By Bryon Walters, Illinois Natural Area Improvements

Spring is a great time to go after all those exotic and invasive basal rosettes that like to pop up early.

This mix will be very effective towards a wide array of broadleaf annuals, bi-annuals and perennial species. Some of the suspects I encounter in north central Illinois include these:

Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard 4 hours later

Poison hemlock

Poison hemlock 4 days later

Dames rocket

Wild parsnip



Cut leaved teasel

So what is the 1-2 Punch? It is one of the safest and most selective herbicide mixes that you can use.

Write this recipe down and save it with your other favorites! It’s very easy to remember.

1% 2,4-D + 2% Triclopyr, (Garlon, Element and other proprietary names), Surfactant and Dye.

I prefer to fill up 15 gallon drums of this mix in my shop and then head out for the day. I rarely, if ever, carry concentrated jugs of herbicides in my truck. I don’t want to be responsible for cleaning up a chemical spill mess involving concentrated chemicals. Fortunately, it has never happened to me.

Don’t forget the Surfactant! It is the most important ingredient in the mix. Surfactants are stickers that help spread out the herbicide and adhere to the waxy leaf surfaces. I can usually tell if a surfactant wasn’t used by an applicator when I see the vegetation that was sprayed. Usually, there are a few symptomatic leaves but the bulk of the plant looks unaffected. So how much Surfactant do you add?

Remember 1-2 Punch, thus ½ % Surfactant.

Here is how much product I use in 15 gallons. 20 ounces 2,4-D, 40 ounces of Triclopyr and 8 ounces of Surfactant. I put a squeeze of blue dye in the drum lastly.

Lastly, it’s important to know the difference between Amine and Ester formulations. You can cause real problems if you are unsure of the differences.

Amine is the WATER based formulation of the concentrated chemical. Amine is the most commonly obtained and used formulation. Garlon 3A, in which the A designates Amine. It has 3 pounds of a.i., active ingredient, in a gallon. This mix will have a distinct smell and lasts for a day, but it is not bothersome. If you are spraying large volumes of this mix I would advise wearing a face mask. This mix is a general broadleaf control and usually does not effect grasses or sedges, although sometimes small sensitive grasses will turn yellow when sprayed. Use Amine in late Spring and continue with it all Summer. Do not use Ester mixes at these times of the year. I will explain shortly.

Ester is the OIL based formulation of the concentrated chemical. Think Garlon 4E, in which E designates Ester. It has 4 pounds of a.i., active ingredient, in a gallon. This 1-2 mix will form a milky solution. This mix has a much stronger smell, which sometimes lasts for two days when a larger volume is sprayed. You may need to put up a sign to notify the public of chemicals in use. This again is a general broadleaf mix but can cause more yellowing of small sensitive new growth grasses or sedges. Use sparingly as you would do with a glyphosate mix. It is often called LV, Low Volatility, but in truth it is very volatile. Volatility is the ability of the chemical to vaporize and drift away from your target plants. Ester should never be used when the temperatures exceed 70 degrees F. It will adversely effect and even kill desirable plants nearby. It has been known to kill an entire Bald faced Hornets nest. That occurred when a 100 gallon tank load was sprayed in an area when the temps were in the mid 70’s.

I use Ester formulations in early Spring and then again in the Fall. The oil base is very effective on plants during these cooler environmental conditions. If you think you will forget that you have Ester formulations in your sprayers and containers, and you don’t use markers to write this down, then please do not even purchase or mix Ester formulations. Besides, Ester 2,4-D is not readily available.

Use Caution and Care when you are using any chemical products. Adjust your nozzle to a narrow spot stream as shown in one of the photos. Although you can spray and kill Multi-flora Rose and Japanese Barberry with this mix, avoid spraying shrubs because this milder solution will not be effective enough for them. The 1-2 Punch is a general broadleaf mix. Remember, in your I.P.M., the use of chemicals are the last resort to controlling vegetation. Be safe out there.


3 gallon Backpack mix = 4 ounces 2,4-D + 8 ounces.  TRICLOPYR +  2 ounces Surfactant

15 gallon Drum mix =   20 ounces 2,4-D + 40 ounces TRICLOPYR +  8 ounces Surfactant

25 gallon Tank mix =    32 ounces 2,4-D + 64 ounces TRICLOPYR + 14 ounces Surfactant

NEWS: Due to Covid 19 crisis we are postponing the GRN workshop of this August to next August, 2021 in Barrington, Illinois.


About Grassland Restoration Network blog

Bill Kleiman publishes this blog. Bill's daytime job is manager of Nachusa Grasslands. We are looking for guest authors on various topics of grassland habitat restoration. Contact me with your ideas or drafts.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to THE 1-2 PUNCH

  1. Chris Hauser says:

    I like your ideas here. First of all, I agree that surfactants are very important. I always carry surfactant with me, in case I see the spray mix is beading up on the plants and I need to add more for a waxy or hairy species. Second, I’m glad you are publicizing the use of triclopyr 4 as a water-based foliar spray. However, the 2 triclopyrs are very different herbicides: triclopyr 4 is a **MUCH** stronger herbicide than triclopyr 3A. In your spring and fall seasons, you could probably eliminate the 2,4-D and cut the triclopyr ester down to 1.0% and you would still get the same results. I use triclopyr 4 for the weeds that the other broad-leaf herbicides (including triclopyr 3A) won’t kill.
    Keep up the good work!
    Chris Hauser

    • Bryon Walters says:

      Chris, thank you for your interest. Yes, the two Triclopyrs are different, that is why I greatly stressed the differences between the two. I have found that triclopyr alone does not kill many of the weeds I target. Example; Dames Rocket, with triclopyr alone, will show necrosis and severe stem twisting, but will still produce flowers and seed. 2,4-D has been a long proven herbicide that helps kill weeds that triclopyr alone will not. People are unjustly afraid of 2,4-D. I don’t like having to do things twice. Give the 1-2 Punch a try.

  2. James McGee says:

    I’ve stopped spraying herbicide on my lawn. I noticed that even if dandelions were spot sprayed, my grape vine, tomatoes, flowers, and certain trees were being impacted. However, after changing to the manual route to control lawn weeds, I still have damage. My neighbors have not stopped spraying herbicide to control weeds on their lawns. Consequently, my grape vine has not produced fruit in years.

    It does not take me long to dig up the dandelions. Since I keep up on it, I only have about 200 a year which takes a few hours. Mowing is the much more time-consuming task of lawn maintenance.

    Just like in my lawn, I use the manual method when I remove weeds from prairie restorations. I have used a weeding tool to remove all the weeds you list except poison hemlock. I luckily don’t have poison hemlock in any of the locations where I work. I’m sure it takes longer to remove weeds by the root than spray them. When I get in a rhythm in a large patch, it usually takes me less than 20 seconds to dig up each weed during a two-hour visit. Each evening, I go out and remove a two or three hundred weeds. Over the summer, I slowly move across the landscape. In subsequent years there are less and less weeds in the areas where I’ve worked. The prairie is healthier for it. The prairie flowers don’t have twisted stems and are not weakened as would occur if herbicide had been sprayed near them. It is good.

  3. Bryon Walters says:

    James, I applaud your efforts in manual digging weed control. Certainly, Mechanical control is an important method in an IPM, Integrated Pest Management system. Chemical control is the last resort option. I sure wish I could just dig up all the weeds within the 10,000+ acres of habitat in the 45+ sites I am in charge of in northern Illinois.

    • James McGee says:

      If 10,000 acres had the level of infestation with invasive species as areas that have been my focus, then you would initially need about 5,000 volunteers to dig up all the invasive species throughout this area. That’s not going to happen. However, if the weeds have been controlled over time then only about 100 volunteers would be needed to walk through the areas and dig up any invasive species that had managed to get transported back into the site. This second scenario is possible.

      It is difficult to get enough volunteers who are licensed to apply herbicide on public land. There is a high bar of knowledge, effort, time, and money required just for a volunteer to get licensed. In contrast, most people can be taught the difference between invasive species and similar native species quickly. The cost for tools to dig up invasive species is minimal. I think your time as a licensed herbicide applicator is too valuable to be targeting some of these species when this work could be better done by a large contingent of volunteers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s