Stepping on sandspur is not only irritating and painful, but it is also potentially dangerous. Dried-up husks of the spurs may be contaminated with animal feces or e-coli that may get into your bloodstream and cause infection once you step on them.
Know your enemy. Or, in this case, know your weeds, and what exactly you are dealing with. Sandspurs are also known as sandburs or grassburs. They grow annually during the summer months, and generally prefer warmer weather. Sandspurs also prefer growing in dry, sandy soil as they are specially adapted for this, but can also be found in home lawns, sports fields, parks and along roadsides.
Sandspurs are a nuisance because while alive, their burs, which contain their seeds, cling to passing objects: fur, clothes, shoes, or basically anything can catch on the spiky, spiny burs. When the sandspurs die, the burs dry and their spiky husks fall to the ground, where anyone can step on them and injure themselves. Each plant has its own method of propagating its species, and the sandspurs’ method is to ensure that their seeds are spread as far and wide as possible by hitching rides with unsuspecting passersby.
Sandspurs start growing in the late spring until the end of the fall, or in tropical countries, all year long. They are categorized as weeds and are notoriously hard to get rid of. They can withstand drought, cutting, fire and most nonchemical methods of control; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of them at all.
Getting Rid of Sandspurs
Here are some options for getting rid of those pesky sandspurs:
Dig it up. One of the surest ways of getting rid of weeds is pulling them out, roots and all. This provides temporary relief from the sandspurs. However, you can be sure that many of the sandspur’s pods will be falling on the ground by pulling out the weeds, so prepare yourself for that.
Pre-emergence herbicide. This means herbicide that’s applied before the sandspurs sprout up. You can do this around late spring, when sandspurs are generally known to start germinating, or when the soil temperatures reach around 52 degrees F. Apply pre-emergence herbicide around 2-4 weeks before sandspurs germinate. Pre-emergence herbicide applied a month early or more is noted to be less effective on weeds.
Some pre-emergence herbicides include the brands PreM, Amaze Grass & Weed Preventor, Surrflan, A.S. and Weed Stopper.
Post-emergence herbicide. This is herbicide that is applied when the weeds have already sprouted, or when the soil temperatures reach around 75 degrees F. Generally, liquid sprays are more effective when the weeds are already growing abundantly. Just make sure that you use it when there is no wind, so that you can protect other plants from the herbicide.
Monosodium methyl arsenate (MSMA) and disodium methanearsonate (DSMA), both organic arsenics that are registered pre-emergence herbicides.
Herbicides are toxic. It means that they are harmful to humans, animals, and other plants. Make sure that you read the instructions on your chosen herbicides carefully. Keep them in places where they cannot be easily reached by animals or children, and where they cannot be knocked off by accident.
You must also be careful that you do not use too much of your herbicide. It may affect your lawn’s soil and make it infertile, meaning it will be unable to grow any plants at all. Ensure that you are using the herbicide appropriate for the weeds that you wish to get rid of.
Borax. Another method of getting rid of sandspurs is borax, a combination of sodium, boron and oxygen. Boric acid is a crystalline material from borax. Using gardening gloves and a spade, work the borax into the soil. Pour water in before applying the borax, in order to help the weeds absorb it. Take care to apply a good amount of borax, as only a sprinkling might even encourage a healthier growth of sandspurts.
Please note that borax is poisonous when ingested, and it may render soil infertile, meaning not only will sandspurs will stop growing, so will any other plant that you may wish to grow there.
Charcoal starter. A charcoal starter enables you to start fires on your charcoals without using lighter fluid. It can also be used to get rid of sandspurs. First, using a pair of garden scissors, cut off the parts of the sandspurs that contains pods, and put it all in a sack to be burned later. Next, using gloves, an outdoor extension cord and your charcoal starter, burn up the remaining sandspur weed and move on to the next until they are all incinerated. Be careful not to burn yourself!
Scuffle hoe. In this method, cut the spurs off your sandspurs and put them all in a bag. You can then use a scuffle hoe to cut the roots. Be prepared to do this in the following weeks to come until you have cleared all the sandspurs away.
Drag the towel. If you’re just concerned about catching spurs, or you want to prevent future generations of sandspurs from growing, you can simply take an old terrycloth towel and drag it across your sandspurs. Its burs will immediately take hold of the towel, after which you can either burn or throw away.
Have a good lawn. The best way to get rid of sandspurs, and indeed, weeds in general, is to have a good, healthy, well-maintained lawn. Sandspurs love growing in poorly-maintained gardens where they have very little competition, so ensuring that you have a garden full of healthy grass also ensures that you won’t be infested with sandspurs anytime soon.
Remember: while there are many options for you to get rid of sandspurs, some of these involve high-risk chemicals and equipment, so be sure to read the instructions carefully, and that you follow take all precautions before proceeding onward. It’ll be all worth it when you take a stroll out to your garden without any fear of walking into any of those painful spikes.
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