A Complete Guide to Combating Weeds
No matter how well and how carefully you maintain your lawn, there’s always going to be at least one moment where you look out over the grass and see unsightly, invasive weeds poking out from the surface of your lawn, ruining the perfectly maintained appearance of your grass. This happens to everyone, and the idea of spending hours and hours carefully removing weeds from your lawn is enough to make anyone despair.
Combating weeds is much easier when you know what you’re doing, though, and a few simple tips can make it a much more straightforward experience that requires less time and less effort. Here at Best of Machinery, we’ve put together a complete guide to combating weeds, full of information and helpful tips that can help you out when you’re preparing to deal with weeds in your lawn, making your life easier and more straightforward as long as you follow our tips. Armed with the knowledge in this guide, you can feel well informed about weeds and well equipped to take them on at any time.
What are Weeds?
“Weed” is a generalized term with no particular scientific classification. Weeds aren’t a particular type of plant, but rather a vague category covering any invasive plant that competes with the grass in your lawn for growing space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. This includes all sorts of plants, like clover, dandelions, daisies and wild grasses, as well as rarer and more frustrating plants that grow amongst the grass in your lawn.
Weeds can be generally divided into three different categories, all of which behave in somewhat different ways. The first category is the grassy weed, a type of weed that looks a lot like grass and grows in a similar way, with grass like leaves growing one at a time from the ground. This category includes weeds like foxtail, bluegrass, or crabgrass.
The second category of weeds is the broadleaf weed, a class covering any type of weed that has a flat, broadleaf rather than a long and grassy one. These are the easiest type of weed to spot, as broadleaf weeds look very clearly different from grasses, helping them to stand out from the surface of your lawn clearly. This category includes plants such as ground ivy, chickweed, dandelions, clover, thistles, and oxalis, as well as many, many more.
The third and final category of weeds is the grass like weeds, a group that often look a lot like grass but with leaves that grow differently. Grass like weeds often have tube like, hollow or triangular leaves that look like grass at first glance but are not flat like grass blades. The grass like weed category includes plants like wild onion, wild garlic, and nutsedge.
How to Spot Weeds?
Weeds in your lawn are generally easy to notice, as they look a little different from the grass and often behave differently in certain situations. The easiest way to spot weeds is to keep an eye out for flowers. Not all weeds produce visible flowers, but the ones that do tend to stand out from the grass very clearly!
Other ways of spotting weeds rely on how they behave differently to your grass. The biggest problem with weeds is that they compete with the grass of your lawn for nutrients, which can lead to your grass being starved and looking less healthy. This means that in times of drought when most of your lawn turns brown, patches of weeds often stay green, as they are snatching up any traces of water before the grass can access it!
The final sign of weeds is general patchiness to your lawn. Weeds may grow faster than grass, giving patches that are longer than others in your lawn, or they may simply be a slightly different shade of green or texture to the grass, leaving areas that look a little different in other ways.
What Causes Weeds?
Weed seeds exist in pretty much all soil naturally, and only pose a problem when they begin to grow determinedly. Lawn weeds are able to establish themselves properly because they often survive regular mowing with ease and continue to grow, spreading across your lawn by seed or by sending out runners and can often choke out grasses simply by growing faster.
One of the things that can cause weed seeds to grow is excessive disturbance of the ground. Digging and turning the soil, such as when digging up larger weeds or other plants, can bring hidden weed seeds to the surface and allow them access to enough water and sunlight to trigger germination.
How to Remove Weeds?
Once weeds are established in your lawn, you’re going to need to put in a little time and effort to get rid of them. There are a few different options for removing weeds from your lawn, and they all have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re dealing with larger weeds such as dandelions, you can remove them by hand without needing any chemicals in order to get rid of them.
Grab hold of the stem of the weed you’re removing at the base, as close to the ground as possible, and gently pull it out of the soil. Don’t pull too quickly and sharply, as this can cause the stem of the weed to break, leaving the root system behind in the ground. If you leave the roots behind, new plants will simply grow back from each significant piece of root left in the ground, so it is important to make sure that you pull out the entire system without leaving any behind!
If the weeds are a little smaller or you don’t want to remove them by hand, you can use a targeted lawn weedkiller. Make sure you buy a spray weed killer that is designed specifically for use on grass, as if you use a general purpose chemical weed killer it will kill your grass as well as the weeds, leaving space open for more weeds to grow in the gap!
Spray the lawn safe weed killer onto each area of weeds directly, and you should be free from them relatively quickly and easily with no other work required. Large weed infested areas of lawn can be harder to treat, particularly if the weeds in question are small and dense plants such as moss or patches of wild grass choking out the lawn grasses in the area.
Your best option for lawns such as this is probably a combined lawn feed, weed, and moss killing substance, combining lawn fertilizer with grass safe weed killer. Simply spread this across the problem area of the lawn and leave it for a week or two. Once the weeds have died, you can gently rake them out of the grass, being careful to avoid damage to the grass plants. The fertilizer in this mixture will help to nourish the grass, strengthening it and making it more able to fight off future weeds.
How to Prevent Weeds?
The best way to combat weeds in your lawn is to stop them from ever getting established in the first place. There are a few lawn care tips you can use to make it harder for weeds to grow and establish themselves properly, reducing the need for spending time and effort on weed removal later on with a little work.
Watering your lawn infrequently but deeply can make a massive difference to the health of your lawn and its ability to fight off weeds on its own. Watering deeply encourages the grass plants to grow deep roots, enabling it to survive well in dry periods and ensuring that it is strong enough to deal with weeds properly, without needing too much help.
Watering frequently but lightly leads to shallower root growth, which can cause your grass to suffer and struggle during dry spells, causing weak spots that weeds can easily take advantage of. Deeper roots lead to thicker growth, crowding out weeds, and surviving these dry spells effectively.
Mowing your grass at a taller height can also help it to fend off weeds naturally. Weeds require sunlight in order to grow, and particularly in order to start growing in the first place. Mowing at a taller height enables your grass to cast more shade over the earth below, preventing sufficient sunlight from reaching the weed seeds and therefore stopping them from growing properly.
Related: What is mulch?
If you dump the weeds you’ve removed from your lawn straight into the compost bin, the seeds held in the plants will grow in the compost, nourished and encouraged by the nutrients in the compost heap to grow faster and better. That’s obviously not ideal, as you’re trying to kill the weeds rather than feed them!
The best way to compost weeds that you’ve pulled up without spreading their seeds further is to heat up your compost and kill them, a process that has the added advantage of speeding up the decomposition of the plants for your compost. There are a few different ways to do this, but some are easier than others.
A great way to heat up your compost is to solarize it. Once your compost is properly decomposing, you can take small batches out of the heap, put them in black trash bags, and leave them out in the sun for a few days to cook. This is an easy way to heat up your compost, but it can take a little while.
The fastest, most effective way to kill weed seeds in compost is a simple one but requires a little bit of equipment. Specifically, you’re going to need an old crockpot that you’re not planning to use for cooking anymore. Plug that in outside and use it to warm batches of compost. 160-degree heat for a few hours will kill most weed seeds with ease!
Getting rid of weeds doesn’t have to be as soul crushing as you might expect it to be at first glance. Following the steps and hints above can make the process of combating weeds in your lawn far easier and quicker, enabling you to return your lawn to a pristine and healthy condition with only a little bit of effort.
The best way to save time and effort, though, is always going to be to ensure that your lawn is healthy enough to fight off weeds on its own without needing your help! Follow our handy guide above for easier lawn care and simpler maintenance in all situations.