Lawn Weeds – How to Get Rid of Common Weeds Before They Take Control of Your Lawn

Lawn weeds are a nuisance. These unwelcome plants grow where you don’t want them to grow and look completely out of place. Once weeds appear, the surrounding grass plants are at risk.

Weed control is an important step in maintaining a healthy lawn. Unfortunately, you cannot just close your eyes and wish them away. If you do not take proper action, not only will they overtake your yard, but your neighbor’s as well. There goes “Love Thy Neighbor”.

In order to rid your lawn of weeds, you need to be able to properly identify them and know which lawn weed control method is right for both you and your lawn.

What are Lawn Weeds?

By definition, a weed is a plant that is considered undesirable, unattractive or troublesome. They grow in places you don’t want them. They let you know when the weather conditions, soil, light or your own lawn maintenance program is wrong.

If left unchecked, they will start seeding, spreading and multiplying throughout your lawn. One day things may quickly spiral out of control. You won’t know the difference between the grass and weeds.

How to Identify Lawn Weeds

Lawn weeds are classified in several ways

  • Life Span
  • Physical Trait
  • Growing Season

By Life Span

They can be classified into 3 separate life spans.....


Annuals – In one season, these plants grow, flower, produce seed and die. The seeds germinate and the next year grow again. This cycle can continue each year. The plant must be killed before the seed germinates. Common weeds are crab grass and blue grass.


Biennials – They typically have a 2 year life span. The first year the plant grows. In order to eliminate this type of weed you have to be sure to kill the entire plant because they can grow from seeds, rhizomes or stolons. A common weed is mallow.

Perennials – They generally live 3 years.

Year 1 – Plant grows

Years 2 and 3 – Flower, seed and possibly survive several more seasons.

If left unchecked, perennial weeds will live in your lawn indefinitely. These are the most stubborn of all lawn weeds. Sometimes they even trick you by going dormant for part of the season.

In order to eliminate this type of weed you have to kill the entire plant because it will spread by seed, rhizomes and stolons. You can not just eliminate the top part of the weed, you need to get rid of the root and all.

Common perennials are dandelions and white clover.

By Physical Trait

Narrow leaf weeds (grassy weeds)

These plants tend to look and act like grass. They have narrow leaves with parallel veins. Common weeds that can be categorized as narrow leaf weeds are crab grass, blue grass and Bermuda grass (when it is in areas that it wasn’t intentionally planted).

Broad leaf weeds

These plants do not look and act like grass. They have wider leaves and netted veins. Common lawn weeds that can be categorized as broad leaf weeds are dandelions and white clover.

By Growing Season

Cool Season Weeds – Growth period is primarily the Spring and Fall.

Warm Season Weeds – Growth period is primarily the height of the summer (i.e. crab grass).

Why You Should Practice Lawn Weed Control

Overlooking weed control is a big mistake. What starts out as a couple of harmless weeds, can quickly spiral out of control. One day you may come home and a sea of yellow flowers or a purple plant may be creeping across both yours and your neighbor’s lawn.

Walk through your yard often and look for signs of lawn weeds, lawn diseases and lawn pests. Tackling a lawn problem is certainly easier when it is in it’s very early stages as opposed to an advanced stage that has ruined your entire lawn.

A few weeds won’t hurt your lawn. Keeping up on your lawn maintenance will crowd them out.

The Right Time to Tackle Lawn Weed Control in Your Yard

Some believe if your lawn is comprised of 50% or more lawn weeds, you should replant your entire lawn.


On the contrary, my belief is quite different. I believe you can bring back a lawn by getting the weeds under control:

  • aerating
  • overseeding in the Spring and Fall
  • Improving your lawn maintenance practices
  • If you follow my approach, you can achieve a lawn that is 98% weed free within 18 months. I personally achieved this within 12 months with my own lawn.

Lawn Weed Control Methods That Work

Proper Lawn Maintenance

Basic lawn maintenance is a key to weed prevention. It is important to keep your beautiful lawn thick and healthy to prevent weeds from taking over your lawn and soil.

Cutting Grass – Keep your lawn at a longer length so the shade will keep out the annual weeds. Remember to mow high and mow often. It is best to bag the grass clippings if you have lawn weeds. Otherwise, the weeds will spread throughout your lawn.

Fertilize Your Lawn – It is best to fertilize warm season grasses at the height of the summer. Avoid feeding your lawn during the Spring and cooler part of the Summer because weeds are more likely to appear at that time. You want to nourish your lawn not the weeds. It is best to fertilize cool season grasses in early Spring and Fall. During the height of the Summer benefits common lawn weeds such as crab grass, not your lawn.

Watering Your Lawn – Water deeply and only when it is absolutely necessary. Allow the soil to dry out before you water again. Wet soil helps the weed seeds germinate, not the result you were looking for.

Planting Grass – It is best to fill in the bare spots, dead or badly damaged grass. Weeds thrive in these areas. It is best to ward them off before you have a weed infestation.

Using Chemical Lawn Weed Control

Chemical weed control should only be used:

Preemergent Herbicides

Controls weeds that reproduce by seed. Even if the weed appears to be gone, it may just be laying and waiting until next season to germinate. A preemergent stops seeds before they germinate. It has no effect on existing weeds, only future weeds.

It is best when applied 2 weeks before germination. Talk to a local expert in your area for the exact timing of germination because it can vary by climate and even county.

Post-emergent Herbicides

These herbicides kill existing weeds. There are 4 types...

Selective HerbicidesKills one specific type of weed. This is commonly used in weed and feed fertilizer. It helps eradicate broad leaf weeds.

Non-Selective HerbicidesThis is a heavy duty weed killer. It will kill anything it comes into contact with, even your grass. This is best to use when you are killing your grass in a certain area. This is commonly used to kill perennial, grassy weeds.

Contact Herbicides – Kills the part of the plant it comes into contact with. So if it comes into contact with the flower of a dandelion, the root will remain in tact.

Systemic Herbicide – Kills the entire weed (leaf to root). The plant absorbs the product. It works very slowly.

Once weeds have established themselves in your lawn, chemicals are a good short term fix. Spot treating areas may be a better alternative than applying chemicals to your entire lawn.

Organic Weed Killer

If you would rather practice organic weed control, you may prefer one of these methods.


Proper Lawn Maintenance – With the proper care, you will not have to worry about your lawn being overtaken by lawn weeds. Your lawn will be thick, healthy and beautiful.

Corn Gluten Meal – Also known as an organic weed and feed. It is a preemergent herbicide that mainly kills crab grass. It is harmless to humans, pets and other plants. It contains 10% slow-release nitrogen. The application should be 4-6 weeks prior to the germination.

It reduces crab grass by 50-60% in the first year and by 98% in the second year. Dandelions will be controlled after using for 4 years.

It is expensive and can be purchased at your local garden center or on-line.

Acetic Acid Vinegar Weed Killer

This works like a post emergent, non-selective herbicide. It may not be successful in killing the roots of weeds. Follow all directions and do not inhale the fumes when using higher concentration of acetic acid.

Boiling Water

A post emergent, non-selective weed killer. It is good for killing weeds in crevices of the driveway and walk ways. Do not use to kill weeds in your lawn. It will burn your lawn.

Return from lawn weeds to lawncare home page.


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Crabgrass

Crabgrass Graphic

Dandelions

Dandelion Graphi

White Clover

White Clover Graphi