Gardening

Lawn Rx

This question came through the blog this week, and as it is a perpetual concern, I decided to share my answer with everyone.

Q:

We’d like to know how to get rid of weeds in the lawn – weeds and these vine things. My husband can’t bend down to physically dig out each bunch and I think there are too many anyway. What do you suggest?

A:

Weeds in the lawn are an ongoing battle for me too! I’m not set on having a perfect golf green, but still, it is beyond frustrating. I’d like to eliminate all my lawn and just have veggie beds, flowers, and meadows, but until I win the lottery and figure out how to fit 36 hours into one day…

 

field-bindweed-30-jun-2013

Field bindweed, the one I’m VERY familiar with. The flowers are sometimes slightly pink.

The viney things you mention are likely bindweed; if they get to flower are they a little white bloom similar to a morning glory? They are very persistent and root along the stems, so even hand digging is not going to be perfectly effective. Or is it chickweed, which is not so much viney as a spreader, creeping in from all the nooks and crannies!

 

 

 

19189004-mmmain

One of the many varieties of chickweed, which is actually edible and is grown as an herb and forage crop. On purpose.

 
For these types of weeds, I’d use a landscaping rake (this is the type that has very shallow tines, like a saw) to yank them out periodically, especially when you see them flowering. This won’t eradicate them, but will stall their progress and spoil their evil plot to reseed the world. Don’t worry too much about damaging your grass doing this; the soil massage will actually be good for it. For dandelions, thistles, and the like, invest in a weeder you can use standing up. This article showcases a few.

The most important thing to understand long-term about weeds in the lawn is this: Healthy grass will choke out weeds, nine times out of ten. Weeds are opportunists, so try to give them as few opportunities as possible!

1.  Spreading a thin layer of topsoil and new grass seed in weak spots of the lawn can help rejuvenate pockets where weeds are taking hold. Be sure to choose a grass seed suited to your site: shade, sun, etc. and be vigilant in keeping the site moist for germination (this is a spring or fall task).

2. De-thatching so grass roots can breathe is essential. You may want to hire a power rake and aerator in the spring every few years (you can do it by hand but it is VERY labour intensive).

3. You never want to scalp your lawn — you probably need to mow less, not more, and always err on the side of longer cuts rather than shorter. This shades the roots and allows the grass the surface area to photosynthesize properly. It’s tempting in the spring, when growth is so fast, to take it short so you don’t have to get out there again the next blinking day, but cutting too much off at a time will put the plant into shock.

5. Remember that grass goes dormant when it gets too hot or dry. Brown does not always equal death. If you want to keep it looking green, you will need to water about an inch a week, and remember, deeply once is better than shallow constantly.

6. Along with point 1, consider over-seeding your grass with companion plants. There are many slower-growing grasses and creeping plants that can make your lawn care life so much easier. This may sound like planting weeds on purpose, but take white clover: it will help fix nitrogen in the soil (yay legumes!), stays green through hotter weather, can reduce mowing, and feels absolutely glorious to walk on barefooted. OSC has a good variety of lawn alternative seeds.

7. Someone will ask, so here’s the skinny on corn gluten meal: it is a pre-emergent herbicide. That means it prevents seeds from germinating. Which means you need to apply it before weed seeds are waking up, but late enough that it doesn’t get washed away. Which means your timing needs to be perfect for it to be effective. And it’s useless on existing and perennial weeds. Not a horrible idea, just know the parameters within which it can be useful to you.

That’s all I got. If you have a lawn care secret, please share in the comments!

 

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