Your lawn needs good soil, food, sunlight and water — and so do weeds. Even the most diligent lawn maintenance won’t prevent the growth of weeds forever, so smart homeowners need to be able to identify weeds and remove them ASAP.
Unfortunately, that’s usually easier said than done. Lawn weed control is complicated; because the weeds grow in the same space as your grass, you usually can’t apply the herbicides you might typically reach for — because doing so will harm your lawn. It’s a better idea to become well-versed in the types of weeds that might affect your lawn and learn better strategies for eliminating them from your yard for good.
Broadleaf Lawn Weeds
Typically, broadleaf weeds look like small plants as opposed to grass; as the name suggests, they have wider leaves, and often they will produce flowers that result in seeds. Their differing appearance makes them easy to spot in a lawn, but it doesn’t necessarily make them easier to remove.
Most broadleaf weeds only last for one season, but there are a few perennial weeds that can stay alive for up to two years if you aren’t diligent about removing them. Here are a few common examples of broadleaf weeds that all homeowners should watch out for:
- Henbit. Square stems, scalloped and rounded leaves, pinkish-purple flowers, germinating in early fall or early spring.
- Shepherd’s purse. Upright growth with a rosette of long leaves at the base, flat and triangular seed pods, germinating in late summer, early fall or early spring.
- Chickweed. Hairy stems and leaves that can form dense mats, germinates in fall but can live up to 10 years.
- Black medic. Clover-like leaves with plentiful round, yellow flowers, turning black or dark brown after seed.
- Purslane. Thick red stems and succulent-like leaves, yellow flowers, germinating in late spring
- Mallow. Rounded, veined leaves with five-petaled, pale lavender flowers that produce button-like fruit.
- Dandelion. Spear-shaped leaves, producing a milky sap when broken, yellow flowers that produce wind-blown seed.
- Yarrow. Feathery, soft and hairy foliage that forms a thick mat, small bunches of yellow-white flowers.
- Sorrel. Long, arrow-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette near the ground, red or yellow flowers that bloom on spikes.
When it comes to lawn broadleaf weed control, your best offense is a good defense. That’s to say that if your lawn is healthy enough, it should naturally crowd out and kill off any weeds for you. Many of the weeds listed above prefer to grow in environments that are less-healthy for your lawn; for instance, yarrow prefers acidic soil. By taking better care of your lawn, you will greatly mitigate weed growth and make weed control much less of a hassle.
After improving your lawn care practices, you should try to control weeds by killing them when they are young. Brand-new weeds are easy to twist out of the soil manually, and since they are so small, you shouldn’t need to worry about leaving rhizomes or other growth components beneath the soil. Unfortunately, manual extraction becomes less effective as the weed grows, so you need to keep a close eye on your lawn and strike fast when a weed emerges.
Finally, you might need to resort to chemical attacks if you have allowed your weeds to take over. Spraying an herbicide like glyphosate will starve the weeds — but it’s likely that you will kill some of your lawn, too. Fortunately, once the weeds are dead and removed, you can reseed barren areas with the lawn variety of your choice.
Grassy Lawn Weeds
Grassy weeds are those unwanted growths that look like grass because many of them are, in fact, different varieties of grass. For example, in warmer climates, Bermudagrass and St. Augustine grass is among the most common grassy weeds — but some homeowners intentionally plant these turfgrass varieties in their landscapes, so they don’t always qualify as “weeds.” If you are mowing regularly and overseeding with the variety of grass that you want, grassy weeds shouldn’t become an issue within your lawn. Then, if grassy weeds grow outside of your lawn area, you can hit them with herbicide or dig them out manually without issue.
If you do start noticing a different variety of grass growing inside your lawn, you might consult a lawn care professional for advice. It’s most likely that you are caring for your lawn improperly in some way — perhaps mowing the lawn too short or allowing water to pool on your lawn — and by fixing this issue, you should discourage the growth of the weed and help your lawn grow denser in those areas.