You love your lawn. You should, you’ve put a lot of effort into it.
You’ve ensured that it’s survived through the harsh winter months, and you’re mowing it regularly during the summer.
It’s taken effort, but you finally have a lawn worthy of the classiest golf course.
It’s then, just when you’re about to let your guard down, that they strike. The weeds – setting roots down among the grass and pushing up their shoots and turning your back garden into something that’s less St Andrews and more Jurassic Park.
The term “weeds” covers a multitude of sins, so using one tactic isn’t going to get them all. Instead you’re going to have to use a variety of tools and techniques to keep your lawn clear.
Know Your Enemy
To fight the weeds, you have to know what sort of weeds you’re going to have to deal with. Weeds fall into three categories, based on just how often they’re likely to show their faces – annual, biennial, and perennial.
Annual weeds, as you expect, live for only one season. They only spread by seed, but they can still be catastrophic for your lawn if left unchecked. Chickweed, knotweed, yellow foxtail and crabgrass are all examples of this.
Biennial weeds meanwhile can survive for two seasons before they die off, spreading their seeds in the process. During the first season they will only produce foliage, then the next time around they’ll grow flowers and begin to seed. Wild carrot, common mullein and bull thistle are all examples of biennial weeds.
Finally, there are perennial weeds, which are the bane of many a lawn. These weeds have deep root systems that spread far beneath the ground. You have to catch these early or they’re can be impossible to control. If you leave even a tiny part of the root system in the soil, the rest of it will come back. This is where you’ll find your ivy, your dandelions, your white clover and your plantain.
If you can avoid it you don’t want to start spreading chemicals all over your lawn, so ideally you want to get in there on your hands and knees while you’re still able. If you get in there early, and you don’t have too much space to cover it isn’t that big a problem pulling weeds out by hand.
If you’ve got dandelions they should be your first concern, as you want to get them before they seed a whole new generation of dandelions. If even one is left, that’s potentially thousands of dandelion seeds ready to set sail for the rest of your lawn. As mentioned before, make sure you get the whole root out, you want to leave nothing that can survive. A good time to get down and dirty is after a rain or in the early morning when the ground is covered in dew, as it’s best to remove the weeds when the ground is damp and just a little more pliable.
Both pre and post-emergence herbicides are available. Obviously prevention is better than cure, so pre-emergence herbicides are your best option if you can get in their early. Most of these use moisture to draw their active ingredients into the soil, where they can get the emerging weeds. This means that if there’s no rain you’ll need to water the grass afterwards.
If the weeds have already taken over, that’s when you need post-emergence herbicides, which are available in both liquid and granular form. These are usually more expensive, and require more treatments to be effective.
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Mark Bartram is the managing director of Lawnmowers Direct.