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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Search Results for ' Lawns--Care and maintenance'

PAL Questions: 2 - Garden Tools: 1 - Recommended Websites: 2

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Keywords: Lawns--Planting, Weed control, Lawns--Care and maintenance

PAL Question:

I am renovating a lawn that has been completely ignored for a long time--dandelions 3 per square foot, for example. I need to know if I should use something like weed-and-feed now to kill the 1000s of weeds and wait till spring to aerate, remove the top 1/2-inch of the lawn, fertilize and re-seed. Do I need to get on this before the first frost?

View Answer:

Regarding your questions about lawn renovation, I have found a few options for you:

1. If the weed-and-feed product is for pre-emergent weeds, this would not work on your lawn, which already has dandelions growing actively. If the product is post-emergent, it will kill the dandelions, but if you are planning to sow grass seed, you will need to wait before sowing (different products have different guidelines, so check the directions on the package carefully). According to The Lawn Bible (by David R. Mellor, 2003), you should also make sure that the herbicide will target the weeds you have. Do not spray in windy conditions, and only treat areas which need it.

Overuse of herbicide destroys valuable bacteria and insects in the soil, so prevention is the best: mow the lawn high, which will keep weeds from getting established, as they need light to thrive; don't scalp the lawn; water only when it is too difficult to press a screwdriver into the top 2 inches of the soil.

2. There are less toxic alternatives. Some sources say that corn gluten prevents weed seeds from sprouting. They must be wet to be activated. (It won't work on dandelions which are already thriving in your lawn.) There is a product called Organic Weed Stopper Plus Corn Gluten Meal (from Walt's Organic Fertilizer Company in Seattle) which can be used: they recommend March 15 for getting rid of crabgrass, and August 15 for fall dandelions. (Please note that subsequent research suggests corn gluten may be ineffective as a weed control method. See this Oregon State University study.)

According to Ann Lovejoy's book, The Handbook of Northwest Gardening, corn gluten should be spread at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Do this two or three times a year (in spring and fall, with a summer booster as needed). For ongoing weed suppression, apply it in small amounts whenever you pull up weeds (make a paste of corn gluten and water).

3. The Lovejoy book also has a recipe for fall lawn renovation:
a. Mow the existing grass as short as possible.
b. Spread 1 inch of clean crushed quarter-ten gravel (not pea gravel) evenly over the entire surface.
c. Spread 1 inch of compost over the gravel.
d. Top-seed with a regionally appropriate blend if the lawn is thin and spotty.
e. Wait 6-7 weeks before mowing again.

A criticism of weed-and-feed products is that they will add excessive amounts of phosphorus to your lawn, which will actually encourage weed growth once the herbicide breaks down.

The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has good information about controlling dandelions without using weed-and-feed products (originally published in the Journal of Pesticide Reform, Fall 2001).

And, Washington Toxics Coalition has information on an overall approach to weed control and lawn care

Season All Season
Date 2007-12-06
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Keywords: Weeds, Lawns--Care and maintenance

PAL Question:

I used to have a pristine green lawn and it has since been overtaken by crabgrass. I've tried organic and chemical weed-and-feed products to no avail. What can I do to get the weeds out?

View Answer:

Local plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson has written about crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) in his book, Wild Plants of Greater Seattle (2008): "Crabgrass is difficult to get rid of because it seeds itself at an almost unbelievable rate; mowing simply makes if flower nearer to the ground. Control demands diligent weekly hoeing and pulling by hand, from July through at least September. Even a few specimens left to reseed ensure more seedlings next summer."

According to Ecologically Sound Lawn Care for the Pacific Northwest by David McDonald (Seattle Public Utilities, 1999), weed invasions are best prevented by making a habit of aerating and topdressing to correct soil compaction and build fertile soil. He recommends that you "overseed at summer's end with locally adapted grasses to fill bare areas with grass rather than weeds. Correct acidity or poor drainage. Mow higher (2-2 1/2 inches, or 1 inch on bentgrass), fertilize moderately with slow-release or natural products, water deeply and infrequently in the summer. Tolerate some broadleaf plants like clover and daisies. Hand weed or spot-spray problem weeds in spring or fall to stop them before they spread."

There is additional information on crabgrass from University of California, Davis Integrated Pest Management.

Seattle Public Utilities has information on best practices for maintaining a healthy lawn.

Washington Toxics Coalition also has a helpful lawn care fact sheet that might be helpful to you.

Since the weed-and-feed approach to the problem was not effective (and chemical weed and feed should be avoided), I recommend trying some of the cultural controls discussed above (mow higher, only fertilize at appropriate times and don't use quick release fertilizer, water less often but more deeply, improve drainage by aerating, build soil by mulching). Solarization might be an option if the problem can't be addressed by hand-weeding combined with the other methods described.

Season All Season
Date 2009-04-02
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Keywords: Mulching, Leaves, Lawns--Care and maintenance

Garden Tool:

Research from Purdue and Cornell University shows that autumn leaves can simply be left where they fall, shredded by a mower and allowed to mulch the lawn. Fertilize as you normally would. The shredding is essential, so don't skip that step. If the leaf mulch is too thick, move some into your flowerbeds or compost bin. Read the research report.

Season: Fall
Date: 2007-04-03
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June 24 2013 12:55:25