You’ve coddled your lawn, spending time and money to create a lush green carpet of sweet-smelling grass. The last thing you want now is weeds. But you’re going to get them. It’s inevitable. Unless you’re growing that lawn under a glass dome, weed seeds are going to find their way in… blown by the wind, dropped by birds, or tracked on your shoes or on the paws of your canine best friend.
So the battle against weeds is never-ending, but it doesn’t have to be futile. The most efficient way to deal with it is to have a professional lawn care service take charge, using pre-emergent lawn herbicides for starters, and continuing with a mix of practices to keep your lawn healthy and weed-free. If DIY is more your style, though, here are the basics of weed control:
It’s not a question of if your lawn needs pre-emergent weed control. Every lawn benefits from it. The question is when to use it.
- Timing is everything. As the name tells you, pre-emergent herbicides are effective only if they’re applied before weeds first appear, stopping them before they begin to germinate. This happens in early spring, independent of whether or not daffodils or forsythias have come into bloom. If you wait until then, you’re too late.
- Make a note for next year. If you missed the timing for applying pre-emergent herbicides this year, take special care to note when weeds start appearing. Then count back two or three weeks and circle that date in next year’s calendar. That’s when you need to apply a pre-emergent herbicide.
Ideally, all weeds would be banished with pre-emergent control. But even if you’ve used it, weeds are going to crop up. And because weeds come in a variety of types, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Perennial weeds. These weeds are hard to eradicate because they survive and reproduce even in adverse conditions. Some rely on bulbs, rhizomes, runners, tubers, or thickened storage roots for their survival between seasons. Perennial grassy weeds are the hardest to deal with because their species are similar to lawn grass species.
Actually, a number of grassy weeds would be considered desirable if they were growing somewhere by themselves and not competing with the type of grass you’re growing for your lawn. A particular problem with grassy weeds is that spraying with nonselective herbicides may also kill the desirable grass in your lawn.
Annual weeds. These weeds can’t survive underground from one year to the next, but some pop up at times of the year when pre-emergent weed killers aren’t active, and can be resistant to post-emergent herbicides. Hand-pulling is sometimes the best option. Regardless of whether or not you treat them, most annual weeds die off quickly in fall.
Beware of the Prettiest Weeds
Knowing what weeds you’ve got growing in your lawn is the first step toward controlling them. You might be inclined to let some pretty flowering weeds overstay their welcomes, not realizing the damage they can do to your lawn until you let them take over.
Dandelions: These are a broadleaf perennial that grow from taproots that can be two to three deep in the ground. They grow charming yellow flowers that mature into the white puffballs full of seeds that spread on the wind. You’ve got to remove or kill their roots or they’ll reappear each year in greater numbers.
White clover: This is another perennial weed with a pretty white, fluffy bloom. It grows from creeping runners that need complete eradication before they choke out your lawn.
Creeping Charlie: This is an aromatic perennial with tiny purple flowers that’s a member of the mint family. It can form large patches in shady, moist areas of the lawn and is difficult to control. In various areas of the country, this weed is also called ground ivy, cats foot, field balm, and run-away-robin.
Oxalis: This is a broadleaf perennial that can grow to twenty inches high, with cup-shaped yellow flowers and light green leaves that resemble clover. It grows in both sun and shade.
Wild violet: While this perennial with its small purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves is sometimes grown as an ornamental, consider it a weed if it’s growing in your lawn.