Sticker burrs are the bane of many gardener’s lives. Not only can they make even the most well-manicured garden look a mess, but they can also be extremely painful. Step on a sticker burr, and you’ll soon know about it. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to get rid of them. If sticker burrs are turning your garden from a joy into a nightmare, here’s what you need to know about how to banish them for good. Before we get around to dealing with the question of how to get rid of sticker burrs, there’s a bigger question to look at. What, exactly, are sticker burrs? Sometimes known as sandburs or grass burrs, sticker burrs are a type of cool-season annual grassy weed that germinates in the fall, grows over winter, and flowers in spring. Although they can grow anywhere, they’re known to terrorize lawns, fields, and parks the most. As well as being unattractive, the weeds produce spiky, sharp burrs as they mature that can quickly and easily attach themselves to anything that brushes past. Not only are the burrs painful if they become lodged in the skin, but they can also be incredibly tough to remove, especially if they get caught up in animal fur, hair, or clothing.
Can You Kill Sticker Burrs?
Sticker burrs might be annoying. They might be resilient. But they’re not indestructible. Getting rid of sticker burrs can be slightly more challenging than other weeds, but it’s by no means impossible. There are actually multiple methods you can use to get rid of them. If you’re reluctant to drown your garden in commercial weed killers, you’ll be pleased to know that several of those methods don’t involve a single drop of chemicals. If you’re ready to get rid of those pesky sticker burrs for good, here’s what you need to know.
The Pull and Dispose Method
As Hunker writes, one of the simplest and most low-tech ways to get rid of sticker burrs is to simply pull them out by hand. Be sure to wear gardening gloves to protect your hands as you work. Grasp the base of the plant and pull up. As sticker burr seeds can spread easily, be sure to dispose of the weeds in the garbage as soon as possible. You can even burn them in a fire pit if that’s easier. Unless you really love weeding, this method is best reserved for small areas of stickers only.
The Soda Bottle Method
Like the previous method, this is best for small areas. Also, note that it’s not effective in isolation but is intended to be used in conjunction with commercial weed killers. If half your lawn has been turned over to stickers, you might need to use a more aggressive approach – or start drinking a lot more soda. To start, cut off the top and bottom sections of a 2-liter soda bottle. Place the bottle over the plant to create a barrier to stop any weed killer from spreading to the rest of the garden.
The Salt Method
Grab a large bag of salt and sprinkle it directly over the leaves and base of the sticker burr. The sodium content of the salt will help draw moisture from the plant. Used regularly (aim for at least once a week), the plant will eventually become dehydrated and die. To increase the efficacy of the method, you could try mixing the salt with baking soda.
The Fire Method
Sometimes, only drastic action will do. If your sticker burr problem is out of control, you might want to take Acre Life’s advice and burn the entire plant. However, just bear in mind that you’ll usually need to keep burning them every year for up to 7 years before they stop growing back. There’s also the risk that you could do as much damage to the surrounding grass and plants as to the stickers if you’re not careful.
The Bleach Method
If you don’t mind using household chemicals in your garden, douse the sticker burr with undiluted bleach. Repeat the method over several days before pulling the plant from the ground. By then, the bleach will have sunk into the soil to stop any risk of re-germination.
The Borax Method
Too much of a good thing can be just as bad as too little. Boron is a natural plant micronutrient that’s vital for healthy growth. But while it’s essential, it can deal a killer blow in excessive quantities. Scatter the base of the plant with borax powder, which is naturally high in boron. Repeat the application over several days. With continued use, the plant should eventually die. Once it does, you can pull it from the ground and dispose of it to prevent any further seeds from scattering.
The Vinegar Method
The acetic acid in undiluted apple cider and white vinegar can help draw moisture from a plant. With regular use, the plant will eventually dehydrate and die. Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and saturate the stickers. Be careful to only apply the solution to the weeds: if the vinegar comes into contact with any surrounding grass or plants, it might inadvertently kill them too. Repeat daily until the plant dies. At that point, you can gather up the dead burrs and stickers for disposal.
The Boiling Water Method
Most things will struggle to survive being doused in boiling water, and stickers are no exception. Pour boiling water directly onto the plant. You might need to repeat the process several times, but the plant should die within a matter of days. Once it does, be sure to dispose of it immediately to stop any seeds from scattering.
The Weed Killer Method
As Nola.com notes, the best way to deal with stickers is to use a two-prong approach. The first effort is preemptive and requires you to apply a preemergence herbicide or weed preventer (popular brands worth trying include Sta-Green Crab-Ex, Green Light Crabgrass Preventer 2, Hi-Yield Turf and Ornamental Weed and Grass Stopper, and Scotts Halts) in the fall before the seeds start germinating. Apply as per the instructions on the label. You’ll then need to carefully inspect the lawn for signs of any young plants in December, January, and February. If any plants have managed to survive the preemergence herbicide, spray the lawn with a weed killer such as Weed B Gon, Weed Free Zone, or Atrazine. This should kill any last remaining stickers and ensure you’re not knee-deep in weeds by spring.