Sunday, June 8, 2014
Black medic spreading
Prostrate weeds with small yellow, clover-like flowers in your garden beds or lawn might be black medic. This leguminous plant from Europe and temperate Asia is also called yellow trefoil, black clover and hop medic. Its is most often found as a weed in in dry, sunny areas in turf and waste ground, but it can be a nuisance in gardens and fields too. Black medic can be an indication of low soil nitrogen in lawns as it outcompetes weak grass.
Black medic produces a long taproot that grows deeply into most soils. Several trailing, slightly hairy stems grow out from the base. The plant grows close to the ground, spreading up to 2 feet, but does not root along the stems. Like other members of the legume family, black medic has a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria that form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
In lawns, black medic can be managed through good turf management practices that encourage a dense stand of turf (high mowing, proper fertilization and irrigation), making it difficult for black medic to persist. As black medic often grows where some soil compaction has occurred, such as along curbs and sidewalks, reducing compaction will also help.
Black medic produces viable seed under normal mowing conditions which can persist in the soil for years, so it is important to control this weed before flowering and seed set. Individual plants can be hand pulled. Even larger plants are easy to pull out, particularly after rain has softened the soil. However, for large areas or dense infestations, a broadleaf herbicide can be applied to actively growing plants during the seedling to flower growth stage. Chemical controls are best applied from late spring through early summer and again from early through mid-autumn.