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Win The War On Weeds

When you’re serious about creating a healthy, beautiful lawn, weeds are plants out of place. Their colors and textures stand in stark contrast to those of your chosen grass, detracting from the lawn’s visual beauty. Worse, weeds compete with grass for nutrients and water—often resulting in a thinner lawn that’s more vulnerable to insects and disease.

Fortunately, it’s possible to keep weeds from overrunning your lawn. And it starts by knowing your enemy. Correctly identifying weeds can help you put together a winning game plan to banish them from your turf. A wealth of resources including books, charts and online materials is available to help you I.D. undesirable plants. County extension agents are also a big help.

Weed control methods are many. While a chemical blitzkrieg may be a tempting first course of action, “cultural” options are the most effective long-term solutions. Such controls can include raising (or lowering) mowing height, changing the frequency of mowing, lengthening (or shortening) the period between irrigations, increasing (or decreasing) the application of fertilizer, and aerating the soil.

The goal is maintaining a dense, vigorously growing lawn that can repel invaders on its own. In fact, experts agree that killing weeds without correcting the underlying problem is like bailing water from a sinking boat without plugging the hole in the hull.

For example, a knotweed infestation often signals extreme soil compaction. Nuking the area with herbicide without addressing the compaction issue will only yield a sparse, sickly grassbed. And it won’t be long until the next wave of weeds storms the gates.

In some cases, prudent cultural practices aren’t enough to obliterate all weeds, and you may choose to call in reinforcements in the form of herbicides.

As it was when creating your original plan of attack, knowing your adversary is also key to choosing the right weed killer. For example, broadleaf weeds like the dreaded dandelion respond best to post-emergent herbicide, which is applied after the plants are up and growing. Unwanted grasses, like crabgrass and foxtail, are best controlled with pre-emergent herbicide, which is applied two to three weeks before the seeds germinate.

Herbicides are available in liquid and dry granular form. Liquids are sprayed on and very effective, especially for post-emergent herbicides that must be absorbed through the leaves. Granules are easier to use, since they require no mixing and can be applied with a simple walk-behind spreader. Granules also avoid the “fear factor” many people attach to chemical spraying campaigns.

Herbicide options also include selective and non-selective “broad-spectrum” choices. The latter type kills everything—including desirable grasses and other plants—so judicious use is recommended. Whichever type of herbicide you choose, always read and follow the label instructions for safety’s sake and maximum effectiveness.

Written by: Dan Johnson