Treating alreadyWeedy lawns

Having too many weeds in a lawn is more than a call to arms; it's a wake-up call. Something isn't right if they're winning. On the other hand, you can and, frankly, will have to live with a few. To get rid of the weeds you already have, follow these tips:

1 Assess and correct. If your lawn were healthy, you wouldn't have so many weeds, and that's the truth. So what's wrong? Are you not watering or feeding enough, which stresses the grass and eventually leads to sparser growth and areas where weeds can sneak in? Are you mowing too low, which allows weeds to germinate? Go read the earlier basic care sections on watering, fertilizer, and mowing to see what you can figure out.

1 Hand-pull. Yank out weeds one by one each time you pass by — be sure to get all of the root system — or try an all-day assault. If you get the kids to do it ("What'll you pay me?"), teach them the importance of getting out the entire root system. You may be able to purchase a tool for digging dandelion roots out in their entirety.

1 Consider weed-killers. But don't take herbicides lightly, no matter how frustrated and annoyed you are. You have to examine environmental and toxicity and safety issues. You don't want to harm your lawn or other garden plants in the process (or people and pets who may wander out there). Getting the right weed-killer for the job and applying it properly and especially at the right time are key. (Pre-emergent herbicides, which are somewhat less toxic, are used early in the year, before the weed seeds germinate; post-emergent ones damage and kill growing weeds, some through the leaves, some all the way down through the root system. Corn gluten, an organic pre-emergent, is applied in the fall.) Get your enemy weeds properly identified, read labels, ask questions, and be careful if you decide to go ahead.

1 Get professional help. Consult a lawn-care company and see what the workers say. A reputable company won't put a bandage on the problem by applying an herbicide without talking to you first about the conditions that allowed weeds to prosper.

1 Renovate. Now may be the time to take out that sorry lawn and start over. Check out the info in the section "In the Beginning: Getting Ready to Make a Lawn from Scratch," earlier in this chapter.

Or rather than try to get rid of the weeks, you can learn to live with them. Who is your lawn's worst critic? Why, you are, of course. Stand back — across the street, or over in the driveway, say — and look at the lawn. Is it generally thick and green at this vantage? You don't want to surrender (you can still hand-pull whenever you have the time and inclination), but perhaps you can reach a truce and even start to appreciate some of the diversity in your yard. Some people consider clover a weed, but it adds nitrogen to the soil, feeding the grass; besides, you may get lucky and find a four-leaf clover!

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