Fall is a prime time for Plateau landscape improvements. August-November are good months to assess what needs work and what doesn’t in your yard. 

Walk your property and create a to-do list for this fall. 

Undesirable plants we call weeds and also desirable plants that inhabit garden areas produce seeds at the end of the growing season. As seeds from one plant will produce lots of new unwanted offspring, getting rid of those seed heads will help keep your yard and gardens tidy not only this year but in future growing seasons as well. 

Put weeding and thinning perennial ornamentals at the top of your list. However, getting rid of broadleaf weeds and grassy weeds like crabgrass is an important first step in lawn improvement or establishment so I’d encourage Plateau residents to put weeding in lawn grass areas ahead of other weeding. 

How is your lawn looking? Since success with yardwork is partly getting the timing right and September and October are the prime months for cool season grass growth on the Plateau make work on turf areas a close second on your priority list. 

When walking around my house to decide what needed to be done to the lawn this fall, I found not only some broadleaf weeds and a few clumps of crabgrass which is typical at the end of summer, but also patches of a weedy grass called nimblewill, Muhlenbergia schreberi. 

Invasions of warm-season grasses like nimblewill were not a big problem in our area when I took Master Gardener training in 1998 but as Master Gardeners must earn horticultural education credits every year, I’d seen photos of various weedy grasses and remembered nimblewill leaves grow at a 45-degree angle out from the stem, are short, pointed and have a blue-green color in contrast to the deeper green of fescue turf. 

While on early-morning walks with my dog I noticed patches of nimblewill in my neighbors’ fescue turf along the ditch line as well as in my lawn. Nimblewill growth shows up early in the day because of a heavy covering of dew.

The plant structure, texture and color looked right, but I checked the University of Tennessee website, www.tennesseeturfgrassweeds.org, fact sheets on weedy grasses to verify my identification of this grass. 

(Fact sheets on many other turfgrass weeds and ways to control them are available from this UT source for download at no cost.)    

Nimblewill, like other warm-season grasses, is dormant during the cold season, then begins growth in spring as air and soil temperatures rise and grows throughout the summer. It spreads by seeds produced on spikes in late summer and by sending out creeping stems called stolons. Stolons are horizontal stems also called runners that take root at growth points along their length to start new plants. The stolons grow into and over surrounding fescue or bluegrass turf gradually smothering out the desirable lawn grasses. This is a perennial weed that comes back every year and though easily uprooted, any stem pieces left on the ground as well as any seeds from the prior summer can start a new nimblewill invasion the following spring. 

Next week find nimblewill treatment suggestions offered by Tom Samples, turfgrass science and management professor at the University of Tennessee. Read the September 2020 Plateau Yard & Garden article in the monthly Cumberland NOW magazine section for more information on how to have the best lawn in your neighborhood.

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Plateau Yard & Garden articles are printed in Crossville Chronicle weekly newspapers and the monthly Cumberland NOW magazine insert. Reader email questions, topic suggestions and comments about  articles welcomed. Send emails to Master Gardener Rae at MGardenerRae@frontiernet.net.

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