Dandelion, crabgrass and a host of other weeds continually attempt to blemish our otherwise beautiful lawns. Unfortunately, weeds are master propagators. Left alone, they will rapidly spread, and more will return each year. This guide will help you identify some of the most common weeds in our area and learn how to stop or at least minimize their assault.
The Problem: Most of us learned to recognize these ubiquitous weeds with their zig-zag leaves during childhood, when we made wishes before blowing the fluffy seed balls off the stems. Those wind-blown seeds, of course, are how the weeds spread, so it’s important to eradicate the plants from our lawns before the yellow flowers close up and go to seed.
The Solution: Prevention is best. Applying a pre-emergent annually in late winter, before soil temperatures reach 55°F, will prevent new plants from germinating.
Existing plants can be removed manually, preferably in the spring when the plants are young and after a rain when the soil is wet. Use a weeding tool to pull the full taproot, which is surprisingly long. Any piece of the taproot left in the ground will regenerate.
Spot treatment of dandelions with a broad-leaf herbicide can be effective, but avoid use near ornamentals. Multiple applications may be necessary to thoroughly eradicate these hearty plants.
The Problem: Broad egg-shaped leaves grow from the center of this low-growing plant and send up seeded spikes. Plantain prefers bare spots in lawns, and its seeds are the only means of propagation. It thrives in compacted soil and clay, and tolerates higher acidic levels than grasses.
The Solution: Remove existing plants by hand or with a weed puller after a rain when the soil is wet. Plantain can be stubborn and difficult to pull, but unlike dandelions, it won’t regenerate from leftover roots. Compost and over-seed the bare spot to encourage grass and discourage future weeds.
If you have a healthy crop of plantain, you most likely have a soil problem. Do a soil test and follow the recommendations for amendments. If you have a preponderance of clay or an area compacted by foot or vehicle traffic, aerate the soil and then add a layer of compost and patch with fresh sod.
The Problem: Crabgrass is a prevalent grassy weed that can produce up to 150,000 seeds per plant. Some of the seeds germinate the following year, while others remain dormant, germinating up to several years later. Once crabgrass is present, it will likely continue to reappear.
The Solution: Pre-emergent herbicide applied in late winter—every winter—is the best defense to stop the prolific seeds from germinating. Since crabgrass is an annual, this year’s plants will die in the winter and will not return, but regular mowing is crucial to minimize seed production from existing plants.
Wild Onion and Garlic
The Problem: The bane of many homeowners, the tall green stalks of these winter weeds stand in stark contrast to the golden brown of dormant warm season grasses. The slender stalks also make wild onion and garlic difficult to treat, since there is little surface area for herbicides to take hold.
The Solution: Mow regularly to keep existing plants from going to seed. After a rain when the soil is wet, manually remove weeds by grabbing them near the soil line and pulling slowly. It’s important to get all the bulbs that lie underneath the soil to prevent new plants from sprouting.
If the stalks break or if pulling is too difficult, use a sharp long-handled spade to dig up the plants and their bulbs.
Of course the best weapon against most weed types is to grow healthy, vigorous grass. Test and amend your soil, choose the right sod, mow at the right height, water sufficiently, and fertilize properly so your lush lawn will crowd out weeds before they even have a chance to start.
Pre-emergent herbicide applied in spring and fall will stop most any weeds that might otherwise infiltrate your healthy lawn. Our experts are available to suggest the best options for your lawn. Give us a call or drop us a line at 770.832.8606 or email info@NGTurf.com.