Late winter affects weeds, turf


Last week I talked about the recent warm weather in December and its potential impact on our plants. Here’s more information that might be of interest.

A colleague of mine, Tim Malinich, said that we have the potential for plenty of weeds this coming spring because of the warm weather.

Winter annuals thrived in December and had a chance to get really established. If we have an early spring, it may bring the apocalypse of the weed world!

Winter annuals are all of those that germinated in late August and September. They enjoy colder temperatures and don’t like warm temperatures.

Winter annuals such as chickweed, henbit, spotted dead nettle and others start out in the fall, sit through really cold weather, and then, when warmer spring weather hits, they take off like crazy and go to seed.

They also produce lots and lots of seeds and go from flower to seed rather quickly. Therefore, the weed potential for the next few years increases dramatically if you don’t get on these early.

I would urge you to keep an eye on these and as soon as weather permits, get them out of the bed and apply a pre-emergent herbicide and mulch or mulch, whatever your preference, to prevent further growth.

If you are not sure what these weeds look like, take a look at your garden now. Those that are still pretty green, despite the cold weather, are likely to be winter annuals.

Another colleague, Ohio State University Extension turf specialist Joe Rimelspach, noted that we might not see too much trouble with turf, except for newly seeded lawns, particularly those with turf type tall fescues.

Because of the length of nice weather last fall, people who waited until later in the fall to seed lawns with turf type tall fescues may notice some damage. This particular type of grass needs several weeks to establish in order to tolerate cold temperatures.

Newly germinated grass seedlings that are exposed to sudden temperature drops may have some damage. In addition, if there is water or ice covering the lawn for a period of time, the seedlings may also be damaged.

And finally, Barb Bloestcher, state apiarist (honeybees) from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said that we may continue to see challenges with honeybees.

On a final positive note, since we had a week of cooler temperatures (closer to normal) between Christmas and New Year’s Day, prior to this most recent cold spell, our woody ornamentals and other plants may have gotten a break from winter injury.

Remember it’s those sudden drops and extreme temperatures that do the most damage.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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