Aren’t There More Important Things to Worry About than Grass?
I’ve never cared much for my lawn before. When I was younger (because I was told to) I mowed my parents’ and grandparents’ lawns, and even mowed for a lawn care company. But this Spring when a sea of dandelions washed over my lawn, I took it personally.
The following is what I’ve learned about cultivating pride in your yard’s turf, and turning your weed-patch into a respectable lawn.
Admitting You Have a Problem:
I like to golf. Golf courses typically have very nice turf. So when an army of yellow flowers, clover, thistle, creeping charlie, and who-knows-what overtook my turf, my lawn stood in high-contrast with my course’s fairways. I decided I would have to go beyond simply mowing and trimming this year.
Tip #1: Mow High
- Set your mower to cut your grass at least 3″ high.
- Once you get your weeds under control, tall grass helps to shade out new weed upstarts.
- This will also help to green the turf in prolonged dry spells.
- Furthermore, it promotes root growth (think of the height of your grass blades, and that’s about how deep the roots go).
EDIT: June 2011 – This year I’ve been mowing as high as I can set my Craftsman brand push-mower, and I’m surprised at how people have commented on how nice the lawn looks. I’m sure that I’m mowing at least 4 inches high now.
Tip #2: Kill Weeds
- As your weeds disappear, your grass will grow to fill in the gaps and new weeds will have less area to gain a foothold.
This doesn’t happen overnight. When I decided to eradicate weeds, I researched “natural” and organic techniques, but decided that I needed to try chemicals first due to the extent of my infestation. I feel guilty about spraying chemicals on my lawn that will likely runoff to water supplies or wetland habitats, but I’m able to rationalize chemical herbicide usage for now.
This spring I started off with a “Weed & Feed” treatment. This is a bag(s) of granules with both fertilizer and herbicide mixed in. I used a broadcast spreader to apply this to my lawn, and followed manufacturer directions on how much to put on each 1,000 sq/ft. After about a week I noticed a lot of the dandelions started to curl and wilt. after 2 or 3 weeks, I felt that the herbicide had done all it was going to do. This is when I began Spot Spraying.
Here’s how I’ve spot sprayed this year:
I got about 20 ounces of 2,4-D and a hand-held sprayer, and I’ve been mixing in about 3-4 ounces of liquid 2,4-D to 1 gallon of water and then spray this solution on remaining patches of clover, dandelions, thistles, and other broadleaf weeds. 2,4-D is a “Highly Selective” herbicide, meaning it selects broadleaf plants, but does little-to-no harm to grasses. Contrast this with Roundup, which will kill almost any plant (non-selective). I obtained the liquid 2,4-D from a family member who is a farmer. I’m not sure how everyone else gets their hands on this chemical in its isolated form, but it’s available in plenty of store-bought herbicides (like Ortho “Weed-B-Gon”)
More 2,4-D info:
Of course, I don’t have a 100% weed-free lawn, and I never expect to. I just want to create the environment that encourages my turf to grow in thick and choke out unwanted plants. As this continues, weeds become less of a problem and more of an ongoing minor-maintenance issue.
By next Spring or Summer, I plan to start using home-made “organic” herbicides. This involves something along the line of mixing vinegar, dish soap (to stick to leaves), and possibly citrus or clove oil mixed with water. I’ll probably update with my experience at that time.