Oklahoma and Controlled Burn to kill weeds

badacresmama(7)October 22, 2011

Early next year - Can I CAREFULLY burn a small part of my lawn to kill sandbur seeds? I live in Oklahoma County (no city limits.) I don't want to kill the sparse bermuda. I intend to pamper the permuda & get it thicker next year.

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Mama, when I was a child our neighbor would burn to try to kill sand burrs. They would also drag burlap feed sacks around the yard to try to capture the seeds. They had some luck doing this, but it seemed we were always able to find a sand burr with our bare feet.

When I wanted a Bermuda lawn I would spray with MSMA. It did a pretty good job of killing out other grasses. This needs to be doned in very warm weather.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 11:58AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Whether or not prescribed burning is allowed in your county, even in the unincorporated areas, depends on what rules and regulations your county commissioners have implemented with regard to prescribed burning. You'd need to check with your county government to see if you can use prescribed burning during a time when no Governor's Burn Bans or County Burn Ban is in effect. You can learn more about prescribed burns at the website of the Oklahoma Forestry Services.

If prescribed burning is allowed, it is best to do it on a day when the wind speed is very low and the humidity is high. You should have a shovel and a hose handy and ready to use at a moment's notice.

Also, keep in mind that if your prescribed burn escapes from your control, you can be held financially liable for any damage your fire does to anyone else's property, and may be billed for firefighting costs.

Whether you will find prescribed burning to actually work to achieve your goal is questionable. If you are burning a lawn area with short grass, it may not burn long enough or hot enough to kill the sandburr seeds. Often it kills part of the seeds but not all and you still have sand burrs. And, if your soil gets excessively hot because of the fire, your humus and other organic matter can burn up which will negatively impact your soil's ability to hold water. Furthermore, sandburrs are most common in soil that is low in humus, so a prescribed burn that may destroy whatever humus you have could worsen the problem long term even if it helps in the short term.

I like Larry's suggestion of MSMA, if you are not opposed to using chemicals. MSMA is in the middle of a phaseout program initiated by the EPA and no longer is available for use in residential lawns. However, if you still have some MSMA on hand in your shed or garage, you can still use it.

The two best ways I've found to rid lawn grass area of sand burrs is to (a) improve the soil by applying a thin layer of humus or compost (even mere lawn clippings and chopped/shredded autumn leaves will decompose and serve your purpose) to the soil once or twice a year; and (b) apply a pre-emergent weedkiller in late winter or early spring before the sand burr seeds begin germinating. It is hard to put an exact date on the right time since our weather fluctuates so much but for sand burrs I think you need to get your pre-emergent down and watered-in well before your soil temperature reaches about 50-52 degrees. You would want to put down the pre-emergent just before the soil temperatures reach that range so that the pre-emergent is at its most potent and hasn't degraded too much before the temps hit the right range for seed germination. I use corn gluten meal as an organic pre-emergent and am very happy with it, but chemical pre-emergents are also available.

You also could use a flame weeder to torch each individual sand burr plant that sprouts. In the absence of soil improvement, this is something you'll have to do every year, perhaps multiple times, because seeds will continue to sprout over a period of time, especially if the soil is disturbed by rototilling, digging or dragging.

If you don't have any burlap, you also can drag a piece of old carpet or a piece of a fuzzy blanket across the lawn and pick up any sand burrs that are on the surface of the ground.

Overall, improving the humus content of the soil from the top down generally works fine, as does using proper fertilizing, mowing and watering techniques to strengthen your lawn grass. A healthy lawn will not have widespread bare patches that allow weeds like grass burrs to germinate, but it can take time to develop that healthy lawn, especially in years when you're having to deal with extreme to exceptional drought conditions, incredibly hot weather and watering restrictions.


Here is a link that might be useful: Website of Oklahoma Forestry Services

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 12:52PM
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Thanks for your advice. I found a jug of Surflan that we didn't use last year, so maybe I'll try that. BUT - I lost the instructions, so I don't know how to mix it. DH big sprayer is broken, so I want to use a hose-end sprayer. The surflan label says "Oxyzalin 3.5 ......41%; Inert ingredients 59%". I tried googling to find how to mix it, but no luck. Anybody have ideas? (p.s. - I also replied to a post on the "Weeds" forum, with this same question.) Thanks for your help guys.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 8:00PM
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I don't have a lot of faith in my hose-end sprayer. If I were wanting an accurate mixture I would ,beg, borrow, or steal something I had more faith in.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 9:12PM
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Folks on the Weeds Forum gave me enough info to get me started. After more googling, I now have the ratio of ORYZALIN to water for a small sprayer (1 to 1.5 oz per gallon for every 1000 sq/ft of turf). Plus, I guess I'll try to drag something over the area now to pick up the stickers. (It's so bad that the cats and grandkids are getting stickers all over them). DH hasn't been well enough to work in the yard, and it really got away from me this summer. NOW with your help, I know what to do! THANKS to all!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 7:29AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

You're welcome, BadAcresMama.

Goodluck getting rid of the sandburrs.

We had a lot of them here when we bought this place, but have managed to improve the soil enough in the "civilized" couple of acres around the house that we don't have them there any more.

We still have sandburrs pop up in the right-of-way area along the roadside,and probably always will because that area, which includes a bar ditch that carries runoff into the creek, doesn't really get any attention except for an occasional mowing.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 2:12PM
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I'd think the freezing and thawing action of the ground would help resead/plant the sand burr. I don't think you will have much luck trying to burn them next spring.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 12:04AM
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I'm North of Enid and have sandburs too. What I found that seems to work fairly well is called Pendilum(sp). I bought it at Johnson chemical in Enid. It was in a 2 gallon container and was around $120.00. It is a pre-emergent and is yellow on the lawn. Put it down before a rain or water it in. Worked like a champ for me, only had about 10% if that of sandburs pop up. I put it down in April. I'm thinking I'll do a March spray then maybe a June spray next year and see what happens.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:32PM
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I too use MSMA for stickers and it will kill the plant for sure but does nothing to kill the seeds (stickers). A landscaper once told me that the seeds can lie dormant for as much as 20 yrs. before sprouting. I don't know the truth of that but it occurred to me that I needed to remove every seed I could and stay on top of spraying with MSMA. I now take a bucket with me and I pull the whole plant up and throw them in my burn pile or trash. When the ground is moist at ground level they pull up easily and all the seeds go with it, and yes I get stuck occasionally. Where I live now had an abundance of them when I moved here and pulling them up has almost gotten rid of all of them,but I know I must remain vigilant.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 1:38PM
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sammy zone 7 Tulsa

We are in Broken Arrow, and I thnk burning should be way out in the country. A friend of mine used to live out on the other side of Bixby headed towards another city past the Allen Ranch.

She would call the fire department, and they would do the burning for her. That was a service they provided -- I doubt if it was free, but I can see the logic in having them do it.

Near other people --- everyone would call the fire department.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 4:51PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Telow, I remember back in the 1960s that my grandfather would pull up the sticker plants like that too. In a few years his yard was almost sticker-free. It probably is true that the seeds can lie dormant for many years. I know that is true of many other weedy plants as well, which is why when you rototill soil and expose buried seeds to sunlight, you can find all kinds of plants sprouting in your newly rototilled plot within days. Sometimes I randomly rototill an area in a pasture just to see what wildflowers and native grasses will sprout. It is amazing to see what you get sometimes.

Sammy, I can't speak for all fire departments, but for legal reasons and financial liability reasons, our VFD will not go out and conduct a controlled burn on someone's property because if the fire were to escape control, whoever is conducting that prescribed fire is legally liable for whatever damage it does. However, we'll take out brush trucks and stand by while a property owner conducts their own prescribed burn so we can extinguish it if it gets out of control. Most of the VFDs in our county will stand by at prescribed burns in that manner. Some VFDs charge, some provide it as a free service for the residents of their fire district, and some provide it as a free service but will suggest to the landowner that a donation to cover at least the fuel cost would be appreciated.

Some of the very large cattle ranches here hire professional land management companies to conduct their prescribed burns for them when they have hundreds (or more) of acres they want to burn. These companies have professional fire management personnel who conduct the prescribed burns, but even they sometimes can lose control of their fires if the wind, for example, goes higher than expected.

I don't know how common it is in the rest of Oklahoma, but here in our county, many ranchers burn off their fields every year or at least every other year when conditions allow and if there's no burn ban in effect. It helps renew their grassland and helps eliminate invasive brush and small trees.

I wouldn't do it on a small property like ours that is just a few acres. It is just too easy for prescribed burns to get out of control and burn more than what you'd intended. Even with professional planning and plowed firebreaks that are nice and wide, sometimes fire escapes and runs wild in spite of someone's well-laid plans.

Since the governor lifted the burn ban for our area, people have been burning like mad and the sky is full of smoke. I'll be glad when everyone is done and we have clean air again.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 11:40AM
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