Can You Pull Nutsedge?

Growing and maintaining a beautiful, even lawn is hard work. Although it might look effortless, countless hours of meticulous care go into growth and maintenance. So, when weeds pop up in the pristine expanse, it’s frustrating. 

Nutsedge is a common problem in lawns and gardens and can be incredibly complex to manage and eliminate. If your lawn has nutsedge sprouting throughout, think again before pulling it. Unfortunately, pulling this plant is rarely effective, which makes control tricky. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Nutsedge?

Also known as nutgrass, nutsedge is a plant that looks like grass. However, despite its grass-like appearance, it isn’t grass – it’s a weed. Nutsedge grows rapidly, often shooting up much faster than regular turf grass. You might find it in your garden beds or see it as a contrast on your beautiful lawn. 

Nutsedge spreads rapidly in optimum conditions, as a single network of these plants from one tuber can produce more than 100 tubers in 100 days, causing the problem to proliferate. For the most part, these tubers stick to the top six inches of soil. However, some tubers can extend up to 18 inches into the soil, making them difficult to pull up. 

What Does Nutsedge Look Like?

Nutsedge is a grassy weed that shares many of the same characteristics as regular turf grass. However, nutsedge has a yellowish-green appearance instead of the consistent green color of turf grass. 

The blades of the plant are coarse and feature a midrib down the middle. The base features a triangular stem, with multiple blades sprouting from it. Generally, it’s easy to identify based on its coloring, as it’s clearly more yellow than regular turf grass. Sometimes, the spiked head of the plant can be purplish or yellow. 

Can You Get Rid Of Nutsedge By Pulling It?

Nutsedge is a persistent weed that is tricky to get rid of, as its tubers extend deep into the soil. Since they grow so deeply into the soil, pulling nutsedge by hand is rarely effective. When you pull the plant by hand, you’ll likely only remove the top portion of the root network, which leaves tubers and part of the root behind. 

This allows the plant to regrow, bringing you back to square one within a few weeks. So, it’s best to avoid pulling the plant by hand, as it’s usually a waste of time to eliminate the plant. 

How To Control Nutsedge

Nutsedge is a stubborn weed that is tricky to remove. Eliminating the weed is difficult, as tubers extend deep into the soil, making most removal methods ineffective. Here are a few ways to manage the spread of nutsedge:

Iron Out Watering Schedules

Nutsedge flourishes when the soil is waterlogged, so work on controlling the weed by managing your water schedule. Waterlogged soil can be hard on your turf grass, so it’s best to iron out the details for the health of your grass. Thick grass can also help crowd out nutsedge, so healthy grass can also help with this aspect. 

Ensure your lawn has adequate drainage so water doesn’t pool on the lawn (poor drainage often leads to excessive water retention). On top of that, only water as frequently as necessary. Generally, turf grasses need about an inch of water per week. If your area receives heavy rain, you might not need to water as frequently. 

Of course, every grass type is different, so do your research to determine the best watering schedule.

Remove Young Plants

As you notice young nutsedge plants on your lawn, pull them up by hand. Although pulling nutsedge by hand (especially mature plants) won’t eliminate the problem, it can help manage the spread of the weed. So, as you notice new sprouts, pull them up by hand or use a small hoe to lift the plant out. 

This method will likely leave some tubers behind, but as long as you remove the plant when it’s weak and young, you can control the spread of the weed. 

Set The Mower High

Although you might be tempted to lower the mower blades to chop the plant low, avoid cutting too much off the plant. Not only can this harm your grass (you should never cut more than ⅓ of its height at once), it can encourage growth in the yellow nutsedge plaguing your lawn. 

So, set your mower higher rather than lower, as taking too much off the plant could stimulate growth. 

What To Avoid In Nutsedge Management

Attempting to manage and eliminate nutsedge infestations can be aggravating, as the plant is stubborn. However, while some methods work well for management, others are ineffective and can sometimes worsen the problem. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • Black plastic mulching: Unfortunately, this rarely works, as nutsedge plants feature sharp, pointy leaves that grow right through the layer. 
  • Systemic herbicides: While herbicides might be the first thing you reach for, they usually don’t work to destroy nutsedge populations. The herbicides usually only reach the leaves, which misses the tubers underneath altogether, allowing the plant to sprout again. 
  • Tilling: When you till the area to destroy mature plants, you end up spreading the tubers to other areas of the soil, allowing the infestation to spread. While tilling small areas repeatedly can help reduce populations, it can also become a problem if you don’t do it correctly. So, as a general rule, you might want to steer clear of tilling as a form of elimination.