Weeds are an unwelcome resident in most lawns, but they are also a great indicator about the overall health of your grass and soil. They are a symptom of other problems, and with strict regulations now in place about the chemicals that can be used to treat weeds, it has become more viable to examine and treat their cause.
What are weeds? Basically they are any plant that you don’t want in your lawn. They compete with grass for sunlight, nutrients in the soil, water, and space, and they aren’t considered aesthetically pleasing in neighborhoods where a full, lush green lawn is desired.
Many weed problems first emerge because of deficiencies in your soil. If you give your grass a healthy start with a properly balanced ground to grow in, it will be heartier against weeds.
Nova Scotia soil has a natural acidity that makes it a less friendly environment for grass seed. Your soil’s pH level should be around 6.5—this is something you can easily determine with an at-home testing kit.
Most likely, yours will be much lower at first. Liming your grass in the early spring and fall (based on your pH level test) is a solid practice to establish. Liming adds nutrients to your soil that it needs, and prevents grass roots from absorbing naturally-occurring chemicals that are detrimental to its growth. It will raise your soil’s pH level to where it needs to be.
It’s equally important that you fertilize your lawn—this is the only way to give your grass nutrients is has no other way of receiving. Thirty days after liming is the best time to apply fertilizer, otherwise the two counteract each other. There are great fertilizers on the market nowadays that contain natural weed suppressants, such as corn gluten, and give your lawn a helping hand in the fight against weeds while avoiding banned chemicals. When selecting your fertilizer, look for the package to say “weed suppressant” and “slow release Nitrogen”—both of these will be hugely beneficial to your lawn.
Aerating your lawn is a key step in weed prevention and encouraging lush, green grass. This is the process of perforating small holes throughout your lawn in order to loosen up the soil, making it easier for grass to flourish. Compacted soil is hard for grass to grow in and is a preferred environment for many weeds, so preventing that is key. Early summer is the ideal time to aerate your lawn. You should also avoid walking on our grass when it’s very wet (this includes any time there is snow on your lawn, especially when it’s melting), as you cannot only damage the grass plant but your steps serve to compact the soil.
Treating thinning and balding patches in your lawn as soon as they appear will also help prevent weeds from taking major root. Once weeds have an opening, they can quickly take over. Check and treat the soil in those areas, then select an appropriate, hardy grass seed and help it take root based on the instructions detailed on the packaging.
Properly watering your lawn is another major step to stopping weeds, because it contributes to the overall health of the grass. Healthy grass will stand up to weeds, whereas struggling or weak grass can be easily ousted by intruders like dandelions and Creeping Charlie. Giving your lawn a hearty, serious watering once or twice a week is better for it than repeatedly light waterings. You should soak your lawn once a week in the summer, then avoid walking on it for a day or so until the soil has had a chance to fully absorb the water.
Even amidst the healthiest lawn and soil, a weed will crop up. The tried and true method of hand weeding is still one of the best. When digging out a weed, try to get the roots; otherwise it will just grow back. Avoid damaging or uprooting the grass around it, otherwise you create an opening for more weeds.
If you stay on top of weeding, it will never become an overwhelming task and you can avoid a sore back (upright weeders that allow you to remove weeds without bending over also help prevent stiff joints and muscles). Try to weed for a few minutes every day or so, and you’ll find that it’s always manageable. This means weeds never have a chance to really spread or take root—nothing like nipping a problem in the bud!
For really tough weed problems, there are certain weed sprays that even with new regulations are permitted. Because weeds are indicative of other, more harmful issues with your lawn, this will seldom be your best choice for stopping weeds, but for that occasional stubborn weed, be sure to follow the instructions on the weed spray’s label carefully, and avoid getting the chemical on your lawn, as it can be harmful to the grass plant.
The great thing about these environmentally friendly ways of stopping weeds is that they also help your grass grow strong and hearty. The healthier your lawn is, the more resistant to weeds it will be.
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.