Weeds-what to do

dave0173May 12, 2014

Hello all,

I live in MA, and my lawn is in need of help. About 3 weeks ago I put down Jonathan Green Sun and Shade seed and Scotts fertilzer. Well my lawn is green but I have tons of weeds now. My lawn is not thick so the weeds take over. What should I do to get a thick healthy lawn, I really dont care if its lush green but I want to thicken it so it chokes out the weeds. I have not tested the soil. Looks like I also have a slight grub issue. I did put down GrubEx last year and will do so again within the next 3 weeks. But I am failing here at a healthy lawn. I dont want to pay a professional, so if anyone can make suggestions I would greatly appreciated it. I was also thinking of putting down lime?? Seems most people I talk to that have great looking lawns put down the stuff. I was just going to put down weed and feed every 5 weeks to get ahold of my lawn but not sure this is the best route...please help

Thank, Dave

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How large is your property? If it is not too big, you may just want to pull up the weeds as they come.

Since the weeds were not a result of your seeding (in case some batch was bad and it had weeds), then this is just a regular problem with your lawn that you will need to handle, and probably for the next few years, since you'll have to get control of the yard then keep the weeds from growing there again for a few years until your lawn gets more and more lush and thick.

Use the appropriate time-table to apply other weeding products to your lawn throughout the year.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 12:04PM
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The property is about 15000sqft, but there is a house, driveway, flower beds, etc,,,so not really sure about the true yard size, if I use a 5000sqft bag of product, that doesnt get me through so guessing 6000-7500sqft. I spent yesterday pulling them up by hand, but how do I address the clover issue and preventing more going forward. I was thinking of spot spraying the existing weeds, not sure what the best product to put down is going forward to strengthen the lawn

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 12:34PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I disagree with gardenper. I think your current weeds are completely due to your seeding. Spring is the time when summer annual plants sprout. All those annual plants are considered to be weeds when they appear in a lawn. Crabgrass is the one you really have to watch for. In general these summer annual plants are designed by Nature to fill in any bare spots very quickly and leave lots of seed for next year. This is one of the two big reasons why you should not put grass seed down in the spring. In the north, fall is the time to seed new turf. You may as well not worry about the weeds for now. You can fight them all summer with all the time and money you can muster, or you can handle this is in the fall and do it properly.

In the mean time, though, if the clover is giving you the most grief, the product for that is Weed-B-Gone Clover, Chickweed, and Oxalis. All those words must be in big print to get the right product. But since clover reseeds itself like crazy, you will have recurrences of it. Just be patient and respray when you see it pop up again. This WBGCCO product should work on all broadleaf plants and weeds and not harm your grasses or grassy weeds. Be careful not to get overspray on broadleaf plants you want to keep.

In Maine it might be mid August when you should seed your lawn. Use a tool called a dethatcher, vertical rake, verticutter, or slit seeder. All these tools have vertical slicing blades. Set the level for about 1/4 inch deep into the soil and run over everything you want to reseed. Rake or blow off all the fluff you accumulate from that tool and you are ready to go. Seed the seed on top of the slightly loosened soil, roll the seed down with a water fillable roller (rent one), and start watering 3x per day for about 5 minutes each time. The seed needs to be moist all the time until 80% germinates. Then start backing off on the watering.

For long term weed control you need to learn proper lawn care. If you are watering, mowing, and fertilizing right, you should not need herbicides.

Watering is critical to weed control. If you water every day, weed seeds love that. If you water and give the soil a week or more to dry out, weed seeds will never sprout. At that time of year you should continually adjust until you are watering about one inch, all at one time, every 2 weeks. Measure one inch by setting cat food or tuna cans in the yard and time how long your sprinklers take to fill them. It will be somewhere between 20 minutes and 8 hours. You need to know what it is for YOU. That will be the length of time you water every time. This deep watering is necessary to develop deep, drought resistant roots. Then the long interval between watering will allow the surface of the soil to dry completely so no new weed seeds germinate. Letting the soil dry is the main way to prevent weeds "going forward."

Set your mower for the highest setting or one notch lower (your preference) - as long as you are not mowing short. Mulch mow weekly. Short grass allows any weed seedlings to get plenty of sun. If the grass is tall, that shade prevents little seedlings from taking root. Mowing high is the second best defense against weeds in the long term.

If you start seeding in August and by mid September you realize the grass is not very dense, then you still should have time to seed again to fill it in. This is why you start at the very beginning of fall for seeding grass. If your grass is in full sun, then be sure the seed mix has some Kentucky bluegrass in it. KBG naturally grows in very dense, so annual reseeding in the fall is not necessary. Fescue grass will not fill in like KBG. For every fescue seed you get one little plant which gets bigger but does not spread. Fescue does have the advantage of remaining dark green all winter.

You don't have a slight grub issue. How do I know? Because it is too early in the year. You might have issues, but to have grubs this time of year is fairly impossible. The lawn grubs you need to worry about are the larvae of the Japanese beetle and/or the June bug. If you do not see those beetles swarming your porch light in May or June, then you won't have a grub problem. If you do have an infestation of beetles, then you might have an issue. The way to tell is to wait until one month after you see beetles on the lights and then dig up some grass. If you have more than 12 little grubs in one square feet of grass, then you have a problem. if you have fewer than 12, the landscape should be able to regrow faster than those few grubs can chew it up. In other words, don't waste your money polluting your soil with insecticide.

Don't put down lime until you have a good soil test (not from Home Depot) that tells you how much lime to use, when, and what kind (there are two kinds of lime). The best soil test in the country comes from Logan Labs in Ohio. Their $25 test will tell you everything you need to do for your soil. You cannot get a soil test like theirs anywhere and certainly not for $25. If you are intimidated by the idea of reading a chemistry test results, there is another gardening forum where they do just about nothing but discuss Logan Labs test reports.

Since you used GrubEx last year, I would suggest your replenish the microbes you killed with a very light dusting of compost. The application rate is 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. This is a tedious job. The reason I suggest it is a large proportion of the organic matter you need in the soil is microarthropods. Arthropods are insects. Insects are killed by GrubEx. Using insecticide is analogous to killing all the birds in the world at one time. Taking birds out of the food chain would be bad enough, but consider all the good they do keeping insect populations down, cleaning up carrion, reseeding plants from one location to another, and providing valuable fertilizer for us to use on our lawns. Birds, like insects, are extremely important to have in a natural balance. Adding the compost will restore that balance all at one time.

Then follow up the compost with organic fertilizer. The one I like right now is alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow). Cost should be about $12-$15 for a 50-pound bag at your local feed store. Apply at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. I know that sounds crazy, but it really does work. Most of the Internet lawn forum gurus have been using feed store grains for fertilizer for the past 8-10 years. If alfalfa pellets are not available to you, corn meal, flour, cottonseed, soybean meal, and poultry litter fertilizers also work fine. Milorganite is a popular organic fertilizer made from Milwaukee's sewage. It works but not everyone like the idea of using it. Organic fertilizer may be applied any day of the year with no qualms about burning. It does not need to be washed in. It will not wash away. It will take 3 full weeks to see the grass turn dark green and "densify." Any areas you miss will become obvious after 3-4 weeks. Go ahead and hit those spots again. You cannot over apply until you get up to about 80 pounds per 1,000 square feet (smothering it in material).

If you want to use chemical fertilizers instead of organic, apply once in late spring (Memorial Day in Maine). Apply once again on Labor Day. Apply a high nitrogen "winterizer" after the grass stops growing later in the fall - Thanksgiving??? You should not apply chemical fertilizers in the summer. Never use weed n feed products. Instead use fertilizer first and follow up 2 weeks later by spot spraying weeds.

So to summarize how to get a dense turf that resists weeds...
1. Proper watering is critical to weed freedom
2. Proper mowing is almost as critical to help make the turf dense and provide shade on the soil.
3. Proper fertilizing is not nearly as critical as water and mowing but really helps improve grass density.

If you follow these three elements of lawn care, then even though your soil will be filled with weed seeds from this year, they should not be able to germinate next year.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 1:58PM
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