Getting Rid of Sand Burrs?

We live on 1 acre of sandy soil that is over-run with sand burrs. We do have some patchy spots with very little grass. Should we start by fertilizing and building up the turf or can we go ahead and start with pre-emergent? I would like to try using corn gluten meal.

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By Dia from Oklahoma City, OK

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February 26, 2011


I live in North Dakota. We bought a new home and have terrible sand burrs. The yard is mostly weeds and a few areas of actual grass, but lots of sand burrs. We planted grass last spring and per advice from a tree guy, put grass seed down before the snow fell last winter. I feel like now is the time to spray something. We are thinking some sort of weed and feed. What about corn gluten meal, will it keep my grass seed from sprouting too?

Hardiness Zone: 4a

By sandy


Adding lime is an effective way to change your soil's pH (making it more alkaline) and it can also help with calcium and magnesium if these elements are lacking in your soil. However, it isn't a good solution for sand burrs. Used improperly, lime can have lasting negative effects on your lawn and garden so I wouldn't recommend using it for anything without first getting your soil tested.

The key to keeping sand burrs at bay is to cultivate a healthy lawn. Sand burrs are what you would call a "pioneer plant." When soil is disturbed, these hardy plants are among the first to show up and take hold. When soil in established areas starts to lose its fertility and its ability to support other vegetation, sand burrs are only too happy to move in and take over. Because this plant is an annual weed that reproduces by seed, one of the best solutions to controlling it is to apply a pre-emergent product like corn meal gluten (dry molasses will work, too). Corn meal gluten (available at feed stores) contains humic acid, which will prevent the germination of annual weeds while it builds up organic nutrients in the soil.


Apply this in the spring when the SOIL temperature reaches about 52ºF (late March/mid-April) and continue every 6 weeks through September. If you reseed your lawn in the spring, keep in mind that corn meal gluten will also prevent new grass seed from germinating. When used in combination with some old-fashioned elbow grease (pulling adult plants by hand), in 1 or 2 years you should see a noticeable difference in sand burr numbers. Spot spraying vinegar on young sand burr plants (at the 2-4 leaf stage) is also effective, but it isn't selective. Vinegar will damage anything it comes into contact with, including your healthy turf. Good luck!


About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at



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