How Property Managers can Battle Weeds in Apartment Landscapes

Apartment Landscapes Grass

The wetter-than-normal fall and winter in some parts of the country has been quite a relief for landscapes starved by drought in recent years. But there will be a price to pay this year, say landscape professionals and agronomists.

In a recent post on the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service website, agronomist Dr. Jourdan Bell says the blessing of a wet 2015 will bring the weed curse of 2016. Toss that in with an earlier-than-normal spring and weed control for apartment landscapes is going to be sticky.

Controlling Weeds in Apartment Landscapes

Already, the schedule for applying pre-emergent weed control and fertilizers has been disrupted because warmer temperatures triggered the start of the growing season about two weeks ahead of schedule. Unexpected consistent warming in January kicked off the growing season before many landscapes could get pre-emergents down. Typically, the time to tackle weeds in the Southwest and southern states is mid-February through mid-March when consistent warming really begins.

However, when prolonged warmer temperatures in January jumpstarted the growing season, treating for weeds got a little dicey. Ideally, applications should have begun later in the month based on the number of warm days already posted.

Apartment landscapes Multifamily

Many landscapers were caught off guard by the early arrival of spring. Landscapers and pre-emergent manufacturers base their labor supplies and production to meet the February-March timeframe. If growing conditions are ripe any earlier, it can be difficult to get adequate supplies of herbicides – and even labor.

Dandelions, crabgrass, ragweed and other undesirable weeds likely will begin germinating untreated, setting the stage for weed-ridden lawns and beds. Typically, weeds won’t appear until later in the growing season, when apartment lawns and beds should be at their best for curb appeal.

Wet weather can disrupt soil and wash weed control applications away

Pre-emergent herbicides are the first line of defense that apartment landscapes can employ to control weeds in normal growing seasons. Preventative granules or sprays ideally should be applied in the fall and spring. Pre-emergents create a barrier on top of the soil that prevents weed seedlings from penetrating and establishing roots. Usually, the seed will crack and fail to dig into the ground because of the herbicide.

Wetter-than-normal fall and winter conditions that create extensive erosion can disrupt the effectiveness of pre-emergents. In heavily vegetated areas, rushing water from deluges carries way soil and even the pre-emergent.


When enough soil is moved, relocated, turned upside down and carried away, barriers breaks down and the area becomes vulnerable to weeds. It also opens soil in non-pre-emergent areas and gives seeds something new and fresh to root into.

The rain also adds significantly to the mix of weeds that will sprout. Some weeds that won’t grow in a drier year because they don’t get the moisture to germinate will begin germinate. Weed control subsequently becomes more complex and the fight could be longer.

For some parts of the country that endured heavy rains from November through January, the effectiveness of weed control applied after the 2015 growing season likely has been compromised.

Coupled with the early spring, those areas are most likely behind on knocking out weeds before they start to grow.

Weed control practices should be top priority now

While weeds may already be surfacing on some landscapes, it’s not too late to apply pre-emergents and herbicides. A good freeze to curb recent growth wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing either. It would not only give landscapes a chance to get back on top of weed applications but also put a dent in the number of aphids that are already attacking plants.

In the meantime, landscapers would be wise to get their pre-emergents down as quickly as possible, well before traditional windows for application close.

From there, it’s continuing the good fight against weeds.

President, Earthworks

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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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