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Whacking Weeds

Weeds are a part of life—an ugly part, some say, but a natural and inevitable part, too. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to tackle weeds if you’re aggressive at the outset and consistent during the follow-up steps in your weed eradication plan.

How big is your weed problem?
Before you can begin to tackle weeds, it’s important to establish how serious the problem is. If you’re like most homeowners, your grass is dotted with clusters of daisies or other weeds which poke out at random and unattractive intervals here and there on the lawn. But some homeowners may find that there are more weeds than grass on their lawn—and their lawns are increasingly thin and depleted as weeds kidnap nutrients that blades of grass would otherwise enjoy consuming.

Minor weed troubles may call for giving your lawn maximum love
If your weed problem is minor, keep in mind it won’t stay that way unless you launch a plan of attack now. First, use a fork-like garden tool, sold at most any hardware or home/garden store, to manually dig weeds out, making sure to pull as much of the weeds’ roots out of the soil. While this is laborious at first, once most weeds are gone using such a tool to manually lift weeds out becomes an easy, occasional task.

Aside from removing weeds, you’ll then need to give your lawn the proper care to assure that weeds are unwelcome. This means making sure you care for your grass properly and with regularity. Grass differs by region and even yard, so if you’re unsure how best to maintain a lawn ask a neighbor or garden store in your area about what grass in your climate requires. You’ll need to water and mow grass regularly, and also thatch or aerate it periodically—a process in which you use a rolling device to punch small ventilation holes in the soil which help the lawn to “breathe” better.

Major weed troubles may demand extreme measures
 If your lawn is utterly overrun with weeds, you have two options: You can work to outwit the weeds and then repair the lawn, which is a multi-season effort. You can use herbicides to kill the weeds. You can re-sod the entire lawn. Or you can use a “weed barrier” to cover weed-infested areas.
There are pros and cons to each approach:

If you outwit the weeds on a deeply infested lawn, this can be a time-consuming approach that requires constant vigilance. However, some say that working to eradicate weeds using natural methods and working to strengthen the lawn may be the best course of action to assure that weeds don’t return, since a strong lawn will be too tough for weeds to overcome.

If you use herbicides to kill weeds, you have the quick benefit of weed eradication. However, you won’t eliminate the dynamics—such as a weak lawn or soil issues—that allowed weeds to flourish in the first place. This means weeds can come back. If you’re concerned about the environment, using herbicides may also gnaw at your conscience, as chemicals in many weed killers can enter water supplies or impact the chemistry of your grass. Vinegar is favored by many organic gardeners as a chemical alternative to herbicides for killing weeds.
Re-sodding the entire lawn may be foolproof, but it’s an expensive procedure. If you buy sod too far in advance of the day you plan to lay it on your lawn, the sod could end up baking in the sun or weakening somewhat—a shame if you’ve invested a lot of money to purchase it. While it’s a solution for owners of new construction, it’s mostly a last resort for some gardeners.

Many gardeners use a “weed barrier”—a black or dark drop cloth sold at home and garden stores—to let weeds bake to death beneath the surface of the cloth, a process called “soil solarization.” Weed barriers can be laid over garden beds before planting, or over deeply infested sections of lawn, and they generally do their work to kill weeds within four to six weeks. The barrier works by letting weeds overheat. It’s also possible to use newspaper, which decomposes, as a weed barrier beneath garden beds. Simply lay the newspaper over weed-prone areas, poke holes through for plantings once the barrier has sat for several weeks, and cover the area around new plantings with mulch or beauty bark. For more information, click here:

Weed prevention when you’re planting a new lawn
If your home has no lawn (a possibility if you’ve purchased new construction), you can prevent weeds before you plant a lawn by laying sod purchased from a professional sod-growing enterprise. Most new sods are completely weed-free, and in some climates sod may be among the most resistant to weeds or weed grass invasions.

If you’re planting a new lawn, ask a garden store or nursery about how to prepare the ground for new grass seed. You may also want to apply a “weed and seed” formula—a combination of grass seed and weed killer packaged together so that grass gets the upper hand and weeds aren’t given an environment for growth.