Many people mistake little barley (Hordeum pusillum) for a little
foxtail because the foxtail and little barley seedheads are similar.
However, little barley is a winter annual that comes up in late
September – October and spends the winter as a small plant. It thrives
in the cooler spring temperatures, forms seed heads and dies out usually
by July. Foxtail, on the other hand, is a summer annual that does well
in hot weather. Also, foxtail will not produce seedheads until mid- to
So, why are we talking about little barley now? Because now is the time
to control it for next year. The best control for little barley is a
thick lawn that is mowed high enough that sunlight does not hit the
soil. Little barley seed will not germinate in such conditions.
Overseeding now can thicken up a tall fescue lawn and prevent a little
barley infestation. However, if you do not plan to overseed,
preemergence herbicides can be used to provide at least partial control
of this weed.
The only preemergence herbicide that I know is labeled specifically for
little barley is Surflan. It is also sold under the name of Weed Impede
by Monterey Lawn and Garden. Surflan can only be used on warm-season
grasses (bermudagrass, buffalograss, zoysiagrass) and tall fescue grown
in warm-season areas such as Kansas. However, Dimension (dithiopyr), is
labeled for barley (Herodium spp.) which would include little barley and
therefore can be used to keep this weed under control. Because little
barley is a winter annual, apply the preemergence herbicide now and
water in to activate. If overseeding, do not apply any preemergence
herbicide as it will interfere with the germination of tall fescue.
By: Ward Upham