denelaMay 25, 2011

I'm in Texas, have a small front lawn of mostly weeds, several varieties. Lawn faces due west.

Next door to the north is a large lot of mostly weeds, which the owner occasionally mows.

As I refuse to use any chemicals and have treated some weeds with vinegar (it works!), someone came out and said it's going to be pretty impossible to get my lawn weed-free (even IF we applied chemical weed-killers) because the seeds from the lot blow right into my yard, as winds are often from the north or west. And when they mow, the weed cuttings are blown right over here!

I believe this is true because the opposite side of the lawn which is shielded by the house is very green grass.

So what I've about decided to do is just go out there and pour on about 3 bags of grass seeds, water, and hope it grows and overtakes the weeds.

My question is this: On the bags of these "quick grow" seeds which are a mix of different grasses, it says it provides "temporary" grass cover - what does that mean?

Does it mean the grass won't grow back in next year? But it WILL cover nicely this year?

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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

Its mostly annual ryegrass. It will grow up very fast, probably wont over take the weeds and then die this fall. It wont come back.

Now just hear me out. Research how safe Glyphosate (roundup) is; it breaks down very fast in soil and is very low toxicity.
Spray this down and it will kill every thing. Then sod the yard with your choice of grass. If you are willing to water, go with something that comes in very, very thick like zoysia.
Other than that, you will never rid your lawn of weeds. Once you get your lawn established, then practice chemical free.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 8:21PM
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"As I refuse to use any chemicals and have treated some weeds with vinegar (it works!),"

That would be the acetic acid I believe.

I just sprayed some weed-killer on a few tuff spots yesterday, and could not over-come the very strong vinegar odour. I almost wanted to drink it, it was that strong, (lol).

I wish I could do more chemical work here, but there is a city by-law which bands any sort of pesticides or weed killers, so I've had to sneak in a few little treatments here and there in patches.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 6:46AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Planting grass by seed in Texas in May is an immediate waste of time, money, and will lead you deeper into a frustrating lawn experience. Even grass seed planted in March here is a serious problem. Why? Because the tender grass roots will not live through the heat. Then by applying water to germinate the grass seed, you will also germinate ALL the weed seed at the exact same time. When the grass is dying, the weeds will be taking off. The weeds are annual plants specifically tuned by Mother Nature to sustain through the summer heat. The grass seed you are thinking of is not.

Secondly, there is one grass seed that is appropriate for Texas and that is bermuda. It does not sound like you have a bermuda lawn or else you would not have the weed problems. Or you might have a bermuda base but just have not applied enough water AND fertilizer to keep it looking good.

Bermuda looks best when mowed 2x per week to one inch high or thereabouts depending somewhat on the variety. If you want it to look nice it needs weekly water (about an inch all at one time), and monthly fertilizer all during the growing season.

If you have St Augustine, then things are considerably different. Water is still one inch per week but you mow it at 4 inches (highest setting you can get), you can mow it weekly or skip a week, and fertilize once about now and again at Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

When you do the above, you should not have a weed problem in either type of lawn. That is all it takes - no herbicides needed. The seeds that blow in from your neighbor will be inconsequential if you take care of your lawn. The weeds in my neighbor's improperly cared for lawn stop dead right at the edge of my tall grass. I have not used herbicide since around 2000. There are a few tenacious weeds which I have to pull by hand but if you catch them early, you can pluck them out before they spread.

Please write back and tell us where you live. From swamps to desert, mountains to coast, Texas is far too big to give specific advice without homing in on your location. Also what do you want to do with the lawn (play on it, look at it, dogs, etc.)? And are you willing to water it once a week for as long as it takes? And if you can post a picture of the lawn it would help a lot.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 8:41AM
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Thanks for the info . . .

I'm in the DFW metro area - no idea what grass is here, looks like a mix, along with the varities of weeds. It has a lot of crabgrass (that is what spreads in long strands all over the lawn?).

I hired an individual just to mow as I cannot keep up with it myself. Am considering having a service take over but I've been warned to be careful about TruGreen or Scott's, etc. because they may - or may NOT - do a good job and it is very expensive and requires many treatments to the lawn (or so they'll tell you).

My husband always took care of the lawn, so this is new territory for me - and frankly, is quite frustrating.

I just want the lawn to look well-manicured and at least relatively green. Live in an HOA, so they will send "reminders" around about weeds in a yard, (although they don't enforce many of the defined guidelines).

I got out the other day and spent about 2 hours with one of those weed poppers - they work great, but when it was all said and done, it didn't look like I'd done much at all. I just flat refuse to use Roundup or anything chemical. And I've heard that all the homemade remedies for lush, green lawns do not work. SIGH.

Would you recommend that I just call a professional service and have them take over? What would they likely do at this point in the season?

Or do you think I can do this myself?

(Would provide a pic, but it's dark already)


    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 10:41PM
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jjfrisco(8a TX)

Danela - I'm going to assume your mix of a lawn actually has some grass, and you havent had some sort of total grass kill from disease, drought, etc. If that is the case, you want to promote your grass. Since you are in Dallas, your grass will spread and fill in bare spots and start to take over weeds. Here is what I would do:

1. Dont seed, focus on the grass that is already living in your yard.
2. Make sure your lawn guy mows weekly. Grass is meant to be mowed, weeds are not.
3. Feed your lawn every 2 months in the spring & summer. You said you dont want chemicals, and there are tons of good organic fertilizers out there. To keep it simple, go to Lowes and get a bag of Milorganite and put it down. If not Lowes, Home Depot has Scotts Organic Choice Lawn Food.
4. Dont use any chemicals, including vinegar on your lawn. The vinegar you are using kills grass too.
5. Keep up with the weed popper. Its a great non-chemical solution, but a pain in the butt. Keep in mind that every weed you pull, you are also preventing it from producing weed seeds and future weeds to pull. If you do 2 hours a week for the entire season, you will be amazed and how it looks by August.

If you are still reading, this step is the most important behind the weekly mowing.
6. Water deeply, when there is no rain. Grass doesnt need that much water, I still havent turned on my sprinklers for the year. When you do need to water, you want to water deeply so that the grass roots get the water and the shallower weed roots dont get enough water. In a Texas summer you want to simulate an inch of rainfall a week with your sprinklers. Figure out how long you have to run your sprinklers to get an inch. I put shallow bowls in my yard and figured out it is about a 45mins to an hour per station. If you dont have automatic spriklers, it will probably be 1 1/2 hours per spot.
Once you have figured out how much to water to get 1 inch of water, give your grass 1 inch of water a week in a single day. Adjust for any rain you received that week.
You also want to keep an eye on your sprinklers to make sure an area is not saturated. If you notice water running off the yard and down the street, stop (or move to the next station), let the water soak in and then continue watering to get 1 inch of water.

If you do the above, you should have a pretty good yard by the end of the summer, without a ton of work, $ or chemicals. The following years will be much easier. If you really get into it the following years, we can help you worry about cutting height, specific problem areas, etc and get your lawn looking like a golf course. For now, just worry about the basics above. Good luck and hope that helps.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:05AM
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Hi jjfrisco!

Thanks so much for the reply . . .

First off, I actually went ahead and seeded (with two bags of that quick grow mix) after I made my first post . . . so not sure what that's going to do.

But your post has alleviated some of my worry about the lawn because you make it seem like the grass will indeed spread and overtake the weeds - especially if I continue to use the weed popper. I'd posted on another forum and a few posters said NO WAY will grass smother out the weeds and that the only thing I could do is use something like Roundup and then I wouldn't have any grass for the spring or summer.

Ok, first thing is I'm going to Lowe's to get the Milorganite - I went to the company website and read about the product and it appears Memorial Day is one of the specified times to apply it, and I like that it's organic. So thanks for that suggestion!

I'll continue to use the weed popper, see about getting the guy to mow weekly instead of every two weeks, and will water deeply.

Thank you so much for your courteous and helpful reply.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 2:34PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Oh my. Denela, let's start with the basics. Lawn care is really easy and organic lawn care is easier yet. Why organic? Because you don't have to worry about whether you used too much of this or not enough of that. It is very hard to make a mistake and very easy to have the best lawn on the block. Cost per season for organic is about the same as cost per season for a full chemical program. You just need to know the details. Here we go...

Just to start, the long runner grass you describe is more likely to be St Augustine or bermuda and not crabgrass. You need to have that identified but I don't want to dwell on that. Let's look at the basics of watering, mowing, and fertilizing. Easy schmeezy.

  1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

  1. Mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. Bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses are the most dense when mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. Dense grass shades out weeds and uses less water when tall. Dense grass feeds the deep roots you're developing in 1 above.
  1. Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 4 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above.

Go to the GardenWeb Organic Gardening forum and find the FAQs. At the bottom of the list is the one for organic lawn care. Read that for directions on an inexpensive approach to lawn care. Milorganite is not in my FAQ for two reasons: too expensive and too much heavy metal in it. If I can get excellent fertilizer with no metals for 1/6 to 1/3 the cost, I'll do that.

I think once you have the FAQ under your belt and get on a proper program for watering, mowing, and fertilizing, you will relax. Forget about grass seed south of the Red River. Focus on either St Augustine or bermuda, which ever one you have the most of. I find St Aug very easy to handle. Bermuda seems to be considerably more work than I want to put into a lawn.

A picture would be helpful. Posting pix here requires a little techno-know how but it can be done. If you could show us the long runner grass we can probably identify it and tune up these general recommendations.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:32PM
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jjfrisco(8a TX)

I wouldnt worry too much about the seeds you put down. They might sprout, but I give them little shot at surviving a Texas summer.

Just keep up with regular mowing, watering, and feeding so that your grass can outcompete the weeds. Southern grasses will do this because they grow up and send out runners to spread. You likely got advice from a yank... I mean someone with Northern grass that does not spread as well.

It would be nice to know what your dominant grass is, but the advice really is the same at this point. It likely is Bermuda (fine blades) or St. Augustine (wider bladed).

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 12:50AM
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