The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. And the birds are singing. Spring is near. It just a great time of the year to get outside, enjoy the spring weather, and do some much needed yard work.
By mid March, most home lawns look sort of ragged. It’s not that the grass isn’t growing much or needs mowing; it’s just all those winter weeds out in the lawn have gotten bigger. Weeds can be an eyesore and you may be motivated to go out on one of those sunny days and spray them. But don’t bother because you would likely be wasting your time, herbicide, and money. Most selective herbicides do not work on full-grown weeds. For annual weeds, like those in your lawn, they mature in early spring and begin reseeding themselves for next year. Their life cycle will be ending soon and they will begin dying. So for right now, forget using a herbicide on your lawn.
The best way to get rid of nuisance lawn weeds in the spring is to just crank up the lawn mower and cut them down. Running over the lawn a few times will help hide and suppress some of those pesky weeds that may have escaped or sneaked in and will make the lawn look much better. Bagging the grass clippings and weeds a few times in the early spring (as well as in the late fall) will suck up those weed seeds and small debris that has gathered on the lawn the last few months. If the lawn still has leaves and small twigs scattered around the lawn, bagging or picking them up is a must. Excessive leaves and leftover piles of grass clippings on the lawn can serve as mulch and may smother any new growth.
Don’t get me wrong, herbicides are a great way to control weeds. However, in order for them to work properly, they must be applied at the right time of the year. Timing is critical. Unfortunately, March is not the right time to start controlling winter weeds. The month of March is more of a transition time when winter weeds are maturing, reseeding, and dying and summer weeds are starting to germinate. Simply mowing the weeds down will suppress them and ultimately help clean up the yard. If you bag the clippings while mowing, you will also reduce the number of weeds and seeds left behind on the lawn. Plan on applying a pre-emergence herbicide in the fall so you don’t have such a weedy lawn next year.
Remember a major weed problem in the lawn is a sign of poor management and improper cultural practices. Sound cultural or management practices such as proper fertilization and liming, adequate watering, proper mowing height, and correct turfgrass selection for the site will result in less weeds and a dense, healthy attractive lawn. If the real problem is not corrected, then the use of herbicides will provide only a short-term fix and, in all likelihood, weeds will reoccur. The key to having no weeds is having a dense, healthy lawn.
Although mowing and clean-up is okay in the early spring, applying fertilizer too early isn’t a good idea for warm season grasses. Don’t get overly anxious with wanting to force the grass to green-up. Wait to late April and May after any chance of a late frost before fertilizing. Don’t waste your time and money guessing; know what nutrients your lawn really needs. This includes most weed and feed products commonly found in stores; they all contain lots of nitrogen fertilizer. Always follow the recommendations of an official soil test.
Generally, most people wait until the lawn has gotten fairly tall and thick and may actually need baling before the first real mowing of the year is done. No reason not to start early this year. Whether you want to have that perfect lawn or you’re just excited about riding the lawn mower again, doing a little spring clean-up will help get that lawn back into shape for another year. There is nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass (or weeds) in the spring!
by Shane Harris