Everyone wants a weed free yard. Understanding where to start and setting realistic expectations is going to save you the frustration though as managing weeds in a lawn is an ongoing battle.
1.) Hand pulling weeds is going to help whenever you have established mature weeds already.
2.) Using a spot treatment is going to help on any weeds that are less mature or that are really hard to hand pull
3.) Preventing weeds is going to save you time on step 1 and 2, so be sure to apply your pre-emergent weed control religiously and using a broad post-emergent early is going to be more effective against less mature weeds.
We talk about attacking weeds in a bunch of ongoing mini-battles a lot here at Lawn Serv. We personally like to try to spend 5-10 minutes before mowing the lawn to walk the area, pick up sticks, and pull any mature weeds. After the mow take another 5-10 minutes pulling any mature weeds you saw while mowing while walking around with the spot treatment spraying anything too hard to pull.
After a few weeks of repeating that process you will have made a lot of great progress!
Bald spots on a lawn are something every homeowner experiences at one point or another in their pursuit of the perfect lawn. Typically these spots can be fixed with a few easy steps, some water, and a little patience.
Cause of Problem
Most important is to determine what caused the spot to develop in the first place. Without determining the underlying issue there is the potential the spot could return regardless of how well of a repair was completed. The following is a fairly extensive list of potential culprits, some of which may require a little detective work with a shovel.
Excessive foot traffic
Dull lawn mower blades
Scalping by cutting your grass too short
Poor soil condition caused by thatched grass
Lack of fertilization
Buried rocks or other debris
Erosion from water runoff
Tree or shrub roots
Dormancy due to the type of grass planted
Chinch bugs and other insects
Once you’ve determined the underlying issue and corrected as necessary the area is now ready for some prep work.
Just sprinkling seeds and hoping for the best is not recommended for best results. If there is a thatch layer or any debris over the spot, remove it with an aggressive raking to expose the topsoil below. Once the soil is exposed, loosen up the top inch or so and then spread evenly so the entire surface is level with the surrounding soil. It the spot is lower than necessary, add some quality top soil to bring it up to the correct level. Keep in mind loosen soil will compact a bit over time, so if the area is up to a ½ higher than its surrounding, that is ok.
With the soil prepared properly it’s time to spread some grass seed. Remember to choose a seed that is appropriate for your climate and sunlight exposure of the area you are repairing. Typically spots are repaired when needed, but keep in mind, cool season grasses do best when planted in late summer to early fall, while warm season grasses perform best when the seed is sown in spring or early summer. Once seed is spread, lightly rake the area to work the seed into the soil, paying careful attention to keeping the seeds spread evenly.
Covering the seed is not necessary, but can be beneficial for a few reasons. A light cover of peat moss will help retain moisture until the grass is established, which is especially important when performing repairs during the more humid times of the season. Covering with a bit of compost or enriched soil will give the seeds a bit of a nutrient boost, but be careful not to bury the seeds to deep or there is a chance they will not germinate. In the absence of covering with soil, peat, etc. it is a good idea to cover the area with some straw, which helps a bit with moisture retention, but more importantly keeps the newly strewn seed from becoming a hungry birds snack.
Of course no how-to dealing with grass goes without mentioning watering. Water the seeds in the early morning and evening until they germinate, but also check throughout the day to ensure the area never dries out. When watering, water well, but not hard. A gentle spray, like raindrops, or even a mist, is necessary so the seeds do not get pushed around by an aggressive water stream.
Hold off on mowing until the grass blades are over 3 inches tall, and even after the first mowing, let the area grow slightly longer than the rest of the lawn until the colors of the two match. There is no need to fertilize immediately, as experts tend to agree that starter fertilizers are not useful until after the grass is established. Within a few weeks the spot will barely be noticeable from the rest of your lawn, and within a month, the trouble area with be just a memory.
Over time everyone needs to patch a lawn. That could be from weed seeds spreading and overtaking, or from a lawn disease taking over. The video here shows how you can take what might seem like an overwhelming task down to some basic steps that can be knocked out in a day.
Can you picture the perfect yard in your mind? Beautiful stately trees, trimmed out by deep chocolate colored mulch, all being surrounded by thick, luscious, dark green grass. Perhaps even a hammock strung between two trees. Sounds beautiful right? I agree, but when trying to achieve growing thick grass in shady conditions, there are a few key elements to consider, which can have a significant impact on the ultimate success or failure of your efforts.
Evaluate the Sunlight
There is no magic shade seed. Grass needs sunlight to grow, typically 3-4 hours of direct sun or 4-6 hours of dappled sunlight per day. Even shade grasses will need some sun, so understanding what an area is receiving for sunlight is important. Before implementing some of the other techniques detailed below, pick a sunny day to monitor the area and get an idea of just how much sunlight, and what type, it’s receiving. Knowing the ultimate amount of sun an area receives will help avoid frustration and wasted effort. You may ultimately find that the area is just not a good fit for grass.
Type of Grass
There are a multitude of grass seed options available for all types of locations and environments. Depending on where you live and how much sunlight you’ve determined the area receives on a given day, will dictate the type of grass that gives you the best chance for success. For the North or cool-season grasses, ryegrass, and fine and tall fescues tend to be the most shade tolerant. For the South or warm season grasses, Zoysia and St. Augustine tend to perform better. A good seed blend should include a mixture of different shade tolerant grasses, this way if one grass type fails to succeed another will take its place. Finally, spend a little extra for quality grass seed, it is worth the extra expense and ultimately performs better, which saves you overall.
Sometimes an area just needs a little extra sunlight that a good pruning can offer. Removing lower limbs, or raising the canopy, allows early morning and late afternoon sunlight to get to the grass. Pruning interior branches opens up the tree canopy and permits dappled sunlight to reach the ground beneath. Either pruning option may be just what is needed to allow that extra bit of sunlight in for grass to grow.
The type of trees creating shade also plays a part in how well grass ultimately grows. Maples typically have dense canopies and shallow roots that create sub optimal grass growing conditions. Dogwoods, Oaks, and Pines are also tough on grass as well. However, locust, sycamore, ornamental crabapples, and elms are great hosts to luscious lawns below.
Of course watering is still necessary even in the shade, but not at the same levels for the rest of the lawn. If the shade is caused by a building then watering less frequently is necessary. However if the shade is due to trees, extra water may be required due to the tree roots absorbing available moisture, or the rainfall may not be reaching the ground due to a thick canopy above. Overall keep an eye on the dampness of the area, as continually wet conditions can cause diseases and inhibit growing grass.
Typically shade tolerant grass needs less fertilizer than the rest of your lawn. It is still imprint to apply fertilizer on the same schedule as the rest of the lawn, so simply adjust the amount. A good rule is shade areas need only 1/2 the amount of nitrogen compared to sunny areas. Weeds typically aren’t as big a problem in shade, so limit herbicides to these areas only when needed.
Try to limit traffic on the area and vary the direction you mow, both of which helps reduce the overall stress on the grass at any one time. Also, keeping shady area grasses 1/2 to 1 inch taller than sunny parts allows each blade that much more surface area to conduct photosynthesis, which in turn fuels growth and greater resiliency.
Even after following all of the recommendations above, you may be faced with an area that is just not hospitable to grass. In those instances, to save your time, budget, and your sanity, consider planting shade loving ground covers, or creating an oasis of some kind with pavers, benches, stones, shade loving plants etc. As welcoming as shady grass is under a big tree, sometimes mother nature has other plans.
When it comes to the old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side” it is always better to be the one whose grass is on the other side. Green, lush lawns are great to look at and even better to enjoy for cookouts, parties, games, and other summer activities. By following a few basic guidelines outlined below, that each build on the other, you can be on your way to the green grass on the other side.
What makes your grass look good above ground is dependent on what happens in the soil below ground. So, the foundation of a great lawn starts with knowing your current soil conditions, and a good soil test will reveal the specific nutrients your soil needs. Based on the testing results you can then tailor your fertilization and amendment program to give the soil what it can use without guesswork or wasted product. If you are looking for a good testing option, lawnserv.com offers a great test for all new and existing customers.
Just like the human body, your lawn needs food to be healthy and strong. Regular fertilization, in the correct amounts and nutrient makeup for a given time of year, provide your grass the food it needs when it needs it. In order to avoid wasting your time, and fertilizer, it is important to be on a program that is tailored to your lawns specific needs. Also, consider using a mulching blade on your mower to return clippings back to the ground and into nutrients that benefit the soil.
Because weeds compete with grass for sunlight, water, and nutrients, the best weed control is a thick healthy lawn. Early spring is a good time to kill potential weeds with a quality Pre-Emergent herbicide. If you are noticing weeds have already established a foothold in your lawn, there are both blanket post emergent and spot treatment options available. You can even tackle weeds by hand, if they are not to overwhelming. A good trick is to pull weeds after a rainfall or watering, when the soil is looser.
Proper mowing is an often overlooked part of an overall lawn care plan. Set your mower height so you don’t remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade, otherwise you risk stressing the lawn. Ideally grass should be kept at a length of 3-3.5” for the season. This height lets the grass block weed seeds, shades the soil, and reduces evaporation. Also, keeping your mower blades sharp will ensure the grass is cut by shearing rather than tearing. A torn end will usually turn brown after a few days and become more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Once you have your soil tested, fertilized, controlled for weeds, and the mowing is dialed in, following good watering practices will keep you on track for the thicker green lawn desired. Germinating grass seeds need consistent moisture and should not be allowed to dry out. For established lawns it is generally accepted grass needs about 1” of water per week, either from nature or irrigation. Less frequent watering, but in higher doses (to reach the one inch goal) has been proven to encourage deep root growth and an overall stronger more resilient lawn. Investing is a rain gauge or an electronic soil tester is also a helpful way to keep track of moisture levels.
By following the plan outlined above, your lawn will look great for the entire growing season, despite the parties, barefoot traffic, and other summer fun it endures. If you are looking for some more comprehensive help with several of the steps above, check out lawnserv.com for a DIY lawn service that takes the guesswork out of lawn care and delivers it to your door.
Crabgrass! Dandelions! Chickweed! Oh my! Without prevention and proper control, weeds can germinate and spread very quickly. The best way to prevent weeds in the first place is to grow a thick, healthy lawn, which will crowd out and block weeds and weed seeds from getting access to your lawn’s nutrients and even the sun. But, once weeds have taken hold, they can be difficult to rid from your yard. Luckily, though, there are a few relatively simple things you can do to prevent those pesky weeds from ruining your beautiful lawn. We’ve included our recommended approach–the weed-eliminating trilogy–below. Just remember, like lawn care in general, getting rid of weeds is a marathon, not a sprint!
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions–we’re here to help!
STEP 1: PULL, PULL, PULL!
Many types of weeds (like crabgrass, chickweed, etc.) can be hand-pulled relatively easily, so it’s definitely worth trying to make a dent manually. Earlier in the season is usually better, as the weed roots are still relatively shallow. Similarly, hand-pulling when the soil is moist is usually most effective.
STEP 2: SPOT, SPOT, SPOT!
Once you’ve taken a few passes through your yard hand-pulling as many weeds as you can, you may want to use a targeted spot treatment for weeds. These usually come in a spray bottle, or jug with a wand attached.
Spot treatment is usually most effective when you can target the center/base of the weed, as well as the major weed leaves. When applying spot treatment, it should not harm the lawn, but you should try to avoid overspraying your weeds anyway–you’ll use less product overall, and your grass will be under less stress!
STEP 3: PREVENT, PREVENT, PREVENT!
The Spring and Fall are key times for getting ahead of weed growth. Once weeds become more mature during the summer, your grass is often too stressed to be able to fight back! So, don’t forget your pre-emergent weed preventer in the Spring, and if you’re not planning to overseed in the Fall, you may choose to apply another round of pre-emergent.
But, don’t forget that growing a healthy lawn is the best prevention there is! So, don’t forget to mow a little higher, water your lawn at least once a week, and take the time to walk through your lawn each week to spot potential weed germination and other lawn stresses before they start to spread!