Issue: March 3, 2001

Pet urine damage to lawn


My lawn has urine spots from my two female dogs. My lawn is fescue. Is there any help? Jack B. Artesia


There are things you can do. You may be able to reduce the severity of the problem, but you will probably not totally eliminate the problem as long as you have dogs. I won't recommend getting rid of the dogs--pets are important.

First, let's consider the dogs. Give them lots of water to dilute the urine. This will help a little. However, while you can provide the water, you can probably do little to make them drink more. You should also visit with your pets' veterinarian regarding the dogs' diet. Perhaps the veterinarian can recommend something that will help alleviate the problem.

From the perspective of lawn management, there are some things you can do. If you can regularly wash down the area which the dogs prefer, you can help minimize the burning. Frequent light irrigations (in the area most used by the dogs) can also help with this. A handful of gypsum placed on the spots and watered is reputed to be helpful. The gypsum will adsorb some of the urine. Be careful not to heavily fertilize the areas that the dogs like. Fertilizer salts can increase the problem. Anything you do to maintain a healthy lawn is important. Healthy grass will better resist damage or more rapidly recover from the injury.

Goathead (puncture vine) problems


Hello. My name is Melissa, and I'm having a big problem with goatheads in the front and in the back yard. I have tried to use Weed-B-Gon(TM), but that seems not to help. Each year it seems to get worse, and I have young kids that play in the back yard and they're forever getting the stickers in their feet. Is there something that I can use to get rid of the problem?


Goathead weeds, so called because of their spiny seeds, are more correctly called "puncture vine." This is important to know because you will find no herbicides labeled for "goathead", rather you will find them for "puncture vine".

Pre-emergent herbicides labeled to control puncture vine can be applied in the spring before the puncture vine weeds begin to germinate. Such herbicides work by killing the seedling as it germinates. They will not kill existing plants, only those just germinating from seeds. Read and carefully follow the label directions to get the maximum benefit.

Once the puncture vine has germinated and is growing, a "broad-leaf" (post-emergent herbicide) may be used. Again, follow the directions. You can supplement this with manual removal (digging or pulling the weeds). It is important to prevent the weeds from forming seeds, so diligence is required. If seeds do form successfully, that is the source of a problem for subsequent years. Even if a few plants do manage to form seeds, if you can limit the number formed you can reduce next year's problem. Since the seed can remain viable in the soil for several years, you must continue vigilant management until no live seeds remain in the soil to create problems.

For more detailed information and recommendations specifically for your area, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service Agent or Master Gardeners. Many nurseries and plant centers can also provide information and help you read and understand the herbicide labels so that you can select one appropriate for your location and conditions.

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Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

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