Achieving the perfect lawn may seem like a dream to many homeowners–one that the unexpected appearance of weeds often spoils. Moreover, if kept unchecked, weeds can destroy the good work of every lawn enthusiast over a short period of time. So, how can gardeners and homeowners keep weeds in check? And is this even possible? Read on to learn how to get rid of weeds in grass.
Common Fears and Misconceptions When Getting Rid of Weeds
Weeds are not a sign of how good or bad a gardener you are! On the contrary, even the most experienced gardener has had their share of weeds sprouting in their gardens.
Weeds grow via seeds and these can get into your soil in many ways, such as animal droppings, wind, and soil amendments, to name a few. Furthermore, some weed seeds may lie dormant for a long time before germinating, causing persistent weed problems.
One concern that often prevents gardeners from treating their lawns for weeds is that they may accidentally over-treat their lawns with weed-killing chemicals and destroy their lush, dense turf. Another common gardening fear when it comes to dealing with weeds is that they grow faster than people can remove them.
However, getting rid of weeds needn’t ruin your lawn nor does it have to be the big task homeowners sometimes think it is.
Simple Steps to Kill the Weeds but Not the Grass
Getting rid of weeds is an essential part of lawn maintenance. It can be achieved by following these four simple steps:
- Classify the type of weed present in your lawn: Identifying the main culprit in your weed infestation will help you choose the right treatment for your lawn. If you are unsure of how to do so, you can take some weed samples to your local garden store.
- Getting rid of those weeds: To get rid of weeds completely, you will first need to get rid of the existing ones you can see. You can do this manually or chemically using weed killers or natural herbicides. Then you’ll need to stop those weeds from re-establishing themselves.
- Choose a treatment plan: Once you have identified the weed problem in your lawn or garden you will need to decide if you want to treat it naturally or with a chemical-based solution.
- Keep to a consistent lawn maintenance routine: To prevent weeds from re-establishing themselves, sticking to a regular lawn maintenance routine is key.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
Knowing Your Enemy
Knowing which weeds are present in your garden and how they thrive is key to keeping them in check.
The first thing to remember is that weeds are simply another type of plant and will flourish in the same conditions as a lush lawn. For example, the shorter the grass and the more compacted the soil, the stronger those weeds will grow.
There are three main types of weeds to look out for in your lawn.
- Broad-leaved: This type of weed is easily identified by its broad, flat leaves. These weeds include clover, oxalis, dandelions, thistle, plantain, and dollar weed.
- Grassy: This type of weed has a similar look to most grasses as it grows in blades. Foxtail, crabgrass, quack grass, and annual bluegrass all fall into this category. Some species of these weeds reseed themselves at the end of a season in preparation for germinating and growing the following spring. Others are perennial, meaning they go dormant in the winter and sprout again in spring.
- Grass-like: Like grassy weeds, this type of weed looks very similar to the grass in your lawn, but instead they have a hollow, tube-like shape. This type of weed includes wild onion, wild garlic, and nutsedge.
Classifying the weeds growing in your lawn will help you choose the right weed killer for your needs. Some weed treatments are general, while others are selective for a specific type of weed.
Getting Rid of Weeds
It is important to choose the right treatment for your weed problem, otherwise, you might do more harm than good. Gardeners can go the natural route, or choose chemical herbicides and products.
If you decide that a chemical product is the way to go for your lawn, you will need to do this very carefully. We recommend that you read the instructions a number of times to ensure that you apply the treatment correctly.
Manually Pulling Weeds
Pulling weeds by hand may be one of the most effective ways of keeping them in check and is best suited to weed infestations of small to medium sizes. It’s a simple method, and when done well can eradicate weed plants from your lawn.
While it can be a fun activity, pulling weeds by hand must be done properly.
To hand-pull weeds effectively, you will need to pull the entire plant including the roots. This method is extremely effective if there are only a few, scattered weeds around the lawn. However, if there is a full-blown infestation then hand-pulling will require a lot of time and effort from the gardener.
Additionally, not all weeds can be easily hand pulled. Some weeds, like thistles, have thorns that make it difficult.
Using a Weeder to Get Rid of Weeds
A different option for getting rid of and controlling weeds could be the use of a weeder. A weeder is a type of gardening tool that can help with removal.
There is not one type of weeder, but all of them help pull weeds from the roots. Even if you use a weeder, you will need to inspect the soil after removing weeds to ensure that you’ve gotten all of the roots.
Another tool frequently used for weeding is the scuffle hoe . Often called stirrup hoes, due to their shape resembling a horse stirrup, these tools are pushed into the soil and cut through the plant’s structure.
Unlike the weeder, a scuffle hoe is a more labor-intensive process when getting rid of weeds. We find it most useful when you’ve already removed the majority of your garden weeds. Furthermore, scuffle-hoes may not prevent weeds from re-sprouting as well as other natural methods may.
Natural Remedies for Weed Prevention
For those who prefer to use a natural approach to combat weeds, there are a number of natural remedies that gardeners can adopt.
Vinegar is probably the most common natural remedy around. Add it to a spray bottle and lightly mist the affected areas. Some homeowners also swear by the addition of dish soap to the spray bottle for extra efficacy.
However, be warned that in a similar vein to other chemical herbicides, vinegar is non-selective and cannot differentiate between good grass and weeds. Therefore, when you use it to get rid of weeds, always spray in good weather with low wind, and avoid spraying your lawn grass and other garden plants.
Get Rid of Weeds Using Chemical Herbicides
Herbicides contain components that kill weeds and ensure they do not grow back. Various chemical herbicides are available on the market for both novice and expert gardeners.
There are two main types of herbicides: Systemic and contact.
Systemic herbicides attack the weeds from the inside out, entering the plant from the root. Contact products kill weeds by decreasing their ability to carry out photosynthesis.
Furthermore, you can use a post-emergence herbicide on weeds that have already sprouted. In fact, they are effective in both killing already-sprouted weeds and preventing new ones from germinating again. These herbicides work on post-emergent weeds, too, no matter their size or maturity.
Some weeding products are selective, which means they get rid of a specific species, while others are non-selective. You should take extra care when you apply non-selective weed killers as these will also kill your lawn grass.
Only use non-selective herbicides to spot-treat outbreaks in selected areas.
During herbicide preparation and application, remember to wear gloves and once the treatment has been applied, keep children and pets away from contact with the treated area.
Best Time to Apply Weed Killers
The optimum time to start applying your weed killer is spring and summer when weeds begin growing aggressively. Additionally, and especially in the case of novice gardeners, choose a product that is easy to apply and does not require a lot of effort on your part to avoid any undesirable results.
Bear in mind the weather conditions when treating your lawn with an herbicide. Ideally, you should treat your garden when the temperature is between 45ºF and 90ºF, when there is little to no chance of rain or strong winds.
Likewise, you should not apply an herbicide to a recently mowed lawn. The bigger the surface area of the weed, the more product can attach itself to it and, as a result, increase its efficacy.
The same goes for after the application of the product when getting rid of weeds. Avoid mowing or pruning weeds to allow the product time to work.
When choosing how to apply herbicides, focus on the newer weed growth as this will be easier to kill. Older weeds are tougher and may require a stronger herbicide.
Newly laid lawns are extremely susceptible to weeds, but can also suffer irreversible damage by the use of chemical pesticides within the first six months of sowing or laying. Avoid treating new lawns with chemical products that have not been specifically designed for new lawns.
Weed clippings that you’ve treated with herbicide cannot be disposed of near compost or other lawn cuttings. As we mentioned, seeds can travel by way of numerous methods, and you will want to avoid both seeds and products touching your thick, healthy lawn.
Lawn Maintenance: Important Factors in Weed Prevention
Having a well-maintained lawn can be a wonderful way to prevent weeds from sprouting. Depending on where you live, thick lawns of either cool-season grasses or warm-season grasses can avoid the appearance of unsightly weeds. After all, the best way to get rid of weeds is to prevent them in the first place!
It matters how short you mow your lawn. Mowing cool-season grasses to a maximum height of 4 inches and warm-season grasses to 3 inches will help prevent weeds from germinating in your lawn in the first place.
Longer grass promotes more shade at the soil level, making it harder for weeds to get that all-important sunshine that helps them thrive.
When to weed and feed new grass
A lawn that is not properly cared for can become stressed, making it a prime growing zone for weeds.
A regular feeding schedule for your lawn, with the addition of the correct fertilizer, can avoid the emergence of weeds. Dethatching your grass and aerating are also very important for maintaining your yard.
In temperate seasons–spring and autumn–make sure you are topping up your lawn to avoid the appearance of bare spots. Consider re-turfing or re-seeding as part of your annual lawn care.
Water your grass thoroughly and infrequently, instead of in small amounts frequently. The latter leads to strong root growth at a deeper level.
Short lawn roots make the lawn more vulnerable to changeable weather conditions, such as heat waves and droughts.
Getting Rid of Weeds in Your Lawn is an Achievable Goal
The threat of weeds may discourage gardeners from even starting to grow a lawn and keep it maintained, but remember that you can control them. The key is following the right steps before pesky plants invade your yard.
Ideally, you should take action at the pre-emergent stage before they become too cumbersome to deal with.