Seeding Weed Infested Lawn

One gardener’s weedy lawn is another's wildflower meadow. The more plants grow in your lawn, the more biodiverse it will be. If you really want to remove the plants you consider weeds, try hand weeding first and, as a last resort, selective lawn weedkillers are available to use. How to Grow Grass in a Weeded Area. Trying to grow grass in a weeded area is a frustrating task that generally provides undesirable results. Weeds are aggressive and invasive plants that choke out grass and flowers. They quickly take over an area and are notoriously hard to get rid of. When you choose to grow grass in …

Lawns: weed control

One gardener’s weedy lawn is another’s wildflower meadow. The more plants grow in your lawn, the more biodiverse it will be. If you really want to remove the plants you consider weeds, try hand weeding first and, as a last resort, selective lawn weedkillers are available to use.

Quick facts

Common name Various
Botanical name Various
Areas affected Lawns
Main causes Weeds with creeping stems or seeds
Timing Treat from spring to early summer or dig out in autumn

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What are lawn weeds?

Although the term ‘weed’ is subjective, it is usually applied to invasive plants that compete with the grass for space to grow – clover and dandelions, coarse-leaved grasses, daisies and buttercups are just some examples. You may to choose to retain these plants to create a flower-rich lawn. Learn more about making the most of lawns as a wildlife habitat and ways to help our bees;

Bees in your garden

Lawn and mini-meadow habitats

Wildlife in gardens

If you choose to eradicate these plants early identification and prompt removal can alleviate large-scale problems. This can be as simple as following a yearly lawn maintenance plan. The season starts with spring and summer care but autumn care is particularly important.

This page offers options for the gardener if lawn weeds are becoming a problem.

Appearance

There are several ways lawn weeds are often noticed:

  • The grass may look patchy, have an uneven growth rate or simply include areas that are a different colour or texture to the rest of the lawn
  • Flowers appear in the grass. This can occur even in a closely mown lawn, but often appears when the grass is allowed to grow longer
  • Patches may remain green during a drought. Lawn weeds may perform better or worse than the lawn grasses, staying green or turning brown
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Cause

Lawn weeds establish because they survive close, regular mowing. They spread by seed or creeping stems, and are usually problematic where the grass is sparse.

Control

First, consider whether you can control the weeds using non-chemical means, such as digging out. Where these methods are not feasible, chemical controls may be needed. Choose a weedkiller that is most appropriate for that purpose by reading the label carefully before buying or using.

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.

Cultural controls

There are a number of non-chemical options to try first;

  • Feeding, aerating and scarifying will encourage the grass to be more vigorous and so make it more difficult for the weeds to compete
  • Remove rosette-type weeds, such as dandelion, daisy and plantain, with a handfork
  • Dig out weeds resistantto weedkillers in autumn; and re-turf or re-seed
  • Rake over and then mow to discourage creeping weeds such as speedwells, white clover, silverweed and sorrels
  • Apply garden lime to acid soils in the winter. Dress with lime at 50g per sq m (1 ½ oz per sq yd) to deter weeds such as sorrels and field woodrush
  • Avoid close mowing, particularly with parsley piert and pearlwort, as this can weaken the grass and allow the weeds in

Weedkiller controls

Lawn weedkillers may be needed where many weeds have established. When buying a lawn weedkiller, check the label to find out if it will work on the weeds in your turf.

  • Apply a weedkiller in spring and summer, when the grass and weeds are growing vigorously
  • Read the instructions before you begin. It is important to follow them and apply the weedkiller as stated – this will ensure effective results and your safety
  • Choose a product that is easy to apply. Lawn weedkillers are available to spray on, apply with watering can and dribble bar, and less frequently as granules that are scattered on the surface
  • For spot treatment, apply ready-to-use sprays
  • Only use with a combined mosskiller where moss is a problem
  • Most lawn weeds are killed by weedkiller application, some by a single treatment, but others requiring two or three applications at four to six week intervals
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New lawns

New lawns are often severely damaged by weedkillers if applied to lawns within six months of sowing or turf-laying. However, products containing fluroxypyr (Weedol Lawn Weedkiller) as one of their ingredients are claimed to be safe to use if applied after two months of sowing or laying turf. The new turf must be growing well.

Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.

Download

Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see sections 1b, c and d)

How to Grow Grass in a Weeded Area

Trying to grow grass in a weeded area is a frustrating task that generally provides undesirable results. Weeds are aggressive and invasive plants that choke out grass and flowers. They quickly take over an area and are notoriously hard to get rid of. When you choose to grow grass in an area overrun by weeds, you essentially have to start fresh by establishing new turf.

Remove the weeds from the area by either manually pulling them out of the ground or applying weed killer to the area. Hand-pulling weeds is safer for the soil, but removing all the roots can be difficult. Chemical weed killer kills the weeds and their roots, but may damage grass seed and leave pesticide residue in the soil, if you plant the seeds too soon after the herbicide application. If you choose to use weed killer, wait 2 to 3 weeks before planting new grass seed.

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Till the top 6 inches of soil with a soil tiller. You can rent or purchase soil tillers at home improvement centers and rental yards. After the tiller turns under the dead weeds and soil, rake the soil with a garden rake to level the area as much as possible. Remove large rocks and break up clumps of soil.

Cover the soil with the correct grass seed for your location and the amount needed to cover the area. For example, some parts of the San Francisco Bay area work best with warm-season grasses — such as St. Augustine, buffalo or zoysia grass — while other Bay areas thrive with cool-season grasses such as tall fescue and perennial rye. Use your gloved hands to distribute the seeds evenly over areas smaller than 150 square feet. For larger areas, use a seed spreader.

Apply a thin layer – about 1/4 inch – of high-quality topsoil over the grass seed. Applying too thick and the seeds have a hard time germinating. Attach a garden hose sprayer with a mist option to a water hose. Dampen the top 6 inches of the soil with the water hose set on mist. Using a mist of water instead of a stream will prevent the seeds from washing away.

Continue watering the soil two to three times a day until the seeds have germinated and the grass is about 1/2-inch high. After germination occurs, you can cut back watering to once every day or two. Never let the seeds dry out.