By Evan Ware, Regional Extension Agent, Home Grounds | CoastalAlabamaGardening@gmail.com

Q: Last summer, I had a lot of weeds in my lawn. Is there anything I can do ahead of time before my lawn starts growing this spring to help prevent weeds?

A: Even though there’s still a chill in the air and your summer lawn may be the last thing on your mind, it isn’t too early to start planning ahead so your yard is looking its best this spring and summer. In fact, mid-to-late February is the perfect time in our area to apply pre-emergent herbicides to lawns in order to prevent summer weeds.

February may seem early to start thinking about lawn care, but a lot of the weeds that are problems in our lawns throughout the summer can be prevented and controlled by a herbicide application several months in advance. Pre-emergent herbicides are a great solution for weed issues and helpful to work into a year-long lawn management schedule.

Although there is an upfront investment, planning ahead and using pre-emergents in late winter is a great way to save yourself from weed-management headaches down the road. The hot days of summer can often restrict which post-emergent herbicides can be used, since some products have temperature restrictions and may burn your turf when used above the recommended temperature, so pre-emergents are sometimes the best option.

Before applying any type of chemical to your lawn, it is important to know what type of grass you are growing. Certain types of turfgrass are more sensitive to chemicals than others, so it is always important to first check the label before application to make sure the type of grass growing in your lawn is listed. The label is the law — always be sure to check the label for application rates and instructions.

It can also help if you know what types of weeds usually tend to show up and be a problem in your lawn.While pre-emergent herbicides may be labeled for either broadleaf or grassy weeds, certain chemicals have been shown to work better on certain weeds. If there is a certain weed that is causing you the most strife, it is important to do your homework and see what product will work best for controlling that weed.

Even if you know your lawn type and the major weeds that are a problem in your lawn, finding the right product can still be an intimidating task. The trick is to look on the label of each herbicide for the active ingredient. Several different trade names or brands may use the same active ingredient; however, rates, ingredients and formulations may differ among products.

Listed below are several active ingredients commonly found in pre-emergent herbicides:

• Atrazine provides pre-emergence and post-emergence control of most broadleaf weeds, but can only be used on St. Augustine or centipede lawns.

• Benefin + trifluralin provides pre-emergence control for annual grasses and several broadleaf weeds, and can be used on Bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede or zoysia grass.

• Dithiopyr provides pre-emergence control for annual grasses and some small-seeded broadleaf weeds such as spurge on Bermuda, St. Augustine, centipede or zoysia grass.

All of these products, as well as several others, will need to be watered in and may have temperature restrictions, which can be found on the label.

As long as you do your research ahead of time, choosing the right chemicals to use in your lawn doesn’t have to be daunting. You can choose the right product by referencing the label, provided you know your turf type and what types of weeds you are controlling for. There are many lawn products on the market, so if you’re unsure about a lawn product, you can always consult with a knowledgeable sales representative or your local Extension office for advice.

For more detailed information on using pre-emergent herbicides, check out the Homeowner Lawns publication (IPM-0590) at aces.edu.

YOU ARE INVITED TO THESE UPCOMING GARDENING EVENTS

What: Extension Pruning Demonstration for Fruit Crops, Roses and Ornamentals
When: Monday, Feb. 19, 9-11 a.m.
Where: Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 Schillinger Road, N., Mobile
More: Free; bring your pruning shears. Call 251-574-8445 for more info.

What: Mobile County Master Gardeners 2018 Spring Seminar
When: Saturday, Feb. 17, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Mobile Botanical Gardens, 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile
Speakers: Susan Haltom, Restoring a Historic Garden (author of “One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Homeplace”) and Carol Reece, Ordinary Plants/Extraordinary Stories
More: Door prizes, silent auction, delicious box lunch, beautiful garden setting
Cost: $35; non-refundable advance reservations required
Deadline to register: Feb. 9. Send checks, payable to MCMG, to 2221 Dogwood Court, N., Mobile, AL 36693. Call 251-209-6425 for credit card purchase.

Master Gardener Helpline: 1-877-252-4769 or send gardening questions to coastalalabamagardening@gmail.com.

(Photos/ Evan Ware) Well-maintained, weed-free lawns require planning in advance. Pictured: Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania.