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Sand Burrs


I hate sand burrs. I really hate them. As far as I’m concerned they are in the same category as ticks which have no redeeming social value at all. The sand burr plant is an opportunistic species of grass that will come in and take over when your regular grass is stressed and not happy. I saw the first ones along my front fence a couple of years ago and should have attacked them then. I would have had a chance to eradicate them then if I had. That was when I started walking around my property every day. Can you guess what happened? Yup. I managed to spread them on my shoes, shoelaces and jeans all around my property. Initially they were just along the path that I walked but add the drought last year and they really took off.

Over the last year I have thought about destroying the sand burrs with a flame-thrower or a nuclear device of some kind. Well, not really. We were tinder box dry last year so a flame-thrower would just set the county on fire and there is nothing practical about a nuclear device. That pretty much leaves killing it with an herbicide as the only approach that makes any sense since digging up each plant would put me in traction.

I got on line and did some research. I came up with two approaches. The first is to collect all the sand burrs themselves and dispose of them. The most often recommended technique is to give the keys to your riding lawn mower to the 12 year old boy in the household and let him drag a piece of carpet across the sand burrs.   Sounds good except for me not having the 12 year old boy. The second approach is to bolster up your regular grass and let it do the dirty work of evicting the sand burrs. This requires you to fertilize, fertilize, fertilize.

Not having come up with the perfect easy answer, I called the Colorado County Extension Agent.   My agent is Kara Matheney. I had never met Kara face to face but I’ve talked to her several times over the phone. She is the one I called to get approval to plant cotton in my garden bins. Here is her answer to my sand burr problem.

  1. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to encourage your grass to grow is to mow it more often. Mowing the front yard or the back yard more often is one thing. Mowing the rest of my property more often is a pretty big job. But it is doable. I will just have to accept that I need to spend more time on the tractor every week throughout the growing season.

  2. With sand burrs you get more bang for your buck with herbicide than with fertilizer. That means using a pre-emergent herbicide in late February or early March to try to kill the sand burrs when they are less than 3” tall. I would need a spray license, which I don’t have, so will have to hire it done. When we get closer to that time of year Kara and I will talk again. I have livestock that I’m pretty sure I don’t want exposed to herbicides so we will talk about the options.

  3. Fertilizing is a good idea but before I can do that I need to have the soil tested. Since I have a very high percentage of sand in my soil the acidity level will probably need mitigation. That means spreading lime on the pastures long enough before I intend to fertilize that it will be fully incorporated into the soil. The fertilizer just doesn’t work very well in acid soil. Apparently I can get my fertilizer mixed to the specifications of my soil test so it will be exactly what my grass needs.
So no perfect and easy answer but I did get great information that I will act on. I have a huge pile of fleeces from my animals sitting here ready to pick. Unfortunately, all those fleeces are full of sand burrs that all need to be removed before the fleeces go off to be processed. That is exactly what I want to not be true next year.