My dog is usually pretty smart, but she is chronically dumb about one thing- she will walk right into anything nasty (dead birds), messy (mud, or worse), or even painful to her poor little paws. I have to vigilantly "steer" her on our daily walks. Lately, our main obstacle has been grass burrs, or as most of us around here call them, stickers.

We have a particularly vicious variety of grass burr that thrives around here, putting off long stalks of many painful, hard burrs. Every year they thrive in places like easements and alleyways, and get so large they eventually die, break off the base of their stem, and become massive tumbleweeds- which can also be quite hazardous in traffic- ask my friend who lost a windshield when the stem hit the glass just right.

This year there are grass burs popping up in the middle of even the best-kept lawns- and unkempt lawns are just a bumper crop of grass burr plants. What caused this to happen? What can we do about this nasty nuisance? 

Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash
Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

The cause is a fairly easy conclusion to come to if we know about ideal conditions for grass burrs. Grass burrs thrive when they have no competition- so a dried-out, dead lawn is the perfect "nursery" for burrs. The very hot and very dry times this summer killed a lot of the grass- and then the eventual rains brought the grass burrs to life. Of course, burrs spread easily, thanks to their prickly nature- so now we are seeing them pop up even in nice lawns just because there are so many burrs to go around.

What can we do? Unfortunately, we've missed the boat on preventative measures- like using pre-emergent herbicides. Personally, I don't love chemical solutions to natural problems but I definitely don't judge anyone else for doing so. The best prevention is to have plenty of competition for the grass burrs- that is, a lawn full of healthy grass or other plants like purslane or another ground cover. But these are notes for next year.

Now, the best thing to do is mow, baby, mow. Regularly and deeply. Normally I'd say leave the bag off the mower so you get free grass mulch, but if you've got bad burrs, you want rid of anything your mower chews up.  Unfortunately, we are also past the best time to apply weed killer MSMA- and you don't want to use it near anything you might eat either, as it is a known carcinogenic. A cheaper, healthier option is to spray weeds with vinegar every day until they die- just try not to get any on the grass. This is a good solution for weeds that pop up in concrete cracks. Of course, you can also get rid of weeds by hand, but you definitely want gloves and be extra vigilant if you are allergic.

The persistent problem with grass burrs in Lubbock is that everyone with a yard needs to pitch in to keep them under control- but then who is responsible for alleyways and easements? The City of Lubbock can only do so much. And there is always going to be that one neighbor that will not or cannot keep their yard in check. Again, code enforcement can only do so much. So the best tactic is to keep your yard as best as you are able- that way the problem affects you least and at least you aren't contributing to it.

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