Thursday, June 14, 2018

Is Little Barley taking over your lawn?

Cassie Homan, Horticulture Agent

Close up of Little Barley seed heads
Growing a green lawn in Kansas is no easy task, and this time of year it can feel impossible to keep up with the weeds. Little barley is a common Kansas weed that can take over your turf and eventually turns brown leaving unsightly patches. It is a winter annual weed that comes up in September or October in our part of the state and spends the winter as a small plant. It thrives in the cooler spring temperatures, forms seed heads and dies out usually by July. Another common weed foxtail, is often mistaken with little barley. This is because the two weeds have similar seed heads (see pictures 2 and 3). However, foxtails are a summer annual that do well in hot weather. Also, foxtail will not produce seedheads until mid- to late-summer.

Little Barley un-mowed with long seed heads

Unfortunately, now is not the ideal time to control little barley. It is best controlled in the fall, around August. If you have a multitude of little barley weeds in your lawn, make sure to mark your calendar for fall so you don’t forget to spray for them for control, next season. If you are wanting to kill little barley weeds right now, use a non-selective herbicide that kills everything such as glyphosate (Roundup), just beware that this will damage your turf, and desirable plants. The best control for little barley, and any weed, is a thick lawn that is mowed high enough that sunlight does not hit the soil. Little barley seed will not germinate in such conditions. Overseeding now can thicken up a tall fescue lawn and prevent a little barley infestation. However, if you do not plan to overseed, preemergence herbicides can be used to provide at least partial control of this weed.

Foxtail weed commonly mistaken with Little Barley.
Little Barley that has been mowed & is reaching full maturity
The only preemergence herbicide that is labeled specifically for little barley is Surflan. It is also sold under the name of Weed Impede by Monterey Lawn and Garden. Surflan can only be used on warm-season grasses (bermudagrass, buffalograss, zoysiagrass) and tall fescue grown in warm-season areas such as Kansas. However, Dimension (dithiopyr), is labeled for barley (Herodium spp.) which would include little barley and therefore can be used to keep this weed under control. Because little barley is a winter annual, apply the preemergence herbicide in August and water in to activate. If overseeding, do not apply any preemergence herbicide as it will interfere with the germination of tall fescue.

The good news about little barley is that it starts dying down in late June and is dead by early July. That is why treatment in May or June is really a waste of time. Remember the best control is to have a thick, lush lawn and if necessary apply a preemergence herbicide in the fall for a more beautiful lawn!

If you would like more details about controlling weeds in your lawn contact Cassie Homan, Post Rock District Horticulture Agent, at (785)738-3597 or by email at

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