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Nothing sets off a beautiful home quite like a healthy lawn. Unfortunately, many homeowners have to wage a daily fight against weedy areas and bald patches in their grass. Tough as it is, the battle with weeds is worth winning. Besides being unsightly, weeds can choke out the growth of new grass and other plants.
The trick to great lawn care is killing weeds without destroying your healthy grass. If you choose to do it yourself (DIY), you’ll need to read labels carefully to make sure you’re choosing a product that will work against the type of weeds you have. You may also want to talk to a professional lawn care service about its recommended products.
Steps to Getting Rid of Weeds in Your Yard
If you’ve surveyed your home and heard yourself say, “My lawn is all weeds,” rest assured that you can restore it to its former beauty. You simply need to take the proper steps.
Identify the Types of Weeds You’re Dealing With
Most likely, you are coping with one of two primary weed types: broadleaf or grassy. One can further classify both grassy and broadleaf weeds as annual weeds or perennial weeds. Annual weeds grow new each year and drop their seeds before they die. Perennial weeds, on the other hand, never really die; they just lie dormant until spring.
Broadleaf weeds are easy to differentiate from grass. With multiple veins running through their structures, they may feature showy flowers or distinctive leaf patterns. The best-known broadleaf weed is probably the common dandelion, but this category also includes clover, chickweed, pigweed, and ground ivy. Because of their hardiness, broadleaf weeds often prove tricky for homeowners to eradicate.
Broadleaf weeds often grow so large—and stand out so brilliantly against the lawn—that homeowners elect to pull them up by hand instead of using a sprayer full of weed killer. On a spacious lawn, though, this approach probably isn’t practical. Instead, you might need to get out your mower.
You may have heard that using a mower will spread weeds rather than tame them. That isn’t true. On the contrary, mowing weeds will weaken them. If you let weeds go without mowing, they’ll sprout seeds and take over your space.
Grassy weeds are just what they sound like: a type of grass. Rather than having multiple leaves, like a broadleaf weed, these plants have a single leaf that is often longer than wide. In addition, grassy weeds have parallel veins running through their leaves. This weed category includes plants such as crabgrass, foxtail, bluegrass, bentgrass, and quackgrass.
Select Your Herbicides With Care
You need to know the type of lawn weeds you are facing since that will determine the herbicide you need or if you even need a chemical weed killer. Not all herbicides are effective against all types of weeds.
Some weeds are so stubborn that herbicide is the only way to fight them successfully. Herbicides may regulate plant growth by upsetting hormonal balances or by inhibiting photosynthesis or seedling growth. In addition, some chemical weed killers disrupt plant cell membrane formation or affect amino acid synthesis.
Preemergent and Post-emergent Herbicides
For application purposes, herbicides come in two major types: preemergent and post-emergent herbicides. Usually applied in late winter, preemergent herbicides work from the ground up to kill the seeds or tender shoots of new weeds. Post-emergents go on new plants in the spring and generally work from the leaves down to the root systems.
Selective and Nonselective Herbicides
A selective herbicide is a type of herbicide that kills only certain types of plants. Selective herbicides are often used in lawn care because they allow you to kill weeds without harming the grass. However, if your lawn is full of weeds, you’re probably using the wrong type of herbicide. Instead of a selective herbicide, you need a nonselective herbicide.
Nonselective herbicides are not picky about what kind of plants they kill and work best on tough weeds. You can spray nonselective herbicides all over the yard without damaging your grass. Nonselective herbicides come in two kinds: contact and systemic. Contact herbicides kill only the parts of a weed that they touch, while systemic herbicides are absorbed by the plant and kill the entire organism.
Remember that herbicides are not the only—or even the most effective—way to get a weed-free lawn.
Prevent New Weeds From Sprouting in Your Beds
One of the best ways to prevent new weeds from sprouting in your beds is to lay down a fresh layer of mulch.
Mulch helps smother any weed seeds that may be lying in wait, and it will also give your plants a boost of nutrients as it decomposes. Remember that the larger the chunks of mulch, the more slowly they’ll decompose. Something small, like shredded wood chips, will become part of your soil in no time.
If you use mulch, you can also use herbicides or weed barriers, but make sure to read the labels carefully so you don’t damage your plants.
Rake and Till Your Lawn
Raking and tilling your lawn will loosen up the soil and make it easier for new grass seeds to take root. You can till your lawn with an electric, gas, or cordless tiller. Many hardware retailers rent or sell these items, and professional lawn care companies use them regularly.
Before you start to till, remove any debris, such as sticks or leaves, that might be in the way. Then, mow the area to remove as much organic material as possible. Follow the directions on your tiller to till the soil in both directions.
Since tilling soil turns your property into a blank canvas for plant growth, you’ll now need to overseed your lawn. This means spreading grass seed over the entire area. You can do this by hand or with a spreader. Once the seed is down, you’ll need to water it regularly until the new grass starts the germination process.
Dethatch and Aerate Your Turf
Dethatching and aeration are two of the best forms of nonchemical weed control. These long-lasting treatments can work together or separately to stop weed growth by improving nutrient flow to your grass’s roots. Learn the difference between the two methods below.
Thatch is the layer of dead and living grass, moss, and roots. Thatch forms when your turf accumulates more dead organic matter than can break down. This can cause your turf to feel spongy and inevitably start to thin.
Dethatching involves cutting away the thatch and raking up what remains. This practice helps improve air circulation, drainage, and the overall health of your lawn. If you plan to both dethatch and aerate, start with dethatching.
Although dethatching itself doesn’t involve using chemicals, you may want to deal with any weed problems using an herbicide. If you have a small lawn, you can probably dethatch it yourself with a garden rake or power dethatcher. But if you have a large lawn, hiring a professional is probably best.
Aeration involves punching holes in your lawn using a machine called an aerator. By allowing oxygen into the soil through these holes, you’re giving it more nutrients to grow healthy new grass. A healthy lawn can choke out new weeds on its own.
For smaller yards, you can rent manual aerators. Professionals will do a high-quality job for large areas for an affordable fee. You will, however, need to spend some time pulling out weeds afterward to keep them from coming back.
Reseed or Resod Your Lawn Properly
If your weed-control problem has reached critical mass, it might be best to start from scratch. Over time, weeds can crowd grass and make your lawn look patchy.
Reseeding your lawn with new grass seed involves spreading seed by hand or with a spreader. This approach costs less and involves less work than covering your lawn with new turf—or resodding. It often isn’t as long-lasting or effective, though.
Reseeding or resodding will help ensure that your lawn is thick and luscious, making it harder for weeds to take hold. Plus, a healthy lawn is more resistant to weeds in general.
Water and Maintain Your New Lawn
However you choose to tackle a lawn full of weeds, you’ll want to maintain your property’s fresh, uniform look. Spot treatment, preemergent application, lawn fertilizer, and plenty of water can all help your grass look crisp and elegant.
Why Your Lawn May Be Full of Weeds
You don’t want your lawn to degenerate again, so it’s essential to understand why your lawn may be full of weeds.
- You’ve under-watered your grass: Insufficient watering is one of the main reasons weeds take over a lawn. When the grass isn’t getting enough water, it will start to turn brown and die. This provides an opportunity for weeds to sprout up and take over. The best way to deal with this problem is to water your lawn regularly and deeply. You may also need to fertilize your lawn to help it recover from damage. If you’re unsure how to care for your lawn properly, it’s best to hire a professional lawn fertilizer service. They will be able to assess the situation and provide you with a plan of action.
- Your soil is unhealthy: Unhealthy soil is low in nutrients, which weakens the grass and makes it unable to compete with weeds for food and water. The best way to restore your lawn is to improve the soil’s health. You can add organic matter, such as compost, and aerate the soil to improve drainage. You may also need to add fertilizer to provide the nutrients that it lacks.
- You’re dealing with compacted soil: Compacted soil is when the soil is too tightly packed together, preventing air and water from reaching the grass’s roots. The grass then dies, leaving bare dirt patches perfect for weeds to take root. To fix this problem, you’ll need to aerate your lawn. You can rent a machine from a local hardware store or hire a professional lawn care service.
- You mow your grass too low: Weeds love nothing more than a freshly mowed lawn—but not for the same reasons you do. When you mow your grass too low, you give weeds the perfect environment to thrive. That’s because short grass exposes the soil to sunlight, which weeds need to grow. Short grass doesn’t have the deep root system that long grass does, so it can’t compete with weeds for water and nutrients. As a result, your lawn will be more susceptible to weed invasions.
- Your grass is too thin: Similarly, where the grass is thin, weeds have an opportunity to take hold. Weeds are also more likely to flourish in areas where the grass is weak or has died. Reseeding or resodding your lawn may help address this situation.
- You’ve tried to smother weeds with grass clippings: You may have gotten advice online or from well-meaning friends who say you can smother weeds by mowing your lawn and leaving the grass clippings on the ground. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work. The clippings will eventually decompose and release nitrogen, which will fertilize the weeds and help them grow. Plus, the clippings can form a mat that prevents air and water from reaching the soil, which may harm your grass.
- You use a weed killer at the wrong time: First, wait until the weed has started to grow before you use any weed killer. This way, you can be sure that the weed killer will work. Also, remember that if it rains or snows within two days after applying an herbicide, your application was likely ineffective, and you may need to re-treat.
- You’re treating your lawn with the wrong selective herbicide: Contact herbicides spray the weed’s leaves with chemicals. The weed will die within about three days after coming into contact with the chemical spray. On the other hand, systemic herbicides get absorbed by the weed’s roots and travel through its entire system before killing it from the inside out. So if you want to make sure that every part of your weed dies, go for a systemic herbicide.
Consider Professional Weed Control
A balding landscape, thick weeds, or brown and damaged grass can all be signs you need a professional lawn care service quickly. Some homeowners with healthy lawns also elect to work with a lawn care professional because they want their attractive property to remain in top condition.
With a team of lawn care experts at your side, you can avoid damaging your lawn as well as provide your foliage with the consistent care it needs. Most lawn care services provide regular, complete treatments. TruGreen‘s natural lawn care plan, for example, provides both natural fertilizer for grass growth and hand-delivered organic weed killer every four to six weeks.
When choosing a professional weed control service, check their plans, pricing, and calendar. A top professional company will offer you package deals along with à la carte services. They will also organize a regular treatment schedule for your yard—and do it all for a fair price. Be sure to get quotes from at least two companies to ensure you are choosing the best plan for your lawn.
Every lawn deserves high-quality care, but maintaining a sharp, elegant landscape requires time and attention. You need to spread fertilizer, use herbicides, apply mulch, mow, rake, till, dethatch, aerate, resod, reseed, and water your grass. That’s a lot of hard work.
While DIY plans may be efficient for smaller yards or for people with time on their hands, we generally recommend talking to a high-quality professional lawn care company. And if you’re facing a lawn full of weeds right now, you may need a team of qualified experts to help you out.
Lawn Full of Weeds FAQ
How do I know when my lawn needs to be watered?
The grass is always greener where it’s watered. Gray, dull green, or brown grass clearly signifies your lawn is thirsty. If you can’t tell for sure by looking at your grass, try walking on it. Do the grass stems spring back up after you step on them? If they don’t, it’s time to water.
Why does my lawn have so many weeds?
Weeds sprout up in lawns for lots of different reasons. You may have either overwatered or underwatered your grass. Possibly, you cut the lawn too deeply. Grassy weeds sprout up in lawns where the grass is kept under 2 inches high.
What is the best way to get rid of weeds in a lawn?
The answer depends on how many weeds you have. Just a few sprigs and sprouts? You can try spraying them with vinegar—or another natural herbicide—or dig them up by hand. If you’re dealing with a large expanse of weeds, however, it’s probably best to get a professional on your side right away.