Orchardgrass grows in huge clumps and taller strands than the average turfgrass. It is also light green in color, which affects the look of your lawn. With an average height of 2 to 3.3 feet tall, orchard grass is best removed from turf before it spreads and takes over the lawn. So, how do you get rid of orchardgrass?
The best way to kill orchardgrass in lawns is to spot-treat it with a glyphosate-based herbicide such as Roundup. Spray and cover the undesired weed with the herbicide when it is actively growing and allow it to absorb the weed killer. Uproot the orchard grass when it dies and replace it with new sod.
Orchardgrass weed identification
Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) is a cool-season perennial grass that grows faster and taller than the turfgrass in lawns. It can grow up to one meter tall and more rapidly in the spring and summer. However, its growth rate slows down when temperatures exceed 80oF. It thrives in both full sun and partial shade.
How do you identify orchardgrass?
Orchardgrass has a bluish or lighter green appearance, distinct from the usual dark green turfgrass color. It has dense fibrous roots that extend 3-4 inches deep into the soil. The leaves are soft and wide (between ¼ or ½ of an inch) and grow from a finely-toothed membranous ligule but fold at the buds.
The invasive grassy weed has a thick stem and sometimes wheat-like clumps at the top, making it easier to identify when growing in lawns.
Orchardgrass spreads through seed dispersal and tillering. Contaminated grass seeds can also introduce the weed to a new lawn.
While orchardgrass is used as forage grass for livestock, its existence on a lawn may be unwanted. This is because it competes with turf for nutrients, moisture, and light. Furthermore, it grows taller than the average height of grass on lawns leaving a non-uniform appearance.
Lastly, long orchardgrass makes mowing difficult even when using a sharp blade mower because its leaf tips shred or tear.
How to Kill Orchardgrass in Your Lawn
Since orchard grass is quite a stubborn weed, you want to use the right approach to get rid of it from your lawn without killing your grass. While natural solutions like uprooting it can work, the weed can come back if its remnants are left in the soil. I prefer and recommend spot-treating with a potent herbicide for the best results.
Here’s how to get rid of orchardgrass in your lawn:
1. Spray glyphosate to kill orchard grass
Chemical control using herbicides is best employed if the orchardgrass has covered a vast lawn area. Spraying herbicides to kill orchardgrass should be your last option because they will most likely kill your turfgrass as well. However, using a herbicide is the surest way of getting rid of the grassy weed in your lawn.
The best herbicides for killing orchardgrass in lawns are those that contain glyphosate such as Roundup, Killzall, Grasskiller, and Kleerawa.
Since orchardgrass is a perennial grass, it may regrow on a new lawn if it previously grew there. Before planting grass seeds on new lawns, you want to apply glyphosate on the area and wait for two weeks to make sure all the weeds are dead. After all orchard weeds have been killed, sow grass seeds with 0.0% of “other crop seed.”
I recommend that you apply herbicides when the orchard weeds are young and actively growing to control them effectively.
You’ll need a herbicide and a spray bottle with a tiny nozzle to kill orchardgrass on an already existing lawn. Here’s how to get rid of the weed with a herbicide.
- Fill the spray bottle with the herbicide and close the top tightly.
- Identify the orchardgrass on the lawn area and mark the direction of their spread.
- Spot-spray the herbicide while pointing on the individual roots of weed using the tiny nozzle. Be sure not to spray the nearby grass with the herbicide because it will kill them.
- Cut the brown spots of clumped orchardgrass.
- Replace the patched spots with new sod 5 to 7 days after applying the herbicide.
Multiple herbicide application is necessary to remove the weed entirely from the lawn. Herbicides are effective as they kill the entire root system of the weed, and you don’t have to dig the roots out after spraying.
Remember to apply herbicide at the recommended rate by your local Extension Officer for herbicides. Check the manual’s instructions and always take precautions.
2. Dig out the bunches of orchard grass
If the weed is still young and covers a tiny portion of the lawn, the best way to get rid of it is to dig it out. Digging out is best done when the soil is moist so that the roots can come out quickly.
Orchardgrass has deep roots extending to a depth of about 3-4 inches, so, mere plucking of the shoots while sparing the roots will not eradicate the weed from the lawn. The shoots will regrow from the remaining roots in the ground.
Locate the orchardgrass on the lawn. You can easily spot them because of their extended long stem with wheat-like clumps at the top. They are also light greener than the average grass on lawns.
Here’s how to dig out orchardgrass from your lawn:
- Wet the area with orchardgrass deeply to soften the soil around and make it easier to uproot the weed.
- Dig out the individual roots of the weed using a narrow shovel or a lawn weed puller.
- Cover the holes with organic soil and top dressing then level them out.
- Plant new grass seed in the areas or fill the bare spots with new sod.
If any grasses get damaged during the process, encourage them to spread and fill in instead of having to replant the area.
3. Kill orchard grass with white vinegar
Spraying white undiluted vinegar on orchardgrass is an effective method of removing the grassy weed from the lawn because vinegar is eco-friendly and nontoxic. It doesn’t affect humans and pets.
To kill orchardgrass on lawns, you will need a spray bottle with a tiny nozzle, a measuring cup, and concentrated white vinegar.
For every one meter feet of lawn covered in orchard grass, you will use 2 cups of white concentrated vinegar. Remember to apply concentrated vinegar when the grass is dry. Any water on the lawn or rainfall may wash away the vinegar before it entirely kills the orchardgrass.
Here’s how to kill orchardgrass with vinegar:
- Locate the lawn areas with orchardgrass and mark the direction of growth.
- Pour concentrated white vinegar into the spray bottle.
- Spray the vinegar directly on the orchardgrass to the base.
- Soak the orchard weeds in white vinegar and let it settle. The vinegar will start acting on the weeds in about 30 minutes and kill them between 24 to 48 hours.
- Spot the areas with dark brown spots of dead orchardgrass and dig their roots out.
- Replace the holes with new sod.
- Repeat the above steps if some orchardgrass remains on the lawn area.
4. Overseed the lawn to crowd out orchardgrass
This method is effective on new lawns awaiting grass planting. It’s a method whereby grasses on lawns are planted very close to each other, leaving no space for orchardgrass shoots to grow and elongate on the lawn surface.
Even if some manage to grow, they would suffocate and eventually die. When planting, use a stitcher tool to ensure all the grasses are proximal. To ensure the weed never grows on your lawn after congested planting, water the lawn regularly, apply fertilizers on time, and mow at a lower height to make the lawn grow thicker and fuller.
Is there a selective herbicide for orchardgrass?
There’s no selective herbicide for orchardgrass. The best option is to kill the weed using glyphosate, a non-selective weed killer. Spot-treat the undesirable grass with any brand of glyphosate such as Killzall or Roundup especially when the weed is actively growing to control it effectively.
Can turf choke on orchardgrass?
Orchardgrass growing on new or existing lawns may end up choking your turf if not controlled over a long period.
Orchardgrass grows faster and taller than the regular turfgrasses such as fescue, St. Augustine grass, zoysia, Bermuda grass, and ryegrass. In the case of new lawns, the weed will grow faster and spread to the remaining lawn area by tillering before your turf grows. Planting new contaminated grass seeds will also stimulate the growth and spread of the grass weed.
The weed will also tiller on the existing lawn, and its seeds will spread rapidly, covering a wider lawn area. If not quickly controlled, you may have your entire lawn covered in orchardgrass.
- PennState Extension: Weed Management in Turf.
University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Kent Co., Commercial Horticultural Information: Turf- Orchardgrass in Lawns.