Many of us want our lawns to be weed free and contain only the cultivated grass types that we would associate with a well-managed lawn which looks pleasing to the eye.
In terms of keeping weeds under control, there are a variety of things that can be done by the home owner before the application of any chemicals is considered. Any lawn management programme which brings about complete grass coverage will help greatly with keeping the weeds at bay. This ought to include regular cutting and lawn feeding several times per year, as well as routine cultural activities such as scarification and aeration.
Where practical, regular irrigation of the grass during spells of dry weather throughout the growing season will also help with maintaining healthy grass coverage. This becomes particularly apparent during prolonged dry spells, when lawns become drought stressed and the thinning turf provides a gateway for a fresh crop of weeds.
Rosette type weeds such as dandelion, thistles and plantain can all be effectively managed by using a trowel or similar implement to dig out the plant and tap root. This is always best done before the seed head forms, and it is vital to take all of the roots out to prevent re-growth. The type of weeds that are most stubborn and also the most invasive are the perennial species, examples of which would be clover, trefoil, creeping buttercup and speedwell. These weeds will tend to die back over the Winter months, re-appear in the Spring and grow as vigorously as the surrounding grass throughout the growing months. By their very nature these are difficult weeds to remove as they spread and intertwine their way through the grass and also have extensive root networks.
If you have a lawn full of weeds like these, then in all reality the only effective means of control at your disposal will be to use a selective herbicide. Selective, because it’s intended to provide effective control of the weeds ONLY (not the grass) and is NOT to be confused with a systemic herbicide such as those containing glyphosate. These are designed to control everything.
There are granular based products available from DIY outlets, notably the “all in one” type lawn feed, weed and moss treatments. These claim to offer effective weed control, but need to rely on water to break them down into a form which can be absorbed into the plant either via the leaves or root zone. They can prove moderately effective but should not be regarded as being wholly reliable.
The UKLCA’s preferred and more reliable weed control method is to use a systemic total herbicide to treat the weeds on your gravel drive or on paths where you’d like to remove everything which is growing, AND a selective herbicide on your lawn. As mentioned, selective herbicide is chosen because it only kills the weeds and not the grass. Many people make the fatal mistake of applying a total herbicide such as Round-Up on their beloved lawn, only to find that two weeks later it is dying off completely and requires re-turfing at great expense.
By far the most effective and safest means of applying weed control is as a liquid spray (not by watering can). This contact type of herbicide enters the plant through its foliage and provided the weed is growing actively is fast acting. This is the method of weed control most favoured by lawn care professionals.
The UK Lawn Care Association strongly recommends home owners against attempting to carry out herbicide or pesticide application unless they are 100 percent sure they understand the product and its application label. In all cases, PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) must be worn and you should never exceed the recommended dosage. Particular attention should be paid to storage of the product and disposal of its packaging.
We recommend herbicide application is always carried out by a local lawn care professional who has an NPTC Certificate of Competence for the use of pesticide, who will fully understand the product they are using and the relevant health and safety restrictions. In most cases it is safer and more cost effective to employ a lawn care company to carry out specialist lawn treatments and the results will almost certainly be better. Furthermore, your lawn care professional will have access to products not available to members of the general public and depending upon the type of weed needing to be managed will be able to determine which selective herbicide or combination of herbicides is most appropriate.
Some weed types can be very effectively managed by a single application of weed control, others are more stubborn and will require time and multiple applications before an effective outcome is achieved. Again, this is an area where your lawn care professional will be able to advise and manage expectations accordingly.