Optimal Method for Eradicating Hairy Bittercress Weeds from Your Lawn

Optimal Method for Eradicating Hairy Bittercress Weeds from Your Lawn

If you’ve noticed that hairy bittercress has taken over your lawn or garden, don’t worry. There are ways to manage and get rid of this pesky weed. The easiest and most effective method is pulling it out by hand. Mulching and using herbicides can also be helpful. The key to successfully controlling hairy bittercress is to prevent it from germinating in the first place. Acting quickly is crucial because once it starts seeding, it can spread rapidly, making it harder to control. Many people prioritize removing this weed because it not only looks unsightly but also competes with other plants for nutrients and space.

To begin tackling this problem, it’s important to correctly identify the weed. Hairy bittercress is a winter annual that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustards and cresses. This hardy plant originates from Eurasia but has adapted to different climates and conditions in the United States. It can grow in cool temperatures, making it one of the first weeds to appear in late winter or early spring before other plants have started growing. You can easily spot hairy bittercress by its rosette of basal leaves and small white flowers that grow on its stems. It usually invades areas where there is sparse grass or in bare patches in garden beds.

Hand-pulling hairy bittercress

Person pulling out weed


As mentioned, tackling hairy bittercress early on is crucial if you’re aiming to keep your lawn or garden free of this pesky intruder. You’ve got a couple of trusty tools at your disposal for this: your hands or a weeding implement. Hand-pulling hairy bittercress is satisfyingly effective because of the plant’s short-lived nature. Its roots don’t go deep, making it quite easy to pull out the entire plant, roots and all. For tougher-to-reach or stubborn plants, a hand tool can be your best ally, offering precision and minimizing disturbance to the surrounding plants.

Now, to put a lid on hairy bittercress’ numbers and keep it from popping up in the first place, you’ll want to deal with any bare patches of soil in your garden. Enter mulching, your garden’s best friend in this battle. Spread a layer of coarse-textured mulch. Aim for about 2 inches deep to effectively block any weed seeds from seeing the light of day, literally.

You can also keep hairy bittercress at bay by adopting a few smart lawn care practices. Start with mowing your lawn regularly as early spring rolls in. This helps nip those flowering stems in the bud before they have a chance to spread their seeds. Soil health cannot be overlooked, either. Give your turf a boost with the right fertilization plan, ensuring it gets all the nutrients it needs to grow thick and strong.

Using herbicides to remove hairy bittercress

person spraying lawn

Bluecinema/Getty Images

In those instances where physical removal and cultural practices are not enough, herbicides offer a more aggressive approach to getting rid of weeds and controlling hairy bittercress. There are two types of herbicides that can be used: preemergence and postemergence. Preemergence herbicides, as the name suggests, prevent the weed seeds from germinating. They are applied to the soil before the seeds have a chance to sprout. Commonly used preemergence herbicides for controlling hairy bittercress include oryzalin, isoxaben, and oxadiazon. Postemergence herbicides, on the other hand, are applied directly to the weeds that have already emerged. These herbicides work by being absorbed into the plant and disrupting its growth processes, eventually leading to the weed’s death. Commonly used post-emergents include diquat, glufosinate, and glyphosate. In some cases, a combination of preemergence and postemergence herbicides may be the most effective strategy for controlling hairy bittercress, especially in areas where it has become a persistent problem.

Keep in mind that using preemergence herbicides typically also stops turfgrass seeds from sprouting. So it’s not only important to select a product; you’ll also need to plan accordingly to ensure that your efforts to prevent weed growth don’t inadvertently hinder the establishment or rejuvenation of your lawn. This requires careful timing and consideration, especially if you’re looking to overseed or repair patches in your grass. Lastly, always read and follow label directions when using any herbicide.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.