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Weeds and Your Lawn

Determine Your Weed Tolerance

Personal values, uses of the site, and level of maintenance will dictate the quantity of weeds you permit at a specific site. Focus your management strategy on weeds that you cannot tolerate. Some homeowners enjoy wildflowers in their lawns. You can purchase low-maintenance blends of grasses, violets, clovers, yarrows, and other flowers that thrive on biweekly mowing from a variety of seed sources (see Resources).

broadlieaf plantain ground ivy
Broadleaf plantain-a perennial weed found in all turf conditions. Has broad oval leaves with parallel venation. Reproduces by seed and forms a short taproot.
Ground ivy-a perennial weed with long, creeping square stems that root at the nodes. Rounded leaves have toothed margins. Forms dense prostrate patches, especially in damp, shady areas.

Mow, Fertilize, Irrigate

Mow regularly at the appropriate height to minimize weed pressure. In New York State, an ideal mowing height for most grasses is 3 inches. Mowing often and at the optimal height encourages healthy growth and deep rooting of grasses. Most weeds cannot tolerate frequent mowing.

Apply a balanced fertilizer two weeks after the last mowing in the fall to optimize hardiness and spring greening. Never apply fertilizer after the ground is frozen; it is likely to run off. Around Memorial Day, you can apply a smaller amount of fertilizer, if it is needed. Before you select a fertilizer, have your soil tested to determine your lawn's specific fertilization needs. Also, test the pH of your soil; most grasses do best in neutral to slightly acid soil (with a pH of 6.5-7.0).

Most lawns do not need to be watered regularly. Cool season grasses can survive with as little as 1/4 inch of water every three weeks. Inappropriate watering - either too much or too little - weakens the grass and makes it more susceptible to weed problems.