Lawn Care Basics
How Do You Get Rid of Weeds? - Control & Prevention
How to Get Rid of the Weeds in Your Lawn
Ugh, weeds! Those dandelions, crabgrass patches, and clumps of clover that appear out of nowhere are the scourge of homeowners everywhere. It's not fair, after all the work you put into your lawn. The best way to prevent weeds is to grow a thick and healthy lawn, but they may still pop up. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take to control the weeds in your yard.
What Are Weeds
Simply put, a weed is any plant that’s growing where it is not wanted. Lawn weeds belong to one of three categories: broadleaf, grassy, or grass-like.
- Identify It: Leaves are broad and flat (not grassy or needle-like).
- Examples: Dandelion, clover, ground ivy (creeping Charlie), oxalis, chickweed, dollarweed, henbit, plantain, thistle
- Identify It: It resembles grass in the way it looks and grows, one leaf at a time. Leaves look like grass blades.
- Examples: Crabgrass, foxtail, annual bluegrass, quackgrass
- Identify It: While it looks somewhat like grass in appearance, leaves may be triangular or tube-like and hollow, not flat like a grass blade.
- Examples: Nutsedge, wild onion, wild garlic
How to Control Weeds
If your lawn only has a few weeds here and there, you can try hand-pulling them. Annual weeds, like crabgrass and chickweed, tend to have shallow roots and are usually easily controlled with hand-pulling. On the other hand, perennial weeds, like dandelion and thistle, have deep, extensive roots and are harder to control by hand-pulling because if even a small piece of root is left in the ground, the weed will grow back. It’s easiest to hand-pull weeds when they are young and your soil is moist.
When your lawn only has a few weeds, but you don’t want to want to risk hand pulling weeds that may grow back, you can spot treat with a ready-to-use product like Scotts® Spot Weed Control for Lawns. A weed control product labeled for use on lawns will target listed weeds without harming the lawn when used as directed. Be sure to check the product label to ensure it can be used on your specific grass type.
When it seems as though you have more weeds than grass in your yard, you can still get the lawn you want by tackling your weed problem head-on. To feed your lawn and control existing broadleaf weeds at the same time, use a weed-and-feed product like Scotts® Turf Builder® Triple Action or Scotts® Turf Builder® Southern Triple Action (if you live in the southeast). If it’s not time to fertilize your lawn, you can still control weeds with a straight weed control product like Scotts® Weed Control for Lawns. Be sure to always read the instructions before applying any product.
How to Prevent Weeds From Growing
Annual grassy weeds, like crabgrass and foxtail, are easily stopped in spring, when the seeds and tiny seedlings are most vulnerable, so they don’t become a problem in summer. Applying a crabgrass preventer, like Scotts® Turf Builder® Halts® Crabgrass Preventer with Lawn Food (if you’re also looking to feed your lawn) or Scotts® Halts® Crabgrass & Grassy Weed Preventer (if you’re not), stops listed weeds before they start to grow. Be sure to follow all label directions.
Here are a few other tips for preventing weeds:
- Feed regularly. Proper lawn care is the best medicine. When your lawn is stressed out, it has a higher chance of being taken over by weeds. Feeding your lawn regularly every 6 to 8 weeks during the growing season with a lawn fertilizer, like Scotts® Turf Builder® Lawn Food (as directed), helps your lawn stay thick and lush, making it less welcoming to weeds by leaving little space for them to grow. You can also give your lawn a boost by aerating or dethatching as needed.
- Mow higher. Weed seeds, like all plants, require sunlight to sprout. The next time you mow, raise your mower height. Mowing at a taller height, usually one of the two highest settings on your mower, helps the grass grow tall and thick to shade the soil, so weed seeds are less able to sprout and grow.
- Water deeply. Watering deeply and infrequently helps your lawn grow deeper roots so it can better compete with weeds. Frequent, shallow waterings encourage shallow root growth. This makes the grass more likely to suffer during periods of heat and drought, causing thin and bare spots that weeds will take advantage of. When your lawn develops deep roots, it can grow thicker to help crowd out weeds.