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Especially after periods of heat, millet often spreads through the lawn and causes problems there. Newly created and still patchy lawns offer the ideal breeding ground for the various types of millet. So it can happen that it not only hinders the growth of the young grasses in the lawn due to mass occurrence, but almost completely suppresses them. In this article, we have summarized how you can fight finger millet properly.


Millet, a small husked grain, is one of the oldest known grains. It belongs to the sweet grass family and probably originally comes from Asia. Many species of the annual, herbaceous plant are used as food for their grains. The ones commonly referred to as weeds that have run wild millet species are considered somewhat more differentiated from a botanical point of view. Few garden owners are likely to be interested in whether species of Digitaria, Setaria or even finger millet (Eleusine) are spreading in the lawn.

Blood-red finger millet, Digitaria sanguinalis

appearance and occurrence

In the last 20 years, numerous types of millet have been imported or introduced into Central Europe, which have since spread explosively through birds, water, wind and contaminated seed. Depending on the weather, the millet germinates as early as the end of May. It can be easily distinguished from the usual lawn grasses by its light green, quite wide stalks. As soon as the finger millet Developed side shoots, it forms larger clumps and thus displaces the lawn grasses. Unfortunately, the sweet grass tolerates a lawn clipping very well. In this case, the millet simply forms short flower stalks below the level of the lawn cuttings.


As an annual plant, millet propagates by seeds. A single plant can grow to several thousand seed to produce. The unpleasant thing about this is that, in contrast to most other grasses, almost every type of millet can develop its flower spikes flat above the ground - and thus below the cutting height of the lawnmower. If the days get shorter and the temperatures drop in autumn, the millet dies. Unfortunately, this does not solve the problem in the lawn by itself, because the numerous seeds remain viable in the soil for decades even after the mother plant has died. In order for the seeds to germinate, at least two conditions must be met.

  • warm, dry weather with temperatures above 20 degrees
  • the sunnier the location, the better
  • open areas in the lawn

Manual combat

If you discover isolated millet in the lawn from the end of May, you should rip it out by hand or even cut it out as early as possible. Finger millet does not root very deeply, so it is not difficult to remove it from the soil. Since the sweet grass is in a hurry to multiply, the first seeds appear after just a few weeks. It is imperative to prevent their formation. If you manage to stop the seeds from spreading, in many cases you have already made it and next year you will be safe from the annoying weed.

Blood-red finger millet, Digitaria sanguinalis

Other environmentally friendly measures

The following measures have proven effective in combating finger millet in the lawn.

Scarify flat

An effective way to control sweet grass is to scarify the lawn shallowly. The device is adjusted in such a way that the knives do not touch the ground. Instead, the flat stalks of the millet plants are lifted and can then be caught with the lawnmower, which should be set very flat. This measure is far less strenuous than weeding each plant by hand. It is best to scarify the lawn in autumn. This allows a denser lawn to form the following spring.

  • start mowing in March (from 10 degrees)
  • if the temperatures rise longer than 20 degrees: scarify
  • depending on the weather for the first time from the end of May
  • Scarify the area twice
  • once lengthways
  • once across
  • then mow flat
  • repeat the process in the fall
scarify the lawn

Form a dense turf

Finger millet spreads especially in patchy, thin lawns. It is therefore effective to combat them if the lawn area is always kept nice and thick by reseeding. If the turf has closed sufficiently by the following year, the unwanted sweet grass can hardly develop.

fertilizing and mowing

If the lawn is fertilized, the otherwise flat-growing millet straightens up. In this way, it can be caught better with the lawnmower set low. Fertilizing also strengthens the lawn grasses so that they grow stronger and denser.

  • When: May to August
  • preferably immediately after scarifying
  • Fertilize with Lawn Soil Activator in spring
  • Use potassium-rich fertilizers in the fall
  • often cut short
  • water when dry
  • Avoid waterlogging
fertilize lawn


Since the various types of millet prefer to thrive in soil that has an acidic pH, liming the lawn may be useful to combat the invasive plant. To check the pH of the garden soil, simple tests are commercially available. If the result is below the ideal pH value of 6 to 7, treatment with algae lime is recommended, which can be used throughout the entire growth period without any problems.

Chemical control

Conventional lawn weed killers only work against dicotyledonous plants. However, since the various types of millet - just like the noble grasses - belong to the monocotyledonous plants, the remedies are not successful. Of course it is possible to control weed millet with chemical agents. However, herbicides should always be used with care in the home garden, as they pose a risk to people and the environment that should not be underestimated. It is therefore essential to observe the manufacturer's instructions. There are two types of chemical control.


  • When: late April to early May
  • before germination
  • Active ingredients stop the growth process
  • Available as granules or spray emulsion
  • Repeat application necessary in mid-June
  • when sowing new seeds, wait at least until the 4th lawn cut

follow-up control

  • Time: early June to late August
  • in the 4th to 5th leaf stage
  • usually apply as a spray emulsion
  • after application it must not rain for a few hours
  • is absorbed by the leaves
  • possibly repeat the application after two weeks
Blood-red finger millet, Digitaria sanguinalis

biological control

Combat weed millet biologically

A relatively new approach to combating weed sorghum comes from the USA. The annoying lawn weeds are also spreading rapidly there. The use of cornstarch, which has a similar effect to a herbicide, is recommended. The proteins in the corn starch prevent the formation of roots in the seedlings and thus ensure the death of the young millet plant. It must be tested whether this measure actually has the desired effect. In this country there is a lack of experience in this regard.

  • Clear the lawn of leaves beforehand
  • Apply corn starch with the fertilizer wagon
  • Sprinkle on rainy days or alternatively water well


Weed grasses such as millet also only thrive under good conditions. In order to be able to grow, it needs light, space and, above all, warmth. A densely grown turf makes it difficult for millet to assert itself. Therefore, fill in bare spots with new grass seed and provide the lawn with sufficient water and nutrients.

Blood-red finger millet, Digitaria sanguinalis

Create a new lawn

If you plant a new lawn, you should do so in autumn to create unfavorable conditions for the various types of millet to spread right from the start. At this time of year it is too cool for them to germinate. It is then checked early in the spring whether there are spots where the lawn has grown poorly. In this case, the seed will be reseeded as soon as possible. It is best to fertilize immediately with a long-term fertilizer. This also strengthens the weeds, but more important is a dense turf.

Extreme infestation

Especially when laying out new lawns, it can happen that, under unfavorable conditions, crabgrass spreads so much that it overgrows almost the entire area. In this case, the following measures are recommended:


If the millet has spread all over the lawn, only removing the entire turf will help. In the autumn it is then sown again.

Distribute seed evenly when sowing the lawn


If all measures do not help because there are already countless seeds in the ground, a turf roll is the last chance to get the millet under control. A turf can also be laid in summer. In this case, a beautiful, dense lawn is guaranteed right from the start.

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