There's more to fighting weeds than just spraying chemicals on your lawn. The key is to create the best possible environment for grass to grow. Healthy lawns leave no available nutrients for weeds, which limits or stops weed growth altogether.
Seven Basic Tips to Control Weeds
1. Water your lawn properly
2. Fertilize your lawn
3. Adjust your soil's composition
4. Aerate your soil
5. Deal with insect damage and plant diseases
6. Ensure good drainage
7. Mow at the proper height
Weed Removal 101
Removing unwanted plants by hand is the most selective and environmentally friendly way to control weeds.
- Weeds can be removed at any time, but immediately following a good rain often makes for easier removal.
- Attack a weed as soon as it shows up, when it's young, tender and actively growing.
- Pull the weed close to the base, lifting out as much root as possible.
- For larger weeds with extensive roots, like thistles and dandelions, use a garden fork, spike or slim trowel. Place the pointed end close to the weed's base and plunge it deep into the ground. Loosen the surrounding soil and then pull out the entire weed by grasping it close to the base.
Seven Tips to Applying Herbicides
Removing weeds by hand may not be practical for large lawns or lawns that are overgrown with weeds. You may choose to use herbicides to help control weeds in this case. When applied properly and in moderation, herbicides are very effective at eliminating weeds. However, you should be careful to handle these powerful chemicals properly and safely:
1. Protect yourself.
Wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear. You'll be applying herbicides to a large area, so wear long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a hat.
2. Focus on young, actively growing plants.
Apply herbicides to younger plants to stop rampant growth before it starts. Older plants may require stronger chemicals or multiple applications.
3. Do not mow or prune in advance.
More plant surface gives the chemicals more opportunity to work.
4. Do not mow or prune afterward.
Give the lawn a few days to fully absorb the chemical, and limit your contact to it.
5. Avoid spraying liquid herbicides on windy or rainy days.
The chemical may drift or run on to desirable plants and flowers, killing them as well.
6. Read all labels.
Find out whether you're applying a selective or non-selective herbicide. Selective herbicides target a specific type of weed and can be applied more liberally. Non-selective herbicides, such as Roundup, will kill any plant; so apply carefully only to plants you want to kill
7. Mark your containers.
Designate specific spray bottles and sprayers for herbicide use with a permanent marker.
Weed and Feed
Many popular lawn care products are labeled "weed and feed." These products contain both fertilizer and weed killer, which are released at the appropriate times. Thoroughly read the packaging on weed and feed products, paying attention to the list of weeds to be treated.
Weed and feed comes in two types:
- Pre-emergents must be applied before the weeds begin growing. They are ineffective on established weeds. Apply pre-emergent weed killers very early in the growing season.
- Post-emergents kill actively growing weeds on contact. They are ineffective on weed seeds. Apply post-emergent later in the growing season, after weeds are established but before they've gone to seed.
Also, if you plan to plant new grass, be sure to allow enough time between sowing grass seed and applying fertilizer or weed control products. Read the weed and feed package carefully for details.