How to Prevent Spring Weeds from Taking Root in Your Lawn

 January 25, 2018

As the snow melts and temperatures warm, it’s not just your grass that springs back to life. Weeds and especially dandelions are just waiting to take root in your lawn, plantings and other areas. While weed killer has a definite role, it shouldn’t be your main line of defense. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so here are other ways to prevent weeds from taking over your lawn.

Weeds, especially dandelions, are opportunists, so minimize the opportunity. As soon as you can this spring, you’ll want to aerate, dethatch and overseed your lawn, paying particular attention to any bare spots. This will provide more oxygen to your lawn’s roots, and make it easier for nutrients to reach the soil for absorption. The result will be a healthier, fuller lawn that provides less opportunity for dandelions and other wind-dispersed weeds like milkweed, as well as perennial pests like broadleaf plantain.

If you live in an area where wind-dispersed weeds are a particular problem, be sure to mulch flower beds and bare areas around trees or other plantings early in the spring. A good mulch layer will make it easier to remove any dandelions or other undesirable plants before they turn to seed and spread across your lawn.

Once new grass growth is well established, fertilize your lawn. Besides keeping your grass healthy, this will help prevent weeds that are attracted to low nitrogen or poor soils, like white clover or creeping Charlie. As trees leaf out and create thin or bare patches due to shade, seed those areas with a shade tolerant seed to help prevent violets and other shade-loving weeds.

Your watering and mowing habits can also prevent weed growth. Under watering your lawn creates ideal conditions for weeds like purslane, especially in newly seeded areas, while broadleaf plantain loves an overwatered lawn. Similarly, scalping your lawn by cutting too short creates conditions where crabgrass can take over, so be sure your mower settings are right for your type of grass and region.

Once weeds start to appear, you’ll need to treat them. Some weeds, like chickweed or broadleaf plantain, can be pulled by hand if there are just a few plants. You may need to dig out small patches of clover or creeping Charlie and then seed the area immediately. For dandelions, cut the flowers off to prevent them from going to seed. You should also dig them out, being sure to get at least 2-inches of the tap-root.

Should your lawn go from a few weeds that can be managed by hand to a full-scale invasion, get out the post-emergent herbicide and apply directly to the plants. If the weeds are taking over tender new grass that is trying to establish itself, it may be best to dip a paintbrush in the herbicide and paint the leaves of the weeds, rather than spraying.

One final note: If your lawn is really weedy, it may be a good idea to clean off the mower when you’re done, to prevent seeds from being deposited back into your lawn the next time. That’s because seeds can cling to the mower; starting up and mowing the next time can then disperse them into your lawn again, canceling out any efforts you made to clean up the weeds between mowing. To avoid transporting and dispersing seeds to another lawn, it’s a good idea to clean the mower before you move on to the next job site.