Beginner lawn care help
September 18, 2023 12:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm fairly new to lawn care. Last spring I seeded with tall fescue which grew well, but after the summer, the lawn seems to be almost completely weeds.

Most people here say it is best to plant in the fall, but because it looked so bad I decided to try the spring. After seeding, I watered for 2 weeks but didn't fertilize. It grew well and looked nice. My understanding was that if grass is healthy, it will out compete the weeds. Now at the end of the summer, all I see are different weeds and little grass left (photo). Is it because I didn't fertilize? Too hot for the new grass to survive? Should I try again for a fall seeding? Do I need to use both weed killer and fertilizer? Weed and feed? I prefer not to for environmental reasons, but I am open to it if I absolutely need to. I'm not looking for a perfect lawn, but just some decent looking grass without having to spend a lot of time and money. I don't want to have the same thing again and waste money on seeds and water. I'm in Zone 8a.

I'm open to other options as well for a low cost, low maintenance lawn. I understand that clover lawns are a thing, but it seems expensive an a little unattractive. Any advice?
posted by roaring beast to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Mine is a sheep farmer's perspective rather than a lawn person's perspective, but I am also in the business of growing grass. Generally, weeds like disturbed soil and they like fertile soil. And there are weed seeds everywhere. So any fresh planting is likely to grow a lot of weeds along with whatever seeds you added. Weeds are highly competitive. However, most weeds don't like to be mowed, but grass does like to be mowed, thanks to co-evolution with grazing animals. So just continuing to mow normally should discourage the weeds and encourage the grass over time, and eventually the grass will be thick enough that there won't be so much opportunity for weeds to find a spot. Also for what it's worth, your photo looks nice enough to me -- as long as it's green and leafy and not prickly, and you can mow it, what's not to like? ;)
posted by Rhedyn at 12:39 PM on September 18 [6 favorites]

Clover seeds are cheap! When you're over-seeding this fall you can spread some clover seeds along with the grass seeds and it'll help fill up the patches and hopefully outcompete the weeds.

As far as weeds are concerned I'd say to just pull out the ones you notice. Over time a healthy lawn will outcompete most of them so pull out the big ones and be patient for the rest. My lawn is pretty shabby but it is also pretty weed free.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:16 PM on September 18

. So just continuing to mow normally should discourage the weeds and encourage the grass over time, and eventually the grass will be thick enough that there won't be so much opportunity for weeds to find a spot.

This is pretty much true. Grass can outcompete weeds with normal mowing and care throughout the season, when the spreading grass outcompetes the weeds. Early on in the season, grass may lie dormant longer than certain weeds, so you can pre-treat with anti-weed poison, but if you are ok with waiting and regular watering (if it doesn't rain enough) and regular mowing, you should be fine. Remember a lawn is forever -no need to rush out to do anything.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:09 PM on September 18

We do not maintain a huge green lawn, but do so with heartier alternatives from PT's; we use a mix of clover and other plants. YMMV, but I find them quite attractive, and they are pollinator friendly, in some regions. Clover and similar also seems to be notably more drought tolerant. In areas where we have overseeded with not-real-grass, we have zero weed problems.

Compared to walking on 'thicker' grasses like fescue, I far prefer clover and their buddies.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:35 PM on September 18

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far. Very helpful! In this case, would fertilizing help the grass grow more, or would it just help the weeds grow? I already bought fertilizer, but never put it down. :(
posted by roaring beast at 4:44 PM on September 18

Fertilizer would work best for lawn grass if applied in the fall. Applying fertilizer in the spring and summer feeds the weeds along with the grass so it is discouraged.
posted by coldhotel at 8:17 PM on September 18

FWIW, a clover lawn only works if you live in a place where clover will live through the winter. I seeded my lawn with clover for many years, and only realized recently that's why my lawn is a mud pit for ~4 months out of the year.
posted by waldo at 12:01 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]

Also clover doesn't stand up to foot traffic as well as grass. Just some walking on it is fine but my wife and kids play volleyball in our backyard and it totally destroyed the clover while the grass did a bit better. We'll be over seeding grass in those areas and a mix for the rest this fall.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:08 PM on September 19

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