Whacking Weeds the Natural

Make your lawn dense and vigorous so it outcompetes the weeds: Plant the proper varieties, nurture the soil, mow high and often to prevent seed-set on annual weeds, water deeply and infrequently, and reseed bare spots quickly. Any vacancies will likely fill up with weeds, not desirable grasses. Monitor weed development, and eradicate newcomers early.

Even with the best of care, you still get some weeds. This ain't the Garden of Eden. Outsmart them. Try these tips:

  • Fix the pH. Dandelions, for example, like a soil pH of around 7.5 (slightly alkaline); adjust the pH so it's between 6.3 and 6.8, and the dandelions will diminish.
  • Fertilize when necessary. The medic plant and clover are indicators of low nitrogen, so fertilizing a little more often will put them at a disadvantage.

By the way, clover absorbs nitrogen from the air and puts it into the soil, where grasses can use it. Clover was a common feature of lawns until chemical-company propaganda convinced people that it was a weed. It also attracts bees, however, so it's hazardous to those with bee allergies.

  • Yank them out by hand. Hand-pulling weeds can be laborious, but it works fine if you stay on top of it. Many non-backbreaking weeding tools are available.
  • Be uncultivated. Don't cultivate the soil if you have perennial weeds; it can disperse rather than discourage them.
  • Dress with vinegar. Using horticultural vinegar to spot-treat weeds works really well. (For details, visit www.usda.gov and search for "vinegar weeds.")

Only low-test food-grade vinegar is legal to use in the garden; stronger 20-percent concentrations work great but aren't yet approved by the EPA.

✓ Apply corn gluten meal. This type of meal kills crabgrass. Apply 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet in early spring or late summer. You should get 50 to 60 percent crabgrass control in the first year and 90 percent by the third year.

Corn gluten meal works against many other weeds and also acts as a gentle organic fertilizer. Don't seed after applying it, though, because it inhibits germination. Spread the meal with a fertilizer spreader, water afterward, and then let the lawn dry out for two to three days.

Caring For Your Lawn

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