Learn With Us, March 2023

Planting Native Perennials for Pollinators

Saturday, March 11 2:00 – 4:00pm

Location: 221 Milton Rd, Durham

This presentation will cover native plants, rich in nectar and/or pollen, which will
bloom sequentially throughout the life cycle of our Piedmont pollinators. Plants
selected for the presentation will include many that tolerate deer, heat, and
drought and will include plants for sun and shade gardens. Handouts will be
provided that summarize information about the plants presented in the
PowerPoint and include resource links for native plant gardeners.


Container Gardening: Setting Up for Success

Choose one session:

Tuesday, March 2110:00 – 11:00am or Sunday, March 262:00 – 3:00pm

Location: Cocoa Cinnamon

420 W Geer St, Durham, NC 27701, USA

For city dwellers, growing plants outdoors often means gardening in containers. Whether you live in an apartment, condo, townhome or house, our Urban Container Gardening series will get you prepared to grow ornamental plants or edibles in containers at your city home. For this two-part miniseries, you can attend either one or both seminars, as they’ll cover complementary information.

For the first part, Extension Master Gardeners Cathy Halloran and Jackie MacLeod will lead you through the steps of determining how much sun you have, choosing containers and potting medium, checking drainage and irrigation, the tools you’ll need, and choosing plants for success for your sun exposure.

Join the Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteers of Durham County to learn gardening tricks and tips at the Cocoa Cinnamon Container Gardeners.

REGISTRATION REQUIRED https://www.eventbrite.com/e/container-gardening-setting-up-for-success-321-tickets-513363553207

$5 Fee

Parking is available along the street and in the Cooperative Extension Parking lot (721 Foster St). There is a limit of 15 people per class.

This class is part of the Bull City Gardener Learning Series and is open to everyone.

This class is made possible by an Inspire-Connect-Empower Grant from the Master Gardener Association of North Carolina.

Durham Garden Forum – Plant Propagation

Tuesday, March 21 7:00 – 8:30pm

Sara Smith, Durham County Master Gardener
In the beginning, there were plants – EVERYWHERE! Plants spread across the Earth from the depths of the oceans to rocky mountain peaks. That didn’t happen with just one
method of propagation. Join us for a look at the various propagation techniques that plants employ. Learn how to facilitate their natural tendencies to produce an abundance of your favorites.
Disclaimer: Plant propagation may be habit-forming

Registration Required

The Durham Garden Forum is an informal group that meets once a month to enrich our gardening knowledge and skill. 3rd Tuesdays, 7:00- 8:30 pm via Zoom link sent to registrants.

Memberships: $25 per year. Members have access to video library of presentations. CONTACT US/REGISTER: durhamgardenforum@gmail.com

Inaugural Plant Festival

Saturday, April 110:00am – 12:00pm

721 Foster St., Durham

Come and join us for our first ever Plant Festival, to be held on Saturday April 1 in the Foster St parking lot, the week before the Master Gardeners’ plant sale. Preview plants, ask questions, and learn from Master Gardeners and community partners! More information HERE.

More opportunities:

Duke Gardens

JC Raulston Arboretum

NC Botanical Garden

Triangle Gardener

Shortlink: https://wp.me/p2nIr1-3eB

March To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

My, my.  Wasn’t February sweet?  The second warmest on record although another day or six of sunshine would have been nice.  Apparently, there was enough sun to keep SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) from getting crazy.  I fear we will pay for February this month.  That has been the pattern the last couple of years.  Maybe we could make February be 31 days long and March just 28.  It is such a meteorologically volatile month anyway.  Let’s just get it over more quickly.  Then we can get to the gardeners’ favorite, April, faster.  Win-win!

There’s lots of green stuff showing up in the Accidental Cottage Garden (ACG) and a few hopeful daffodils along with a forsythia (Forsythia intermedia).  The saucer magnolia (M. soulangeana) was almost gorgeous when we were blessed with a 29-degree night.  Consequently, it never reached its full potential.  Thus, it is when a zone 8 plant is on the wrong side of the zone 7/8 line.  For now, we will enjoy the pansies (Viola tricolor x cvs.) in pots on the deck.

It is time to actually start doing stuff in the garden as opposed to sitting inside staring at it wistfully.  Here is the list, however, “Beware the Ides of March.” (and much the rest of the month as well).


 Cool season grasses (fescues and bluegrass) can be fertilized now. Pre-emergent crabgrass control can be applied as soon as the forsythia bloom (like now) and before the dogwoods (Cornus sps.) are in full bloom.

Mowing can begin as soon as it is appropriate.  Mow cool season grasses to a height between 3” and 4”.  Mow often enough to only remove 1/3 of the blade length.  Allow the clippings to remain on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil naturally.  You may need up to 20% less fertilizer over the course of a year.  If the clippings are wet and heavy (You probably should have waited until the lawn was drier.), remove them and compost them or use as mulch.  Lawn clippings do not belong in the landfill.


Stuff (like plants, for instance) that can be fertilized this month include shade trees, shrubs and spring blooming bulbs.

Asparagus beds can be fertilized in March before the new shoots appear.

Amend your vegetable beds (per your SOIL TEST results) before planting.

Add lime (again, per SOIL TEST recommendations) if that didn’t happen in the fall.  It takes three to six months for the lime to become available to the plants.


Now it begins.  Plant trees or shrubs that didn’t get planted in the fall.  Be forewarned that they may require more frequent watering through the summer than plants planted in the fall.

Perennials such as columbine (Aquilegia sps.), hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), coreopsis (Coreopsis sps.), daisies (Leucanthemum sps. Or Bellis perennis), phlox (Phlox sps.) and roses (Rosa sps.) can also be planted in March.

Root crops (beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes) and salad greens (Bok Choi, leaf lettuces, cabbage, chard and kale) can be planted now.


Finish pruning fruit trees ASAP.

Prune roses in late March.  Remove dead wood and winter kill.  Prune for aesthetics by cutting long canes back.  Cut back to a five-leaflet leaf to promote blooming.

Prune spring flowering shrubs after the blooms fade.

Keep pansies dead headed (remove spent blooms) to prolong bloom time.


You can spray broadleaf plants for euonymus/tea scale and coniferous (needle-like leaves) evergreens for spider mites now.  A horticultural oil will smother the insects and their eggs.  Check the plants for pests and always identify the pest before spraying (It might not be a pest and could be a beneficial insect species.)  “Know your enemy.”  ALWAYS read and follow the label of any pesticide.

Applying the same horticultural oil to fruit trees, especially those that have been recently pruned will help prevent several insect problems later.


Make sure all of your equipment is ready.  Change the oil and lubricate moving parts of your motorized equipment.  Sharpen anything that is supposed to be sharp.  Calibrate sprayers.  Etc.

When was the last time you experimented with a new plant or vegetable variety?  How ‘bout this year?

Plant a tree for NC arbor day (which for some reason is different than Nation Arbor Day).  This year it is on the 17th.  Make it a really green day and plant a shamrock, too.

Have fun.  It’s what gardeners do.

Resources and Information

Free soil sampling resumes on April 1. Plan ahead and learn all about soil sampling here:


Zone 7? Zone 8? Check out the USDA Hardiness Zone map for NC. https://pdi.scinet.usda.gov/phzm/mm/nc.jpg

This video gives an overview on cleaning and sharpening garden tools. The presenter suggests doing this in late summer of fall, but many of us grab our tools year-round. Keeping them clean and sharp is worth the time and efforts no matter the season. https://youtu.be/j-rc-KF-ON8

Article Short Link https://wp.me/p2nIr1-3eL

Get Ready for Creek Week!

By Ellie Dilworth, AmeriCorps Environmental Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator, Keep Durham Beautiful

With Spring fast approaching, it’s hard not to stare out the window and dream of being outside. Luckily, the third week in March offers a great chance to get out there: Durham Creek Week.

This year, Creek Week runs from March 18th through March 25th. Creek Week is one of Durham’s largest litter cleanup initiatives of the year; a collaboration of over 15 community groups, organizations, local government divisions, and businesses; and a week-long celebration of Durham’s creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes.

Volunteers from Durham Tech at a litter removal event at Long Meadow Park along Goose Creek, Creek Week 2019 (Credit: Tania Dautlick)

Tackling Pollution

One of Creek Week’s main initiatives is removing litter from waterways and raising awareness about water pollution. Litter flows into our waterways with runoff and pollutes water as materials degrade, leaching chemicals into the surrounding water and soil. Did you know, the chemicals from just one cigarette butt can contaminate around two gallons of water—removing litter is a big deal!

Durham’s main source of drinking water is Lake Michie, located in North Durham. However, most of the creeks and streams in Durham flow into Jordan or Falls Lake, which serve as drinking water sources for surrounding cities. March is a great time to remove litter from our waterways as much of the overgrowth is dormant, making it easier to get close to waterways, spot the litter, and go in there to get it out.

Durham has celebrated Creek Week since 2009. In Creek Week’s 13-year history, approximately 4,117 volunteers have removed 190,637 pounds of litter from Durham’s waterways. This year, Creek Week will host a variety of cleanups across Durham to remove litter both on foot and by boat. Below we’ll tell you how to get involved.

Educational Opportunities

            While litter removal is a big part of Creek Week, it’s also a great time to learn more about our waterways, aquatic life, and water infrastructure in Durham. Participants can gain knowledge and experience through hands-on learning opportunities.

Kids searching for frogs at last year’s Frog Watch at Sandy Creek Park, Creek Week 2022 (Credit: Laura Webb Smith)

Some of this year’s events include:

  • Experiencing the explosion of spring song and mating activity among frogs at Sandy Creek Park
  • A bioretention tour at the City of Durham’s General Services Building
  • A Green Stormwater workshop at the Museum of Life and Science

An Educational Resource Guide with youth book recommendations and classroom activities and lessons can be found on the Creek Week website for a great way to learn and participate from home!

Recreational Activities

After lots of litter removals and educational events, it can be nice to spend some time exploring and enjoying our local waterways. Creek Week has ample opportunities for both fun and challenging—but still fun—recreational activities. Join Creek Week partners for one of many canoe and kayak adventures and classes which offer a new perspective on our lakes and rivers, enjoy free admission to explore the Museum of Life and Science on Durham Community Day, or team up for a hike along one of Durham’s many trails that run alongside our waterways.

Participate from Home

Whether you can attend an in-person event or not, you can still participate in Creek Week! Visit the Creek Week website to fill out this year’s bingo card. Participants who complete five spaces will receive a Creek Week patch. Those who fill out ten spaces will be entered for a chance to win a $120 gift card from Frog Hollow Outdoors. Durham County Stormwater is hosting a virtual scavenger hunt via social media with prizes for participants who get all the questions correct.

In addition to events in Durham, the Clean Water Education Partnership of the Triangle J Council of Governments hosts a Regional Creek Week event. For this year’s Regional Creek Week theme of “GSI Oh My!,” CWEP will be hosting a virtual scavenger hunt highlighting local examples of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). GSI provides an alternative to sending runoff unfiltered directly into waterways via methods of filtering and absorbing stormwater in the place where it falls. Implement green stormwater infrastructure at your home through things like a rain barrel or rain garden, or take on a larger project like bioretention cells or redeveloping the riparian buffer along a waterway. For more information on the scavenger hunt and Regional Creek Week events, visit CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage.

Volunteers at a litter removal event at Beaver Marsh Preserve, Creek Week 2022 (Credit: Laura Webb Smith)

Register and Learn More

If you’re interested in joining a cleanup, participating in a workshop, or attending a recreational event, visit www.durhamcreekweek.org and navigate to the events page for registration links. Space is limited for many events, so sign up soon to secure your spot. If you’d like to organize or lead a litter removal event, please fill out this form. Keep Durham Beautiful will provide tools for those leading litter cleanups. If you’re not in Durham but would still like to get involved, keep an eye out for similar events in your area by visiting CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage or the NC Creek Week Network Hub from the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

However you choose to participate, we hope you take the chance this March to explore, appreciate, learn, and care for our local waterways. See you out there!


www.durhamcreekweek.org (Includes Event Registration, Educational Resource Guide, Bingo Card)

NC Creek Week Network Hub

CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage

Registration Form to Lead or Organize a Cleanup

Article Short Link: https://wp.me/p2nIr1-3eo

My Favorite Houseplant: African Violet

Houseplants are having a moment. And African violets are everywhere in local nurseries and giving monstera (Monstera deliciosa) a run for its money. With the resurgence in the African violet’s popularity, it’s a great time to revisit Wendy Diaz’s article to learn more about their history, characteristics, and care needs. Plants often play a significant role in intergenerational relationships and familial memories, as Wendy’s piece illustrates.


By Wendy Diaz, EMGV

Very few houseplants exist in my home. My gardening efforts are concentrated outdoors in our temperate climate; but there is one houseplant, no matter where I live, that I always like to have for both aesthetic and nostalgic reasons, and that is the African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha). My mother and her mother always had them sitting on a table next to a sunny window in small pots with saucers, so I feel I should carry on the tradition. Several years ago, my mother repotted my current African violet plant during her last visit to my home. I have a great spot for it in front of my westerly facing window, and every year it sprouts new crown growth, which I divide, repot and give away. It takes very little care. If they have the perfect growing conditions, African violets can flower almost continuously.[1] Extensive care guides are available from the Missouri Botanical Garden [2] and the African Violet Society of America[3] but I will summarize the basics for you in this little post.

African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha) in clay pot with glass saucer in west facing window in February. (Image credit: Wendy Diaz)


The African violet is native to the mountains of Tanzania and Kenya (Eastern Africa). Despite its occurrence in homes worldwide it is now only believed to grow wild in the Amani Nature reserve in Tanzania[4]. The flower of the original species typically has 5 petals and ranged from pale blue to lavender in color. In 1892, the plant was officially discovered by Baron Walter von Saint Paul Illaire, serving as the imperial district governor of Tanginyika, who sent seeds back to his father in Germany. His father took the plant to the Royal Botanical Garden director and botanist, Hermann Wendland, who gave it the botanical name Saintpaulia ionantha. The genus is named after the Baron and the species is named for the Greek word ‘resembling a violet’, referencing its flower. Two British botanists discovered the plant previously and took it to Kew Gardens to be recognized, but the plants were in such poor condition that they could not be scientifically classified4.

A New York florist introduced the plant in 1894 but the drafty homes of the time meant the plants died when they were chilled and they gained a finicky reputation. With the advent of fluorescent lighting, better understanding of their required growing conditions, and the development of a wide variety of flower colors, foliage and sizes, African violets became a more popular houseplant2. The first African Violet Show was held in Atlanta in 1946 and the 76th annual African Violet Show, organized by the African Violet Society of America, was held in May of 2022.[5]


African violets are low compact plants that typically grow in a rosette form with thick hairy green leaves and stems with velvety- purple flowers usually having 5 petals (two smaller petals at the top and three larger petals on the bottom) and yellow centers. The flowers emerge in small panicles (multi-branched) above the foliage. There are now a wide variety of cultivars that vary in size from micro-miniature (less than 3 inches across) to the large variety that can be more than 16 inches wide. My African violet is the standard variety and currently measures 14 inches wide and from the crown to top of flowers is 6 inches high. Various foliage types have also been developed, for example, leaves with wavy leaf edges, variegation or trailing habits.  Flower types can be single blossom or double (10 petals) and multi-colored petals like white, pink, crimson and even yellow. Over 3000 photos displaying the diversity of African violet cultivars can be viewed in the photo gallery of the African Violet Society of American website.[6]

Standard size African violet. Photo taken of rosette on February 28, 2021; thick green hairy leaves photo taken February 14, 2021 and close up of five petal purple flowers photo taken on February 10, 2021. (Image credit: Wendy Diaz)


Because their natural habitat is tropical in moist and shaded conditions on steep rock crevices near streams, the African violet thrives indoors with humidity of 50 to 60%, in moist but well-drained soil in small shallow pots next to a sunny window, but not in direct sunlight. My westerly facing high-efficiency window appears to be ideal for my African violet all year but you may have to move your African violet from a south-facing window in the summer months. It likes acidic soil with good aeration (25%). You can buy specifically prepared soilless mix to grow your African violet, but I have been successful with just potting soil, taking care not to overwater and an occasional application of fertilizer to keep the flowers coming (1/8 teaspoon 20-20-20 fertilizer per gallon of water). Homemade soil mixtures should contain 3 parts sphagnum peat moss, 2 parts vermiculite, and 1 part perlite and care should be given to position the crown of the plant just above the soil surface1

African violets can flower almost continuously if their growing conditions are similar to the original habitat of wild African violets. (Left to right) In winter on February 10, 2021, in the fall on October 25, 2020 (pink dahlia and white muhly grass flowering outside in the background) and in the spring on April 25, 2018. (Image credit: Wendy Diaz)

The ideal pot should be smaller than the mature plant (they flower better if the roots are a little cramped; think crevice) and shallow (roots spread outward than down). In North Carolina if you don’t have your AC unit on high there should be enough humidity for the plants to thrive.

A small recently divided African violet in a two inch pot with a 7 inch spread from the larger African violet in the background on February 28, 2021. (Image credit: Wendy Diaz)

Water the roots, not the plant, and keep the foliage dry. There are self-watering African violet pots available to help make sure the plants get proper moisture and humidity but I have had success with a small clay pot placed on a dish. About once a week, when the soil feels dry to the touch, I gently part the leaves and pour room-temperature water from a narrow-spout watering can, directly to the soil making sure water spreads over the entire soil surface. I discard the excess water that drains into the dish making sure the pot does not sit in a dish of water for long. If you can remember and desire to maintain a symmetrical rosette form you can turn your plant a quarter-turn weekly. Occasionally, I snip off dead outside leaves at the base of the plant and pick off spent flowers. Each row of leaves produces a set of flowers only once.

Weekly watering of my African Violet. Photo taken February 28, 2020 (Image credit: Wendy Diaz)

The most common problems are cold temperatures (they need between 60 and 80 degrees F), not enough light for flowering to occur (position within 24 inches of a window), or crown rot due to overwatering. If you notice spotting on the leaves it is probably because you splashed cold water on them. If the plant develops long stems they need more light or if they lose their green color the plant needs less light (bleaching has occurred).

If you have a sunny window facing south, east or west and a small pot and saucer you can easily grow an African violet. I recommend the African violet for a continuous flowering houseplant that will brighten your home, even in winter, and who knows you may inspire a new generation of African violet enthusiast or create your own southern tradition of a ‘passalong’ African violet.

In memory of my mother, Marion Millar (1930 to 2020) who introduced to me to gardening and African violets.

Durham, North Carolina, October 2009





[3] https://africanvioletsocietyofamerica.org/learn/violets-101/

[4] http://www.flowers.org.uk/plants/plants-by-name/a-c/african-violet/

[5] https://africanvioletsocietyofamerica.org/next-convention

[6] https://africanvioletsocietyofamerica.org/look/photo-gallery/

Resources and Additional Information

Both North Carolina State University and University of Georgia Extension have excellent online resources on growing African violets.



Article Short Link https://wp.me/p2nIr1-3dX

Specimen Spotlight: Annual Bluegrass

By Melinda Heigel, EMGV

It’s early February, spring is on the way, and annual bluegrass (Poa annua) flower heads are emerging in the Triangle area. (Image credit: M. Heigel)

There’s a popular saying that weeds are just plants in the wrong place. And to be sure some plants we think of as unsightly weeds serve important roles in the environment. One that immediately comes to mind is the much-maligned dandelion, whose yellow flowers are early-season food sources for pollinators. But one weed that plagues many home gardeners’ lawns is starting to make its yearly appearance: annual bluegrass (Poa annua).

Annual bluegrass–not to be confused with Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), a perennial grass which is the second most widely grown cool-season grass in NC lawns– is a winter weed, bright green-to-chartreuse in color, finely textured, and with a clumping habit. The blade of this grass is identifiable by what many turf experts call its “boat-shaped” and pointed tip. When annual bluegrass infests lawns, it shows up prominently in a stand of fescue due to its color. And if you have warm season grass like zoysia or Bermuda, it’s even more evident because this time of year, it’s a burst of color in what otherwise is now a sea of brown. This annual weed is considered one of the most aggressive weeds around. It thrives in all sorts of soils and conditions, but it can often be an indicator of compacted and poorly-drained soil.

(Left to right) Detail of the folded boat-like tip of the weed’s blade. Annual bluegrass evident in a fescue lawn. Note the difference in color, density, and texture. (Image credit: Michigan State University and M. Heigel)

In terms of its overall life cycle, annual bluegrass geminates in North Carolina in the fall, typically in September through October, although some additional germination may occur in the spring. If your lawn is made up of cool-season grass, it’s still green and growing in the fall, so you may not notice this small weed as it emerges. However, in the late winter and early spring, annual bluegrass gets more sunlight as days lengthen, grows rapidly, flowers, disperses seeds and dies just as the warm weather arrives beginning in May. By summer, this weed seems to simply disappear. But wait…. Annual bluegrass is prolific; as each plant flowers in the spring, its flower heads can produce upwards of several hundred weed seeds in one season–remember that’s per plant. Those seeds can lay dormant in the ground for years making this one of the toughest annual weeds to control.

While it sounds dire, rest assured that there are means that gardeners can employ to control annual bluegrass in their lawns, and using these measures in concert with one another (a practice called Integrated Pest Management), will often lead to the best results. 1

Manual practices–Gardeners may have mixed results by pulling or digging up this weed. If you catch annual bluegrass early in its life cycle, especially when there are solitary plants, manual extraction can be helpful. Gardeners must weed frequently and diligently. But if seed production and sewing has begun by the time gardeners realize this plant is colonizing, it might be too late to make a huge impact by hand weeding as your main method of control.2 Note that in some cases, annual bluegrass can also take root in landscape beds. Here, it’s often easier to spot and hand pull early before a larger problem develops. Mulching in landscape beds to cover bare soil can also aid in weed suppression.

Cultural practices–As mentioned above, some conditions in the lawn and landscape are more favorable to annual bluegrass than others, namely compacted soil and poor drainage. Two ways to combat these conditions and potentially make you lawn less desirable for this weed are to regularly aerate your lawn and address any areas where you may have drainage problems.

The most important tool gardeners have in their toolbox to combat annual bluegrass infestation is to keep existing turf grass as dense and healthy as possible. If this sounds too simple, consider one of the major biological needs of Poa annua or any weedy plant that might try to set up housekeeping in a lawn: sunlight. According to NC State Extension Specialist Dr. Fred Yelverton, “Soil shading is the best defense against annual bluegrass.” 3 Put another way, the fuller your lawn is with healthy turf grass, the less likely it is for sunlight to penetrate the turf grass cover and reach germinating weed seeds.

Here is where the fundamentals of lawn maintenance really come into play: proper selection of turf for your site, proper fertilization and amendments based on a recent soil test,4 proper mowing frequency and height, pest control, seeding when appropriate, irrigation, and core aeration are all essential to controlling unwanted weed infestations. Home gardeners may take for granted these steps, but it might be a good time for a review of science-based information on how to maintain a lawn. One of the best guides for both cool-season grasses and warm-season turf is North Carolina State University’s online resource “Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape.” Find it online here: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/carolina-lawns.

Re-seeding or sodding bare patches with desired turf varieties as well as over-seeding for lawn renovation are excellent cultural controls for weed encroachment. Warm-season grasses need attention when they are actively growing and cool-season turf rejuvenation is most successful in the fall once heat stress from hot summer temperatures has abated.

Chemical controls–Pre-and-post emergent herbicides can also offer a measure of control for knocking down annual bluegrass infestations and as part of a multi-pronged approach to management. However, it’s important to note that the repeated and widespread use of these products as the sole means of control has lead to herbicide resistance. This resistance has even been shown with non-selective glyphosate in some trials. According to Auburn University’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, annual bluegrass ranks third among all weeds for its strong herbicide resistance.5 Moreover, some herbicides are not safe to use on all varieties of turf grass. If home gardeners wish to use chemical controls, growing herbicide resistance means that they should do thorough homework and consult up-to-date credible sources like NCSU’s Turf Files for the most recent science on currently effective pre-and-post emergent agents for annual bluegrass. Likewise, home gardeners should consult the NC Agricultural Chemicals Manual (see the online version at https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/north-carolina-agricultural-chemicals-manual) and thoroughly read all labels on all products they may use.

If looking to both employ chemical controls and rejuvenate the lawn to combat this weed, note that timing is paramount. Pre-emergent agents are not selective in nature, so if you are looking to re-seed any cool-season grasses like tall fescue or a Kentucky bluegrass mix in the fall, these herbicides can prevent your desired seed from growing. Some experts advise gardeners wait up to six months before applying pre-emergents to new grass.

Lawn Alternatives

To be sure, turf grass has environmental benefits, including carbon sequestration, erosion control, and even a cooling effect in the time of rising temperatures. It’s important for recreation around your home and, if gardeners live in a community with a home owners’ association, maintaining certain lawn standards may be required. But with the example of managing an annual bluegrass infestation, lawns can be expensive, require the use of chemicals, demand water resources, and require a lot of upkeep. Here are some thoughts on ways to simplify your lawn routine and potentially keep annual bluegrass under control.

  • Extend your tree, shrub, and flower garden beds and simply reduce the size of your lawn. This can be helpful in areas where you find turf grass maintenance hard such as under trees, in tight spaces, or narrow strips.
  • Consider turning your turf into a pollinator lawn, which is a mixture of traditional turf grass and other flowering plants like Dutch clover (Trifolium repens), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and lanceleaf tickweed (Corespsis lanceolata). Blending tall fescue with low-growing mini and micro clovers is also a trend. This diversity in your lawn helps nourish pollinators while providing a similar-looking backdrop as a monoculture of turf grass.
  • In shady spots in the lawn with bare patches, try planting a “green” ground cover that can compete with and suppress weeds like annual bluegrass. Some shade-loving ground covers include dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), foam flowers (Tiarella cordifolia), green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), and shade-tolerant sedges (Carex spp.)
  • Chronically wet areas in the lawn are especially susceptible to annual bluegrass. In place of grass, other options include rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida), common rush (Juncus effusus), or sweet flag (Acorus spp.)

Don’t get the blues when you see annual bluegrass flowering. Take an integrated and educated approach with the information above to control this hard-to-control weed.



1–Keep in mind that the goal of eliminating all weeds, especially in your lawn is not realistic. Managing weed populations in your lawn and landscape is an obtainable goal.

2–Many experts classify hand weeding as a temporary means of weed control. When weeding, try and leave the soil as undisturbed as possible. By turning up soil, gardeners are likely bringing dormant weed seeds to the surface and giving them a chance to germinate. Hand pulling when the ground is moist makes for easier work and less soil disturbance.


4– For information on soil testing, see https://gardening.ces.ncsu.edu/soils/soil-testing/


Resources and Additional Information

North Carolina State University has several online resources on annual bluegrass. Below are links to learn more.




For more information on reducing, diversifying, or replacing your lawn, Iowa State University Extension and NC Cooperative Extension have some informative articles full of additional research-based online resources.

https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/lawn-alternatives-turfgrass (with a link to how to create a pollinator-friendly lawn)


https://chatham.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Sustainable-Lawns-and-Lawn-Alternatives-EG-2019-short.pdf?fwd=no ( a great powerpoint presentation on sustainable lawns and lawn alternatives)

Article Short Link https://wp.me/p2nIr1-3by