The Challenge of Achieving the Perfect Landscape in Multifamily

landscape in multifamily

 

Well before weeds first germinate, the battle for control of turfs across multifamily communities begins. It used to be that a couple of good shots of weed killer earned the upper hand pretty quickly for maintaining an immaculate landscape in multifamily.

That’s changed now. The cost and ability to establish and uphold the perfect turf is challenging green thumbs all over. Increased scrutiny of powerful weed control chemicals and “cosmetic herbicides” like glyphosate and Monosodium Methanearsonate (MSMA) is limiting options. In some cases, the weeds are winning.

Last year, South Portland, ME, banned certain lawn-and-garden pesticides and herbicides deemed unhealthy for the environment and humans. The Portland suburb is joining a number of cities that have banned or restricted products that have made quick work of weeds and grasses that clutter lawns.

Many replacement herbicides are not as effective and require multiple treatments, and the problem doesn’t always go away. Lawns that were once weed free and thrived are spotted with weeds unless manually removed, which requires expensive labor.

The beauty of working with herbicides like MSMA and glyphosate was that it usually only took one application—no matter the time of year and as long as it didn’t rain for 24 hours—and weeds were on their way out.

Those were the good old days.

Cities banning, restricting powerful herbicides

In 2006, the wheels were set in motion to eliminate MSMA when water samples from two Florida golf courses tested high for arsenic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency subsequently cancelled the registration of MSMA for agricultural and turf grass management because of a concern that organic arsenic from MSMA could convert into a more toxic organic form.

By 2013, MSMA had all but disappeared from mainstream use and turf management lost a tried and true weed killer. MSMA, which has been around since the ’60s, is a broad spectrum herbicide most effective for control of grasses and broadleaf weeds. It is one of the best known for treating the stalky Dalis grass, which is problematic for southern landscapes.

Since the demise of MSMA, glyphosate, a general use herbicide found in some weed control products, has come under fire. Nearly two dozen states—with California leading the way—have restricted or banned glyphosate. In July, Tennessee became the third state to enact a ban, and in November Moms Across America began a campaign to forbid it across the U.S.

A perfect lawn takes more fortitude

Alternative weed control is not as potent as MSMA and glyphosate and often requires multiple applications under the right conditions. One of the better options is Celsius WG, which controls more than 150 broadleaf weeds and grasses that clutter turf grass.

Usually, it takes multiple applications up to two or three weeks before dormancy, and a number of environmental factors affect the required frequency and effectiveness of the treatments.

Celsius WG is a good alternative, but using it and other weed control products now require patience. The process to eliminate unsightly weeds and grasses is longer and costs more because of multiple applications. In some cases, weeds cannot be completely removed unless they are dug from the ground.

Your lawn care specialist knows the importance of healthy turf, especially in those green belts common at suburban multifamily communities. Green, weed-free lawns enhance curb appeal.

Just be patient. Perfection now takes a little more time and fortitude.

 


President, Earthworks

author photo two

Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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