Top Ways To A Weed Free Lawn

Southland Sod Farm

Walking barefoot on a beautifully manicured lawn might be the closest thing next to heaven.  The sensation of the grass cradling the foot, teasing the arch, tickling the sole while blades are sneaking between the toes is amazing – almost euphoric.  The natural reward of walking barefoot on grass awakens the senses and you just feel better.  The only things that can interrupt this experience are briers, crabgrass, and good ol’ fashion weeds.

Southern California is home to many different types of lawn weeds.  These weeds lay dormant waiting for the right moment to wake up, emerge and swallow your lawn!  Taking a proactive approach will ensure your lawn will stay weed-free all Spring and Summer long.  Today we’re going to discuss your easy-to-do options, but, before we do…let’s take a look at the top 4 lawn weeds:

Crabgrass

This clumping weed grows from the center outwards.  Their signature seed heads indicates problems to occur.  A pre-emergent will stop them if applied at the right time.

Oxalis (aka woodsorrel)

This one is a master of disguise as it gets confused with clover.

Bermudagrass (aka devil grass)

Aggressive growing stringy type of grass.  Not to be confused with Hybrid Bermuda lawns that are desirable.

Dandelion

Although edible (What the???? Can you believe it there’s seed companies that actually sell dandelion seeds!). Like crabgrass the seed heads need to be decapitated before they open.

Methods of Control

Pre-emergent Herbicides

The chemistry behind pre-emergent herbicides is mind-boggling.  Simply put they’re designed to suppress and even kill weeds before they emerge without hurting your lawn (what is this, black magic?).  A protective layer sits on the soil surface so weeds can’t penetrate.  They eventually succumb to their demise.   It takes 7 years of arduous testing and upwards of 10 million dollars to bring a molecule to the marketplace so they can perfect how it works. On a side note, if the E.P.A. doesn’t approve it, and they don’t approve plenty, the company loses those 7 years and the moola they put into it. It’s back to square one or scraps the project.  Back to our story…pre-emergents come in granular and liquid forms but not all are created equal.

Over-the-Counter Products – Granular

Walk into any nursery or garden center and chances are they are prepared with pallets of granular pre-emergent weed control products.  Here’s the catch – you have to read the whole bag, front and back.  The information on the bag is really important.  Not only are you going to have safety info stated but you’re going to have detailed information on the kind of weeds the product attacks and the kind of lawn it can be used on.  Remember the ‘black magic’ quip from earlier?  You need to clearly identify the lawn variety you have otherwise the product will think it’s a weed.  It’s kind of like that old saying “A weed for one person is a plant for another.”

Applications for granulars are as simple as delivering in a hand broadcaster, drop spreader or hopper broadcaster.

Pro-Tip:  Before attacking weeds check to make sure your sprinkler system is working properly with head-to-head coverage and apply the product a day or two after mowing the lawn.  Applying on a freshly cut lawn may burn.

Over-the-Counter Products – Liquid

Just like our granular counterpart:  READ THE LABEL!  Typically liquid products are delivered from either a pressurized sprayer or a hose-end sprayer.  If you go to a farm supply, irrigation house or lawnmower shop pick up a bottle of blue spray indicator dye that can be added to the mix.  This way you can see where you’ve sprayed and won’t make the mistake of going over the same area twice.  Unlike a lawn dye, which is green, a blue spray indicator dye breaks down with sunlight, heat, and moisture and normally won’t stain anything permanently.  After a few hours it’s gone and the pre-emergent herbicide has been applied with no one being the wiser.

Professional Services

Outside of your gardener, you can hire professional services that are licensed to handle chemicals that are much more effective than the over-the-counter products.  It’s not to say the over-the-counter ones are ineffective it’s just that the pro’s know how to handle the chemicals which will work faster.  These are companies that only fertilize and do weed control, not weekly lawn maintenance.  Their recommendations might include a liquid, granular, or both approaches.  But, don’t discount your gardener just yet.  It may be your gardener is a licensed Qualified Applicator which means they can get the same products and are allowed to use them.  Ask!  I carried the license when I was in the business but didn’t brag about it.  They might do the same.

Opening a Can of Worms (figuratively speaking)

Interestingly enough pre-emergents can be used twice a year but the formulas are different.  One is specific for Spring/Summer weeds and the other is for Fall/Winter weeds.  If you use the same one for both seasons they won’t work in the season they are intended for.

Fertilize

Undernourished lawns are a magnet for weeds. Feeding your lawn regularly with the Marathon line of fertilizers will ensure a tightknit lawn that’s capable of actually choking out weeds before they ever emerge.  Don’t think you’re in this by yourself.  A lawn doesn’t want anything to do with weeds either and will try their best to battle it out especially when you show it a little lawn love.

Pro-Tip:  Want to razzle and dazzle everyone around the water cooler?  I took a poll of landscape maintenance  companies and asked them their choice of pre-emergent herbicides they use this time of year. Green industry professionals are passionate about a weed free lawn because it makes their work look a whole lot better and they don’t end up transferring weed seed from customer to customer.   Some indicated they automatically include the price of pre-emergents and fertilizing in their monthly rate so the client doesn’t have to be bothered with it while others ‘upsell’ their clients.

In order of the most popular they are:  Prodiamine, Dimension .022%, Stonewall, Meso, indaziflam,  dithiopyr and Barricade.

Keep nurturing that lawn.  Not only are the aesthetic qualities of having the best weed-free lawn in the neighborhood envied by all but a residential lawn makes a contribution our ecosystem better than trees.  A 5,000 square foot lawn produces enough oxygen each day for 18-34 people.  And, did I mention how good it all feels under bare feet?

 

Nick Federoff
ThingsGreen.com
Award-winning radio & TV garden communicator

 

 

 

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