If the idea of a thick, weed-free lawn next spring appeals to you, Richard Hentschel has three pieces of advice for you. As a University of Illinois Extension Educator in Horticulture, he has the backing of University research behind him.
“A thin lawn, versus a thick lawn, lets weed seeds in. The majority of our weeds come in the spring, so the best strategy is to thicken up the lawn in the fall to make it more competitive against existing weeds and weed seeds next spring,” Hentschel explained.
What is the first step the homeowner should take?
“Start by mowing higher, mowing more often and mowing with a sharp blade,” Hentschel said. “Growing taller grass shades out any existing weeds and shades the soil preventing moisture loss. It makes for longer roots and stronger grass plants. So raise your mower cutting height by one setting on the mower deck."
Homeowners may find that they need to mow more often during peak times. Hentschel suggests getting mower blades sharpened at least once a year.
Secondly, apply a “winterizer” fertilizer to your lawn in September.
Hentschel further explained, “Our cool season lawns have two growing spurts, spring and fall. Spring energy goes into upward growth of the grass. Fall energy goes down into root system development. In the fall grass plants tend to put out underground roots called rhizomes that then produce a new grass plant next to the original one.”
Lawns look better and thicker with this fall feeding which has lower Nitrogen than earlier season products.
The third step to take now is to treat the lawn with broadleaf weed killer.
Hentschel explained it this way, “The early fall application means you will be ridding your lawn of these perennial weeds which started in your lawn in the spring from seed as well as treating the weeds that were already in the lawn. Homeowners should see little to no broadleaf weeds in their lawns next spring.”
Hentschel reminds homeowners to read labels carefully.
“Read before you buy and make certain a product will do what you want it to," he said. "Read before you mix and apply a product so you get good control. And, finally, read the label before you dispose of anything you might have left over and follow the directions.”
Email your home garden and lawn questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the Master Gardener Helpline at 630-955-1123. Visit our website: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/.
Julie Moore is a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage County.