David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
How to keep weeds at bay
Healthy turf management can reduce weed work
Hopefully during this month, the temperatures will warm, the sun will start shining again and the grass will start growing.
Unfortunately, the weeds will also start sprouting up all over the place.
Some weeds are as annoying as houseflies. Think violets. Think clover. In some situations, you don’t care that they are there and growing.
Other weeds make you think they are more annoying than they are. By the time you reach adulthood and start taking care of a lawn, dandelions become the scourge of the turf grass. Yet, as a child, you reveled in picking the flowers and making chains out of the flower stems.
Today, nothing pleases me more than popping a dandelion out of the lawn and flowerbeds with a dandelion fork, hearing the hollow sound reverberate nearby as the root is sucked out. On the other hand, seeing the roadside ablaze with thousands of golden flowers blooming from this imported weed is breathtaking. Even watching the delicate seedpods blow in the wind makes you appreciate nature.
Others are more annoyingly aggressive, spreading all over the place. There are few people who appreciate creeping Charlie, a.k.a. ground ivy. Crabgrass, come July and August, is just as bad. And tall fescue in a bluegrass lawn is just as bad.
Dandelions are my arch enemy. If clover shows up, it gets to stay. Besides looking just so cute, it attracts the bees. Violets are great while they bloom, but are dug out if they start to spread. Creeping Charlie is always a nemesis.
True, one dandelion isn’t as a big a problem as a 100. But are 10 plants that much better? Or worse?
Our urban friends tend to be shamed into lawn care by neighbors, television ads and the bombardment of lawn care service companies. Rural friends just appreciate something green on their property. To this date, even with all my experience, I can’t distinguish between dandelions, crabgrass and turf grasses at 55 miles per hour traveling down rural roads. (Well, if the dandelion is blooming, I can.)
In some cases, your philosophy, which is shared by this author, could be to keep your yard looking better than your neighbors. If they have 50 dandelions, it’s acceptable for you to have 25.
Still, if you are one of those that prefer a yard that is absolutely 100 percent turf grass with no extraneous plants of any type, that’s perfectly acceptable, as long as you realize that not everyone thinks the same.
My neighbor once told me when I commented that there seemed to be more dandelions in their yard compared to the previous year, that they wouldn’t mind it one bit if I wanted to take the time to dig them out. They would even lend me their dandelion fork.
Yet, all these turf weeds are weak competitors compared to the one truly weedy plant in the lawn – the grass itself.
Bluegrass, tall fescue, and Zoysia are tough competitors. When they get going, they’ll run rough shod over just about any other thing. You’ve seen how they can take over an unsuspecting flower garden, the vegetable plot or even the sidewalk.
Trouble starts when the grass isn’t as strong as it should be. Anything to encourage good grass growth means poor weed growth, which means a green lawn without lots of work and the potential use of chemicals.
Which brings us to a point about chemicals – use them with some discretion. Make sure you have a severe enough problem to warrant their use, after exhausting all other type of controls such as encouraging the turf grass and/or using a fork, rake, shovel or hoe.
Consider spot treating established weeds instead of applying chemicals all over your yard where you might not have weeds. It doesn’t take any more time to spot treat than it does to walk the entire yard behind a spreader or with a sprayer on your arm.
And, always, always, always, always read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter before applying pesticides to the yard.
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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