Weeds overtaking my lawn

ephyfe(7)July 17, 2011

I recently bought a property and the lawn looks pretty bad, one of the worst in the neighborhood. In the backyard I get quite a bit of morning shade since the area backs to the woods. I do get late morning to mid afternoon sun. In the backyard the weeds are doing fine and the grass looks like it's dying in the heat of the summer. I was thinking of putting part shade, part sun grass mix in the backyard. I don't know if I should wait until mid September and use a spreader to lay it down. Is it a good idea to spread grass seed on the weeds and brown grass? The front yard look better but is getting worse with clover and other weeds growing more vigorously. I did the Scotts weed and feed once but it looks like it did very little. I might get a lawn care specialist to spray the lawn next. I'm not sure where to start. Help is appreciated.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

To get a good answer we'll need to know where you live. The solution in Miami would be different from the solution in Anchorage.

The basic way to keep weeds away is proper care. That includes weekly watering about an inch, all at one time. It also includes weekly mowing. Finally it includes regular fertilizer in the late spring and fall. You can use organic fertilizer all year round but chemical fertilizers should only be used when temps are cooler.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:38AM
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i live near the philadelphia area. I was thinking of getting lawn doctor in but I honestly don't know if that'll help. The Scotts weed and feed is $50 a bag and the professionals are only $75. If you can give me some advice I would appreciate it.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 8:57PM
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You do NOT want a weed and feed product, especially right now! With the heat coming on in the next few days, you do not want to apply ANY herbicides to your lawn. Really, the only thing you want to put on your lawn right now is water. Yes, you are also watering the weeds; but that is the lesser of the evils in this heat.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 10:14PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

You can't put out any seed now but you can learn a lot. Yes, mid Sept would be fine for new seed. In the mean time, do this...

  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.

If you want to speed up the process of improving your soil, you can apply organic fertilizer every week until you run out of budget for it. Milorganite is going on sale all over for $8 per bag. Use that and you may never use Scott's again. With an organic fertilizer you will not get an immediate green up but in 3 weeks you will notice it.

If you have fescue, and with shade you will need fescue, the density of the turf depends on how many grass plants you have. You want to do a good job of seeding in the fall. Do some reading about renovations here and in other lawn care forums for the next few weeks and come back here with more questions. I would not do anything, though, until you have a plan "approved" by the guys and gals here. Too often the first thing you do screws it up for the next three years.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:05PM
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Thanks very much for the help.

"Mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower"

So I will cut my grass on the highest setting without the bag being on. In a couple weeks I'll cut the grass at the normal height.

"Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once"

So I'll turn the sprinkler on for an hour and move it so the entire lawn gets watered.

"Milorganite is going on sale all over for $8 per bag"

Price is right. I was wondering if I can use my Scotts spreader to put this organic fertilizer down?

I also wonder about the weeds which are really taking over. Won't they grew better also if I do the above things? I was thinking of getting Lawn Doctor in but does anyone think I can get rid of the weeds myself?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:44PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

For fescue, the highest setting is the one to use almost all the time. That is the normal height unless you are seeding. For Kentucky bluegrass, then 3 inches is the right height for most of the year.

The very best way to figure out the watering is to use tuna or cat food cans. Place several in the yard, turn on the sprinkler, and check your watch. When one of them fills with water you have applied one inch. The time it takes to fill that can is the time you should START with when watering. It could be that with your soil conditions, shade, and many other factors you will not need to water that long. But that is the place to start. Then keep an eye on the grass for the next week to see if it dries out. If it does, then water immediately but add 10 minutes to the time. If it does not dry out in a week, you can back off a few minutes.

You can use a Scott's spreader. The Milorganite label might tell you the setting. Otherwise apply 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. This requires you to measure your yard to figure out how much to apply.

Yes the weeds will grow better. In fact healthy weeds are easier to kill than sickly weeds. Assuming you want to kill them, spot-spray them individually with a product like Weed-B-Gone or WBG for Clover, etc. At this time of year the overspray from the WBG products could hurt the real grass, so try to get in close with the sprayer.

If crabgrass is your big weed, I would not suggest fighting it. Just let it run its course this season. Crabgrass is a summer annual weed and is very well adapted to hot conditions. Being an annual it will die completely this fall. It must regenerate in the spring from seed. Your lawn will have plenty of crabgrass seed (assuming you have it) but that does not automatically mean you will have it again next year. By doing steps 1 and 2 above, you will seriously hurt crabgrass' ability to come back. But again, if you have a fescue lawn, you should overseed it in the fall to make it as dense as you can. If you have Kentucky bluegrass, then you will not need to overseed. All you do with that is water, mow, and feed. And feeding more with Milorganite now can make a huge difference in making it dense and green for you by the end of summer.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:21PM
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Any chance that you could post a couple of pictures of the weeds you are inquiring about? It would help with identifying the weeds, which will help determine the correct course of action for controlling the weeds. You can definitely handle the weeds yourself with good advice from this forum. Most importantly right now, do not apply herbicides in this heat. You will toast your grass if you do.

You want to control weeds when they are actively growing, so by doing the things as suggested above by dchall, your weeds will grow better and that will be the right condition for getting optimum control of the weeds.

Yes, you can use your Scotts spreader for applying organic fertilizer. The Milorganite bag should have the correct setting for your spreader.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:36PM
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This is so incredibly helpful. I just want to say thx to DChall.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 11:55AM
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Yeah, me too. Thanks dchall!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 12:37PM
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here's pics of my backyard and it ain't pretty. The front yard is better but has a lot of clover and weedy types of grasses. I am going to mow mulch the lawn and am watering it. Will add some organice fertilzer but need some help getting rid of the weeds. Too many weeds for nailing each one with weedbegone. There are probably over a thousand weeds. Thanks

Here is a link that might be useful: lawn

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 2:36PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

15 yard penalty for not explaining the extent of the issue up front. I know you tried but really, words cannot convey what a few pictures can.

Start with water and fertilizer. The point of this approach is to get a healthy stand of weeds and grass as fast as practical. Then kill the weeds. Some weeds will not take up the Weed-B-Gone unless they are healthy. More on the Weed-B-Gone below.

Overdo the organic fertilizer. Have you read the Organic Lawn Care FAQ over on the Organic Gardening forum? I would start with 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet of soybean meal or alfalfa pellets. Repeat in 3 weeks.

Watering is your critical issue. That soil does not look like it is going to absorb quickly without runoff. That means a lot of light watering with lots of pauses in between. Start by misting the soil and moving fast to another place. Eventually work your way back to the starting spot and water a little longer. Or you might try using a soaker hose in the places that are small and hard to get to.

I have a killer soaker hose approach for you. Stretch the soaker out so that it is at least 18 inches away from itself. That means no coiling on top of itself. Just run it back and forth leaving 18 inches between the 'rows.' Try to keep the hose at parallel contours so that it does not have a low spot. Then turn on the faucet to a trickle. A trickle at the faucet means 1 cup per minute. I realize this is barely a leak and you have a long hose but this method will startle you as to the effectiveness. Leave that faucet running for a full week, day and night. At the end of a week if you have not covered the entire lawn with soaker hose, then move it over 18 inches and start again. When you finish covering the entire yard with the soaker, start again back at the beginning. By the way, this soaker hose does NOT take the place of regular watering. What it does is soften your soil so that it will absorb moisture quickly.

The point of this is to get everything (weeds and all) growing and healthy. Some of the weeds will die out quickly because they cannot tolerate regular moisture or fertilizer. The rest will become healthy enough to die quickly when you hit it with the Weed-G-Gone.

To summarize what I am saying: cultivate your weeds with the best lawn care practices (listed way above). Do this for six weeks or so. Then get some Weed-B-Gone with clover killer. Instead of a hand spray, get the one the connects to you hose. You can cover the entire yard in a few minutes. In fact it is so easy and fast you have to be careful not to overdo it. Some of the weeds will die seemingly overnight. Others will require another dose in a week. What you will be left with is grass and grassy weeds. I will not go so far as to say you will be out of the woods at that point, but it will be much easier to evaluate. My fear is you have some creeping bentgrass in there. That is a tenacious plant. It can be a nice...

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 3:26PM
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David thanks for the expertise and the informative detailed messages. nearandest thanks a lot for the great advice also. I can tell there's many on these boards with great expertise. I know about ornamentals but almost zero about grass. I'm reading and learning.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 11:40PM
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Newbe here. How to see pics from ephyfe? Sounds like same problem we have. I'd put some up but don't see how. I no
longer have space on a serving host.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 2:58PM
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I cannot see pictures either - what do we need to do to see pictures? I live in Nebraska and also am fighting a yard full of weeds, but right now temps are 92-98 daily, so not spraying at all now. Trying to water and pull some, but???? I also have what has been identified as "windmill grass" a perennial grass and I cannot get rid of it. Any ideas on that one? We plan to overseed the whole lawn this fall and fertilize to try to thicken up the grass, but we are struggling with 1/2 acre of mess!!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 5:33PM
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The third post above bacaruda is a post from ephyfe that has a link to the pictures of his lawn.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:05PM
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