own a house with a lawn, you should take care of it out of respect for the people living around you. You shouldn’t let debris pile up and become a critter-haven. You shouldn’t let your shrubs get out of hand, or trash trees sprout and take root just anywhere. And you should never let your weeds take over your lawn, because, in a neighborhood, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine when it comes to weeds.

     The best defense against weeds in a lawn is a healthy carpet of grass. So when I made the decision years ago to put down grass sod, I also signed up with a lawn treatment service. The company has kept my lawn looking lush every since. They also keep an eye out for disease threats like fungus and pests like grubs. Armadillos really like grubs, and they will walk all the way from Texas to dig up your entire lawn looking for them. So Chad, my lawn treatment man, has regularly treated my Meyer’s zoysia lawn for fungus and grubs.  He also treats other insidious problems like nutgrass and torpedo grass. I think nutgrass is called nutgrass because trying to get rid of it will drive you nuts. Torpedo grass, however, is in a class all by itself.

    First of all, torpedo grass is devious. It is broad-bladed and at first examination, it looks a whole lot like centipede or St. Augustine grass. It’s easy enough to see in a fine-bladed grass lawn like zoysia. You look at it and think, “Hmmm...that looks like centipede. Well, it’s not zoysia, but at least it’s green grass.”  And you forget about it for a while. Then you notice the stuff is showing up everywhere in your lawn, because it’s also very invasive. I know this because Chad told me, “Lynn, this stuff is called torpedo grass, and it’s very invasive.” He also said, “You need to stay on top of it, or it’ll take over your lawn and it’s very hard to get rid of it.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is to cut out the infected sod and replace it.”  Yikes! Well, that put me on red alert. I was on torpedo grass patrol from that day on.

    I keep a bottle of Roundup on hand for spot control of weeds. You have to be very careful with Roundup because it will kill anything it comes in contact with. If your neighbor’s lawn looks like the sand trap area of a golf course, it’s probably because he got carried away with the Roundup. At any rate, I got pretty good at spot-treating a torpedo grass outbreak with RoundUp before it could establish  a beach head. If I lost a little zoysia temporarily, I just counted it as an acceptable casualty in the war on torpedo grass.

    I recently sold the house with the Meyer’s zoysia lawn and moved. I now own another house with an emerald zoysia lawn. While walking the property with some family members one afternoon, I noticed a big patch of a broad-bladed grass that was obviously not zoysia.  My uncle said, “That looks a lot like centipede.” Uh-oh.

    I made a mental note to have Chad investigate this suspicious patch,
since I had already arranged for him to evaluate my newly acquired lawn. The day of the appointment arrived. He pulled up a sprig of the mystery grass and studied it. He furrowed his brow. He finally said, “Tell you what - I’ll treat this area with a product called Drive. If it turns a sickly yellow, we’ll know it’s torpedo grass.”  He treated the patch, and in a few days the grass did indeed start turning the tell-tale sickly yellow hue. So it isn’t centipede, or St. Augustine, or any desirable southern grass. IT’S THE DREADED TORPEDO GRASS! ARGGHHH!!  And there’s a whole bunch of it making a run for the neighbor’s bermuda lawn next to mine.

    I don’t know who named this devilish weed “torpedo grass,”  except they probably had to resort to firing a torpedo to get rid of the dang stuff. Well, I whipped it once, I believe I can do it again. To sort of quote Admiral David Farragut, “Damn the torpedo grass! Pull weeds ahead!”