What is a weed
A weed is ‘a plant that is growing out of place’ or ‘a plant growing where it is not desired’. When we think of weeds in the lawn, we think about daisies, dandelions, clover, self-heal, plantains and so on….
Managing turf weeds
No matter how much we tend our lawn and try to keep it problem free, the odd weed always seems to appear. In many cases weeds numbers can be kept to a minimum by encouraging healthy turf. Good lawn practices that discourage weeds include:
- Correct mowing practices (mow the lawn at a sensible height, mowing to short stresses the grass and can encourage weeds if the sward becomes thin).
- Applying adequate nutrition (fertiliser) to promote thick, tight grass growth.
- Mechanical operations such as scarifying & aerating at the correct times of the year will help maintain good turf health.
- Irrigating in dry conditions to maintain grass coverage.
All the above will increase the health and vigour of the lawn and help reduce weed numbers.
Certain lawn weeds can be an indication of underlying problems in turf. For example the following weeds are often found in certain ground conditions:
- Buttercups are common on wet poorly drained soil.
- Yarrow and lesser trefoil are regularly found on dry, under-nourished lawns.
- Plantains are often a good indication that a lawn is suffering from soil compaction.
It may pay to do a little investigative work, to see if the weeds you suffer from are being caused by the turf or soil conditions. If you suffer from the same weeds year after year, then there is a good chance that the underlying conditions are causing it.
Identifying & controlling weeds
Before any control can take place, the weeds need identifying so the correct method of control or treatment can be applied. After all, it would be inappropriate to spray a weed if you didn’t know what weed it was. You could end up spraying the wrong product that could be ineffective against the weeds you are trying to eradicate.
To help with identification, please go to our lawn weeds identification page. Here you will find information and images of the most common turf weeds.
When it comes to controlling weeds, there are two methods, cultural or chemical control. Controlling weeds culturally means adopting a maintenance plan to help discourage or remove the weed by natural methods without the use of chemicals. These can include:
- Raising the cutting height of the mower to help reduce the stress on the grass.
- Boxing of grass clipping to remove weed flowers and fragments, to prevent regeneration.
- Lightly scarifying or raking the lawn prior to mowing to help damage or remove part of the weed, thus weakening it.
- Remove the weed altogether by hand, with a small knife or daisy grubber.
- Applying nutrients to help promote good turf health.
Hand weeding aside, the main drawback with cultural control is the the time scale. It takes time to completely eradicate weeds and in many cases the weed may only be weakened and still persist.
Chemical control involves treating the weed with a selective weed killer or selective herbicide. These products are available in both liquid and granular formulations and are used when growth is active, usually between April and September.
However, many ingredients found in weedkillers are gradually being banned on health or environmental grounds. As this continues and the replacements become less effective, the cultural methods may play a bigger role in weed prevention and control.