Weeds, an unwelcome guest who invade any landscape. They turn your beautiful lawn and planter beds into ugly eyesores that really cause annoyance. So how can you tackle these invaders, or better yet, prevent them from getting a foothold in the first place?
If You Already Have Weeds
There are pre-existing conditions that allow weeds to set in even in well maintained lawns. These include weed seeds or portions of weed plants that were dormant in soil prior to planting your lawn or maybe your neighbor with a bounty of weeds in their yard found their way to yours. If this occurs, then you will have to tackle the weeds after they have set in your lawn.
You will have four methods to get rid of weeds in your lawn:
1. If you only have a few weeds, of a less serious species, just changing your maintenance methods might do the trick. For example, if you have a St. Augustine lawn and you improve how the lawn is being treated, it may choke out the existing foreigners.
2. Hand-weeding is still the best defense for small lawns where the number of weeds isn't overwhelming. Make weeding easier by ensuring your lawns soil is moist. Weeding is most effective against annual broadleaf weeds— pulling them while they're young, before they seed is the simplest way to prevent them from spreading. Be sure to yank the entire plant, including the root. If any root pieces are left underground, it will grow into new plants. If new sprouts begin to grow, pulling them repeatedly will eventually starve and kill the weed.
3. You can use a good herbicide that is designed to kill the weed and not your lawn. Use herbicides as a last resort— when nothing else works on a weed or if your lawn is completely overrun. Always make sure to follow the directions carefully, used incorrectly, herbicides can injure or kill turf and other desirable plants.
If you use a herbicide, find one labeled safe for the type of turf you're growing and effective against the weeds you've got. The label states when and in which conditions to use the product. Some herbicides work only within a certain temperature range; others work only when applied during a specific season.
4. The most drastic method is to start from scratch. Use different procedures to kill all existing weeds that may grow from your current soil— in turn you'll lose whatever lawn you have with it. But this would be the most fool proof option and will require less maintenance down the road.
If you choose this method, there are several ways to go about it. You can use herbicides or try a more natural means. Herbicides usually work a lot faster and are more certain of results, but some natural processes have been shown to work almost as effectively. If you go with the herbicide route, you can do the following:
Turn off your water and spray the area immediately, don't wait until all the plants die from the lack of water. You want the weeds to still be alive so the herbicide can set in and kill the plant down to the root and not let nature keep it alive with further watering.
Let everything die off, if something still seems alive, reapply herbicide to the area.
Once everything is dead, remove all the material. During this stage it's worth renting a sod cutter, it will make this step a lot faster. Dispose of all the material and clean up the area well, making sure to remove all potential untouched seeds, etc.
Now you need to till and grade your lawn area to prepare for your new lawn. You may have to remove more soil or add some.
Next you need to install or fix your irrigation system. Make sure it has proper coverage, then compact it and make it nice and flat.
Start watering the dirt— what you are doing is getting all the seeds and other root material that has not already germinated to grow.
Once any new shoots have grown, kill those off and remove them. You will need to repeat this process as many times as necessary until there is no further growth.
Lastly, plant your new lawn!
Note: Natural methods of weed elimination do exist and can be a healthier alternative to chemical treatment (this will be covered in a separate article).
Preventing New Weed Growth
A healthy lawn is your first line of defense in fighting weeds. Healthy lawns with proper watering and nutrients provide an organic environment that makes it hard for foreign invaders to take hold, similar to human health— if the body is well taken care of and has good nutritional balance, its hard for illness to set in.
There are several methods used to keep a lawn healthy and attractive:
Proper irrigation, good coverages and water schedules
Fertilizer, the best kind for your lawn type and soil conditions
Proper lawn planning, think about where lawns should and shouldn't go
You should also use your own clean mower, if used to cut down a weedy lawn, thoroughly clean it before you use it on a new lawn. Don't let your gardener use their own, his mower could be contaminated with other yard weed seeds and deposited into your lawn.
In some cases, a barrier between your lawn and an area with weeds can help— think a small low wall built or even a row of shrubs between you and your neighbor with a weed infestation. Also, when bringing in soils and amendments from elsewhere, make sure you know the material is from a trusted source and not contaminated with weeds.
Using these tips during installation and proper care, you will be the envy of the block with the best looking lawn.