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Weed Control in Home Lawns

Weed control in lawns begins with a healthy, vigorous, dense stand of turf. Healthy turf aids weed control by growing to fill bare areas, shading the soil surface, and shading newly emerged weeds. Without sunlight, many new weeds cannot survive. A healthy, lush, green stand of turf, free from weeds, is pleasing to look at and can bring a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to the homeowner.

Here are some examples of how you can reduce and prevent the growth of weeds in your lawn:
  • Use soil tests to keep the pH in the proper range.
  • Add fertilizer at rates recommended on the soil test report to encourage rapid turf growth. Too much fertilizer, however, particularly nitrogen, is detrimental to the turf stand.
  • Irrigate during periods of limited rainfall to relieve stress and encourage growth. Apply large volumes of water periodically rather than brief, frequent waterings to encourage deep rooting.
  • Excessive water can stress turf and increase weed growth. Virginia buttonweed, for example, thrives in wet areas and is particularly difficult to control with herbicides. Use preventive measures to reduce the potential for invasion of this weed in turf. Build up low areas to avoid "ponding" or standing water.
  • Insects and diseases can stress and kill turf. Control these pests to avoid potential damage to the turf.
  • Mowing can stress turf if too much vegetation is removed by the clipping process. Set your mower to remove less than one-third of the vegetation to avoid "scalping".
  • Bare soil is a prime area for weed invasion. Bare areas can either be reseeded, plugged, or left for adjacent grass to grow into. Cover reseeded areas with mulch, such as grain straw, until the area is filled with turf.
  • Eliminate weeds early in the growing season, before they develop a spreading root system or set seeds.
  • Prevent weeds from entering the garden by avoiding the use of fresh manure.
  • Cultivate on a sunny, warm day so weeds that have been pulled or tilled will dry out and die.
  • Apply an adequate layer of mulch to prevent seedling weed emergence.
  • Remove weed clippings from the property if there is a chance that seeds have been set.
Using these methods can help control weeds, but regardless of how well you follow good production practices, weed seeds will germinate and seedlings will emerge. Often times herbicides are the next resort for homeowners. The disadvantages of using these are:
  • They are expensive.
  • They are difficult to apply with accuracy.
  • Drifting or leaching may occur and damage desirable plants.
  • Proper storage and handling may be a problem.
  • Many herbicides are labeled for specific crops and are not suitable for a garden with a wide variety of crops.
There are many different species of weeds that grow in turf. To properly eliminate these with an herbicide, it is recommended that you take clippings of as many different weeds in your lawn as possible and bring them to your local Home & Garden Center to have them identified and purchase the proper herbicide to kill them.

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