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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Weeds > Pussy toes

Pussy toes

Jennifer Love, Horticulture Technician

pussy-toes

Pussy toes gets its name from the flower's resemblence to a cat's foot.

Pussy toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia) is a perennial weed sometimes found growing in lawns, as well as in pastures and meadows. It is named for the flower heads, which are borne on long, leafless stems and have a white, fuzzy appearance resembling a cat's toes. The foliage, which forms a basal rosette, is also white and somewhat wooly. Pussy toes are able to spread by creeping stems (stolons) as well as by seed.

Pussy toes is considered a "poverty weed"; it appears in areas where the soil is too dry and the fertility is low. Because of this, pussy toes is known as an indicator plant. Its presence tells us the soil conditions are poor. This information can then be used to correct the problem.

Preventing weeds with regular lawn care

The best way to prevent and control weeds is to maintain a healthy lawn, which enables the grass to out-compete the weeds. A thick lawn also prevents weed seeds from reaching the soil, where they can germinate. By improving soil moisture and fertility, a problem with putty toes in the lawn can usually be controlled. A proper program of watering and fertilizing should be followed, as well as addressing any other existing problems such as soil compaction.

Determining fertility needs

Before beginning a new fertility program, the most important step you can take is to have your soil tested. A soil test will tell you the levels of phosphorous and potassium in your soil. In addition, it will tell you the level of organic matter and the pH. This information is then used to make recommendations for the amount of fertilizer that is needed to grow a healthy lawn. For information about submitting soil for testing, visit the University of Minnesota's Soil Testing Laboratory website: http://soiltest.coafes.umn.edu.

Leaving your grass clippings each time you mow will add the equivalent of one fertilizer application over the entire growing season. As grass clippings decompose they add nitrogen back to the soil.

Reducing compaction

Core aeration is the best method of dealing with the problem of compaction in the lawn. Aeration promotes moisture and air penetration into soils, resulting in deeper and healthier root systems on the grass plants. Core aerators may be rented or the work can be done by lawn care professionals. When aerating, several passes should be made over the lawn in different directions to be sure that complete aeration is achieved. The best time of year to aerate the lawn is late August to early October. Aeration can be done in the spring but will lead to additional weed seeds being brought to the surface where they may germinate. In fall, weed seeds will also be brought to the surface, but they will not sprout. Spring aeration can be followed immediately with an application of preemergence herbicide to control weed seeds that were churned up. Be sure to water the soil lightly after applying the herbicide.

Using herbicides on pussy toes

Herbicides for controlling pussy toes are the same as those for other perennial broad- leaved weeds. Products containing dicamba, 2,4-D, and/or MCPP may be applied. The most useful time to use chemicals for control of any broad-leaved weeds is in fall when the plants are transporting carbohydrates into the roots for storage. For effective control, it is recommended that the herbicide be applied two times, about ten days apart. Read and follow all label instructions when applying any herbicide. It is important to note that herbicides should not be applied when rain is in the forecast for the next 48 hours or when temperatures are abover 84°F. When temperatures are too high, there is a greater risk of damaging non-target plants with the herbicide.

Because the presence of pussy toes indicates poor soil conditions, you may find that you've won your battle against pussy toes without the need for chemical control if you first improve the health of your lawn by following good, general lawn care practices.



H532P
Reviewed 10/02

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