Weed Control: Keeping Ahead of the Invaders

Weed Control: Keeping Ahead of the Invaders

Wisconsin springs tend to be a little inconsistent and unpredictable, much like all other seasons in this state. This past week, most landscapers, gardeners and lawn enthusiasts have stopped worrying about potential frost, thus planting and yard maintenance has begun in earnest. The heavy rains and warming temperatures have yielded explosions of green growth seemingly overnight. Unfortunately, the bad comes with the good, as undesirable weeds tend to be heartiest of the bunch.

Treatment for weed control should be a consideration for lawn care maintenance plans year-round. There is a specific window of opportunity each season for varying methods of keeping your lawn free of invasive weeds, and it is important to know what procedure is appropriate when.

A weed is essentially a plant with little value, nutritional, medicinal or material, which easily germinates, grows rapidly and competes with desired plants for soil, light and nutrients. When it comes to bountiful gardens and beautiful, healthy lawns, it is critical to be both proactive and diligent when it comes to weed control.

To the untrained eye, a weed does not always look like a weed, particularly in densely planted flower gardens; thus, it is important to be familiar with the look of the desired plants as they mature, to spot invaders early. With lawns, it is a bit easier to detect common weeds, particularly in well-tended lawns, as inconsistencies in the smoothly groomed surface.

The cool season grasses of Wisconsin (including but not limited to: Kentucky Bluegrass, Rough Bluegrass, Red Fescue, Annual Ryegrass) are susceptible to the invasion of more than 100 types of weeds. Some of the most common & tenacious weeds found in our neighborhoods include:

  • Dandelion
  • Clover
  • Crabgrass
  • Thistle

Weed control is only effective if the right application is applied at the right time of year, when conditions are optimal. Additionally, any preventer, herbicide or insecticide application has to be appropriately scheduled in conjunction with other lawn maintenance, such as cutting, fertilizing, core aeration and watering, to ensure optimal results all around and prevent wasted time and money expended.

A few guidelines to keep in mind for effective weed control:

  • Know the difference between annual and perennial weeds and how to treat them
  • Annual weeds are commonly treated with granular weed preventers in early spring, before weeds germinate
  • Products should be applied right before a rain or watered 2-3 days later
  • Products do not last all summer long and should typically be re-applied 8-10 weeks after first application for maximum effectiveness
  • Preventers are not effective once weeds have started growing, nor are they effective on perennial weeds; at this point, a weed-killer or herbicide is necessary
  • Weed killers can be applied anytime throughout the season, when weeds are actively growing; fall is actually a good time to target perennials preparing to store up energy for the next year
  • Be cautious about using either weed preventers or weed killers around the same time as planting new grass seed

At the end of the day, one of the most effective methods of weed control is to head it off with thick, healthy turf. A thin lawn leaves abundant open space for weeds to seed and flourish, while a thick, dense turf significantly reduces successful invasion. Lawn care is no different from other homeowner concerns; diligent maintenance schedules reduce energy and cost output and significantly increase the enjoyment of one’s “home turf.”