Foxtail Weed

Foxtail Weed

By Jennifer Olvera, Garden Guides Contributor

General Characteristics

Foxtail is a tufted, upright, annual grass with a shallow root system. Its seeds germinate from late spring to fall, growing quickly enough to shade flowers and vegetables. Able to reach heights of up to 5 feet, tough, clumpy foxtail weed sometimes is confused with crabgrass. Foxtail weed can be distinguished by its furry, bristled seed-heads. Its root system releases natural herbicides that can prevent nearby plants from flourishing.

Growing Conditions

Foxtail weed thrives in moist, fertile soil during the mid- to-late growing season. The seeds of summer annual grasses fall to the ground the previous fall, germinating the next year. Germination is based on soil temperature and occurs between 55 and 60 degrees. Warm temperatures and plentiful water fuel growth of foxtail weed. The annual grass then produces thousands of seeds from midsummer through the early fall.

Cultivation and Care

One of the most effective ways to address the presence of foxtail weed is to maintain dense turfgrass. Mowing regularly at a high-height setting helps to prevent seed germination. Mow bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, ryegrass and the like at 2 1/2 to 3 inches throughout summer. Its height prevents the sort of bright light seeds need to germinate.

Nitrogen fertilization can help prevent and manage the presence of foxtail weed.

Weed Control Techniques

* Applying a layer of mulch to your garden that's at least 2 inches thick helps to discourage the germination and growth of foxtail weed by preventing light from seeping through. Alternately, vegetable and flower gardens benefit from an application of organic materials, such as wheat straw, grass clippings or mulched leaves.
* The majority of young weeds simply can be pulled from soil, but remember that it's essential to remove the entire root system. In the case of particularly weedy areas, cover the ground with several sheets of newspaper, and top it with 3 inches of organic mulch.
* Applying a re-emergence herbicide containing pendimethalin the following spring can help to alleviate the problem.
* Grass clippings or other materials that may contain the seed heads from foxtail weed should be disposed of and never used as compost.

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