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How do you get rid of lawn weeds?
April 30, 2005 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Due to a surprisingly large amount of rain in the past few months, my lawn is absolutely bursting with weeds. What do I do?

I've got a beautiful house in a beautiful neighboorhood, but my lawn looks like what you'd expect to find in a white trash trailer park. I've got dandelions, little spiky things, big tall things, weird foreign grasses, the whole shebang. It looks terrible.

I guess I could use Round-Up, but I'm not sure if that will kill the grass as well. I've tried pulling them up, but we all know how well that works in practice.

So, short of pouring concrete over the whole annoying mess, what can I do to salvage my once-attractive lawn?
posted by oissubke to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Round up will kill anything it touches.

Start with weed'n feed, from any number of suppliers (Scott's). These are just mostly high nitrogen mixes with some herbicides.

Mind you, this is a quick fix. You could get more thorough and invest a little more time and energy into thatching and re-seeding.

Use a broadcast spreader, not a drop-spreader, or you'll leave linear marks in the yard where you didn't overlap.
posted by docpops at 10:36 PM on April 30, 2005


Given that you're in the southwest you might want to consider going Xeric. More info here, here, here, and here.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:00 PM on April 30, 2005


A stronger herbicide like RoundUp isn't necessary, it just works faster and lasts longer in the soil. The grass-safe herbicides are appropriate anywhere you have things you want to keep, and work fine unless you're really lazy.

The dandelions are critical, especially if they've gone yellow. If you don't kill them soon they'll seed all over your yard. Get one of the larger (e.g. half gallon, gallon) containers of weed killer (not weed & grass killer, e.g. RoundUp), with an integrated spray handle, and walk around your yard for half an hour or so every day for a week. Spray the dandelion leaves, so the chemical gets into the plant and kills the root. If you see any going to seed, snip and bag the head before it's ready to open up again. In more obvious areas you may want to be more aggressive, using one of the long-stemmed weed diggers to get it out by the root, but spraying is reasonably effective. For most other weeds, you don't need to bother so much about potential seed, but the leaf is still the target to hit.

With all the growth due to rain you may not want to weed and feed, so to speak, so using a smaller bottle of concentrated grass-safe herbicide with a hose sprayer can cover the entire yard fairly quickly. You'll probably want to do this a couple more times this year.

Now modify your lawn care. You're probably cutting the grass the wrong height and frequency. If you cut the grass too short, it is weakened and unable to resist weeds (which get more light than they should). If you wait too long between trims, the amount you cut off is too much and weakens the plant, the long grass trimmings can cover up growing grass, and you get more plant growth at the expense of root growth. Try to cut to a slightly higher height (2.5-3" is generally good), more often, and your lawn will begin to get its legs back. The best defense against weeds is healthy turf.

Then, this fall, give it a winterizer appropriate for your area. Grass continues to grow over the winter, and a winterizer helps root growth. In the spring, give it a fertilizer with crabgrass preventer, before it begins to come up. You might end up with some bare areas; when it's warm enough, properly till and seed them.
posted by dhartung at 12:46 AM on May 1, 2005 [4 favorites]


Without changing your lawn, you can make it look much better by first changing your thinking. Dandelions, for instance, are beautiful little yellow flowers that become beautiful little puff balls, and you can make dandelion wine. Uniformly cut square swaths of grass with nothing else mixed in are for folk who belong inside with easy listening music and wall-to-wall carpeting.

But for a Mesa yard, Xeriscaping or something similar is probably the best way to go. Make an attractive mixed environment that is easy to take care of and that consumes little water (costs you little time or money in the long run).
posted by pracowity at 12:53 AM on May 1, 2005


We do not use weed killer on our lawn and have few problems with weeds. In the spring I attack the dandelions by hand with a little device that lets me just step on it and then pull the dandelion out by the root. If the soil is moist it works pretty well. Any other weed infestations I take out by hand before they get well established. By keeping the lawn well fed on organic fertilizers the grass just pushes most of the weeds out. We do have plenty of clover, but I am fine with that, it helps to fix nitrogen into the soil. It takes a little more effort, and your lawn will never really be weed free, but you can keep a fairly weedless lawn organically if you want. On the other hand, broadleaf weed killers do work well.
posted by caddis at 1:58 AM on May 1, 2005


Dandelions are a crop if you wish to make dandelion jelly, known as cramaillot de pissenlit.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:17 AM on May 1, 2005


For a organic resource try North Country Organics.
posted by flummox at 5:27 AM on May 1, 2005


There's honestly no substitute for several hours with a pair of these and one of these. Chemicals help, but you're going to need to spend a few weekends dividing your yard into zones and assassinating the little buggers.
posted by kavasa at 8:16 AM on May 1, 2005


I'm a big fan of xeric landscaping, but sometimes you need a space for the kids to play.
posted by mecran01 at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2005


I would hold off on eating the dandelions unless you are absolutely sure of what has been put on your lawn in the past.

BTW, thanks for all the good advice. I'm off to work in the garden!
posted by terrapin at 9:00 AM on May 1, 2005


Good advice upthread - especially caddis and kavasa. I've not had much success with herbicides such as Roundup unless used in gravelled areas, etc. It's easy to spread the poison by walking through it and tracking it into areas where you don't want to stuff to die. And, in the long run, total vegetation killer works better for that kind of application.

Similar to the xeriscape suggestion - buffalo grass is nice. I find it a very attractive grass. It's easy-ish to grow and low maintenance once established. I saw it used a lot in South Texas so it will probably be okay in Arizona. I tried to find a good picture through Google with no luck.
posted by deborah at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2005


we've got grasses sneaking up through our mulch we put down last summer... recommendations for organic weed/grass killers?
posted by specialk420 at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2005


You've bought into the lawncare industry's idea of what the space around your house ought to look like. Calling a plant a "weed", to my mind, is like calling some animals "varmints" because they aren't good to eat, or do like to eat our gardens, or in some way compete with humans. Learn to love a little variety in your lawn.
posted by Hobgoblin at 11:37 AM on May 1, 2005


Late to the party, but I had come across this article ages ago, and it really made sense to me. I had worked my way through university taking care of and cutting lawns, and a lot of his points really ring true. Plus, I like the anti-chemical approach. If you have kids, or even if their are neighbourhood kids or pets, the reading I have done really suggests avoiding killex and its ilk.
posted by Richat at 3:29 PM on May 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


Nice article Richat. These are the things we do to keep our lawn looking pretty good without chemicals. We could probably use that foot and a half of topsoil - someday when the budget permits.
posted by caddis at 5:12 PM on May 1, 2005


sweet...just got through my first round of digging out dandelions...I guess I'm not totally off base. great article Richat.

does anyone know if it's safe to put dandelions in the compost pile, assuming they haven't yet gone to seed? also, will the remaining root I left in the ground regenerate?
posted by jacobsee at 6:45 PM on May 1, 2005


ou've bought into the lawncare industry's idea of what the space around your house ought to look like. Calling a plant a "weed", to my mind, is like calling some animals "varmints" because they aren't good to eat, or do like to eat our gardens, or in some way compete with humans. Learn to love a little variety in your lawn.

sigh. that's really not in the spirit of askmefi, in my opinion.
posted by glenwood at 7:03 PM on May 1, 2005


Yes, anything you pull from your yard will go well in a compost pile, provided it's cooking right. It should get very warm >120F in the center of your pile. What the heat doesn't kill, the microbes will. Then, take your compost and spread it lightly over your lawn. Rake gently to settle.

I throw all kinds of weeds into mine, as well as any green scraps from the kitchen. Oh! and don't forget eggshells. They are good for the compost, and your lawn, too.
posted by kc0dxh at 7:03 AM on May 2, 2005


Similar to the xeriscape suggestion - buffalo grass is nice. I find it a very attractive grass. It's easy-ish to grow and low maintenance once established.

Buffalo grass is not supposed to wear well under traffic. I've also noticed that some rye grasses and fescues have almost identical water requirements.

/happy to be proven wrong on this
posted by mecran01 at 7:06 AM on May 2, 2005


I throw all kinds of weeds into mine

any weeds to avoid in the compost? what about morning glory?

i have this paranoia that I'm going to be seeding weeds all over the place whereever I spread compost.
posted by jacobsee at 8:39 AM on May 2, 2005


I feel your pain oissubke, my lawn isn't all that healthy so I fight weeds a lot. It is important to be vigilant I've found. My neighbour to the east just mows over the dandelions and my neighbour to the west doesn't have any. There was a definite progression of frequency of new dandelions east to west before I started using a spot application grass safe weed killer. Now there is a clear demarcation between my east neighbour's lawn and mine and the majority of new weeds I get with in a few metres of east neighbour.

Check your bylaws before allowing your lawn to become a safe haven for dandelions. Many places, including here, classify them as noxious weeds and you can be ticketed for not suppressing them.
posted by Mitheral at 9:08 AM on May 2, 2005


I put the weeds I pull into a black garbage bag, and leave it in the sun for a few weeks. Then I dump it on the compost pile. This starts the decomposition, and makes sure my compost pile doesn't turn into yet another home for Creeping Charlie, morning glory or anything else that grows faster than I can pull.
posted by QIbHom at 2:35 PM on May 2, 2005


wow, that's a good idea. i will probably still try to aviod anything that looks like a dry seed that could survive the compost though...
posted by jacobsee at 4:49 PM on May 2, 2005


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