April Showers Bring May Flowers….and Weeds


Part of a nicely maintained property is an established, lush, green lawn. Weeds, though, are everywhere, all the time. It can be a constant battle to keep them away from your property and out of your lawn. There are steps that can be taken to keep weeds at bay and allow your lawn to flourish.

Lawn Weed Identification & Growth Conditions

First step is to identify the lawn weed. Once the weed is identified, appropriate steps can be taken for eradication and prevention. Some common lawn weeds in our area include: dandelion, creeping Charlie, crabgrass, thistle, white clover and black medic. Certain environmental factors can promote lawn weeds to grow in otherwise weed free lawns. Some examples are:

  • Seasonal weather conditions – for example, a wet summer can encourage growth of white clover, while crabgrasscan withstand drought and possibly even flourish in it!
  • Soils with low levels of nitrogen will encourage some weeds to grow, such as white clover and black medic.
  • Disturbed/unmaintained sites will encourage weeds, like thistle, to grow.
  • Neighboring properties with weeds or weed seeds can easily travel to your property.
  • Some weeds, like dandelion, will grow almost anywhere, in any condition!
  • Weeds can occur naturally in all soils and can persist for 30 or more years!

Keeping a Healthy Lawn

Work on your lawn and keep it healthy. The best defense in lawn weed prevention is a healthy lawn. Consider a lawn fertilization program that will fertilize the lawn and treat weeds at optimal times of the year. Using a Milorganite fertilizer program, which is all-natural, slow-release, and non-burning, is one great way to treat your lawn. It is nitrogen-based, which will help green up your lawn and make it more vigorous.

Aeration is also recommended. It pulls plugs of soil out of the ground, leaving pockets for air circulation – which promotes root growth. The plugs of soil left on the ground look like goose droppings, but no need to remove them, as they will break down and disappear. Deep, established roots will help keep your lawn healthy and will reduce the need for watering. Aeration is recommended every other year or every year in high traffic lawns or hard compacted soils.

Lawn fertilizers containing phosphorous used to be used, but have been banned. Phosphorous can promote root growth, however, it can be easily over-used. It builds up in the soil over time, runs off, and pollutes waterways. Soil tests should be conducted every few years, so soil deficiencies will be made known and proper amounts can be applied, without overdoing it.

Lawn mower height – keeping lawn a little longer, around 3″ in height, will help shade out or block sunlight from some weeds and prevent them from germinating. Crabgass, for example, is sun-loving and will not grow in shady areas. Regular mowing also helps prevent weeds from flowering. No flowers = no seeds!

If these steps have been taken and you still have weeds, it might be time for some help with a chemical weed herbicide. Once the weed is identified, the physiology of it determines the kind of chemical or treatment that is to be used. Broadleaf weeds (such as dandelions and creeping Charlie) are treated differently from grassy weeds (such as crabgrass). Selective herbicides that contain 2,4-D or dicamba, target broadleaf weeds only, within the lawn. Treatment for grassy type weeds, like crabgrass, are controlled with a pre-emergent, which kills the very young weed seedlings. Sometimes, if possible, hand puling these weeds is very effective, too.

Ultimately, there is no one easy solution for weed prevention. Weeds may appear one year and not in others. Every property is different and every treatment plan will be different. For best results, contact your lawn maintenance company for a customized lawn care program.

This article was originally written by Lisa Steinhaus, Landscape Designer & Horticulturist at Villani Landshapers
for the Wisconsin Chapter of Community Associations Institute. Permission to post granted by CAI-WI.