Weed And Seed Fall

Getting a perfect lawn is a goal shared by many homeowners, but maintaining grass health is so difficult that few lawns ever reach their full potential. Most people simply accept that they'll have weedy and thin patches in their lawns no matter what they do. Treat and kill lawn weeds in the fall. One of the best things you can do for your lawn is to treat weeds in the fall. Because Crabgrass sets seed throughout the growing season, it's worth the effort to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent any late season-released seeds from germinating. For perennial weeds, lawn weeds that are common such as Plantain, Dandelion, Knotweed and Clover weeds, apply a post-emergent herbicide in fall to send the killing chemicals directly to roots. This treatment will help reduce the numbers of these weeds in spring. Learn what types of weeds on lawn, what to do for killing weeds in lawn, and how to adjust the treatment for each with the best weed killer for lawn. Fall is the best time of year to make headway with your lawn. Follow these fall lawn care tips to lay the foundation for a thick, green lawn this spring.

Seasonal Guide: Overseeding your Lawn in Fall, Summer, and Winter

Getting a perfect lawn is a goal shared by many homeowners, but maintaining grass health is so difficult that few lawns ever reach their full potential. Most people simply accept that they’ll have weedy and thin patches in their lawns no matter what they do.

It just takes too much work money to dig up and reseed large areas. This may be exactly how you feel about your lawn right now… But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could improve those bad areas without a muddy, expensive reseeding process?

We have great news for you. You can actually add grass to your lawn through a renovation process called overseeding. If you’ve done it before, we’ve got some tips on how to improve. If it’s a new idea to you, you’ll love having the chance to make a more straightforward, more affordable upgrade.

As we’ve already noted, overseeding avoids the messy and expensive process of reseeding the entire lawn. An effective reseeding process involves using chemicals to kill existing weeds, tilling under the entire lawn, spreading seed, then mulching with straw and watering every day for months.

The result is a long period during which you cannot use your yard, the expense of renting or hiring equipment and the environmental impact of using herbicide. This is all with no guarantee of a yard that’s any better than what you already have. Your other option is purchasing and installing sod, which will give you an immediate lawn but will require a substantial financial commitment and a lot of time watering. But again, with no guarantee of success.

Overseeding a lawn with weeds is much safer and cheaper than reseeding or using herbicides to fight off the weeds. You can isolate the overseeded areas from foot traffic for a couple of weeks while continuing to use the unaffected areas.

You can overseed at almost any time of the year for a fraction of the cost of a complete reseeding. There is no risk of erosion from sudden downpours, and it’s faster, neater, and less expensive than starting from scratch.

The process of overseeding is not complicated. It merely involves clearing away obstructions, preparing the soil, adding grass seed, and then supporting that new seed appropriately with watering and mowing.

So What Happened To Your Lawn Anyway?

Wear and Tear

Before we get too far into the actual process of overseeding, let’s review why it’s necessary. How does a lawn reach a point where it’s weedy or thin and requires some repairs? There are several factors involved, but the most common ones are how we use and care for our lawns.

First, there’s foot traffic. Are there areas of the lawn where we or our pets frequently walk over again and again? Think about spaces where kids play, such as swing sets and trampolines. As they walk from one activity to another, they wear down the grass. In time, it is so thin that soil is exposed and weeds can move in.

Improper Mowing

Another big factor is mowing. Mowing at the correct height is essential. If you lower the deck too far, you can “scalp” the lawn. This allows sunlight to reach exposed soil where weed seeds are waiting to germinate, and it cuts off the critical energy stores in the lower portions of grass blades. Exposed dirt and weakened grass adds up to the perfect recipe for a diminished stand of grass–and a surging population of weeds.

The Lawn’s Beginning

One final element is the quality of the initial turf. If your lawn was not well-seeded, to begin with, it will never fill in correctly without some further intervention. Creating a thick, full lawn is not a one-step process. It requires the initial establishment with repairs made as needed, usually through reseeding.

When is the Best Time to Overseed?

The need for it often drives the timing of grass establishment. That is, if you have had to dig up your water line for repairs, it makes no difference what time of year it is. You should apply some grass seed right then, with the understanding that you’ll need to do more work to it later. When you have a choice in the matter, though, you’ll have better results in certain seasons.

Forget the Spring

Overseeding is a little different. Contrary to what many big-box stores would have you to think, overseeding in spring is not the ideal technique. Stores stock those items during the spring when everyone is ready to get outside and do something, but overseeding in spring often fails due to weed competition and rising average temperatures. Cool-season grasses like fescues perform much better when established in any season other than spring, so let’s review the other three.

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Summer Overseeding

Summer can provide some excellent opportunities for overseeding. First, the existing grass has begun to slow its growth a little bit thanks to the hotter temperatures. That reduces the competition for new grass, giving it a chance to push through the canopy and grow. Weeds are also slowing down, reducing their impact on your new seedlings.

For summer overseeding, cut the grass shorter than usual. Cool-season species are dormant at this point anyway, so you won’t have a problem with that lower height. Apply a good lawn fertilizer, then rake and dethatch the area to remove obstructions between the seed and soil.

Remember, the seed will not germinate anywhere but in the soil, so any seed that fails to get through other material and hit the actual earth will never grow. You’ll also want to rake the exposed soil to create nooks and crannies where seeds can settle in and have good contact with the soil.

Next, you’ll toss your seed into those exposed areas and water it immediately. Keep the soil moist at all times until the seeds begin to germinate, then slowly reduce the frequency and depth of watering. If you water too much, the grass will become too shallow-rooted and will die if you stop watering.

This is an excellent time to mention how to overseed lawn without aerating. Homeowners often wonder how to overseed lawn without aerating, and if it’s a good idea. The answer is that you can overseed effectively without aerating. As we’ve just mentioned, it’s all about seed-to-soil contact. You can get good results without aerating by simply clearing and raking the soil before applying seed.

Fall Overseeding

Many homeowners find that overseeding in the fall works very well. Cool-season grasses germinate best when daily temperatures are gradually moving downward as they do in fall, so it can be a great time to overseed without the pressure of summer’s dry, hot conditions.

The techniques are very similar to summer. You’ll need to remove dead plant debris and prepare the soil mechanically (that is, with some raking) and with fertilizer. Aeration is optional, but it may not be practical in smaller spaces. If you do choose to do it, utilize a core aerator (which removes plugs of soil and distributes them on the soil surface) as opposed to a spike aerator (which creates holes by further compacting the soil around them).

Next, you’ll apply your seed and maintain a good watering program. This should be easier in most parts of the country due to increased precipitation and lower temperatures in fall, and if you live in an arid area where water rationing often prohibits irrigation, the fall can be an even better time for overseeding.

When you do your overseeding in the fall, you should know that the fertilizer will have two effects on your lawn. First, the new grass will stay greener than the existing grass, assuming your fertilizer is only in the overseeded areas. Second, that extra nitrogen will keep you mowing a little later into the fall or even into the early winter. On the plus side, though, the nitrogen will help create stronger roots for all the grass, enabling it to withstand dry conditions next year.

Winter Overseeding

Wintertime might be the last season that you think you would work for overseeding lawn with weeds, but it can be surprisingly effective.

First, the underlying causes of your poor lawn quality are not part of the equation in the winter. You aren’t mowing, the kids aren’t playing, and nobody is gathered around the grill. It’s the most restful time of year for your lawn, and that makes it an excellent opportunity to do some reseeding.

Second, your biggest enemies–the weeds–are also out of the picture. There are a few winter annual weeds that you might see, but they’ll vanish in warm weather without being a significant disruption. You’ll also have the added advantage of freezing and thawing, but we’ll come back to that shortly.

Reseeding a lawn in winter follows most of the other seasons pretty closely. You will need to get your mower warmed up and running to cut back on the obstructions, just as in summer and fall. Fertilization will play an important role as well.

What will be drastically different is the temperature, of course, and this can work to your advantage. Now is when freezing and thawing becomes relevant. We know that water expands when it freezes, so the frozen soil actually swells up and breaks apart. When it thaws, the soil is more aerated and is broken apart.

This is a perfect place for grass seeds! When they land on this broken-up soil, the further freezing and thawing just works the seeds deeper into the upper layer of soil, giving them a better chance to be surrounded by aerated soil and ready to germinate. Ready to germinate–but not actually germinating. That comes a little later, when temperatures warm up.

This approach is linked to a common agricultural practice known as “frost seeding.” Because pastures and hay fields can be muddy during optimum seeding times, farmers simply wait until the ground is frozen in late winter before driving tractors on their fields to spread seed. The existing crop is short thanks to grazing or the cutting of hay, and the seed remains dormant until temperatures are high enough for germination. In the meantime, the freeze/thaw cycle–and maybe even the compression of a snowfall or two–helps improve seed to soil contact. Sounds exactly like our plan for the yard!

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The Big Picture

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our discussion of overseeding lawns. It’s a lot of information to absorb, so let’s sum it up with a few brief points.

1. Ordinary lawn use and maintenance can lead to thin or weedy areas.

2. It’s not necessary to reseed the entire lawn. Overseeding can correct the problem.

3. Spring is not the best season for this job, thanks to weed and weather issues.

4. Summer reseeding should allow for appropriate irrigation to get grass a good start.

5. Fall work could be your best choice, thanks to temperatures and precipitation.

6. Winter is not out of the question for reseeding, and it has some real benefits.

7. Whatever season you choose, you should cut your grass short, remove debris, and create a clear path to the soil for your seed.

8. New seed must be watered regardless of the season, and excessive watering can lead to weak, shallow roots.

Finally, don’t forget that despite your best efforts, you may not get an ideal stand from your overseeding. If you don’t, you can repeat it as often as needed until your lawn is full and healthy and ready to enjoy.

Treat and Kill Lawn Weeds in the Fall

One of the best things you can do for your lawn is to treat weeds in the fall. Whether you’re tending warm- or cool-season turf, tackling weeds as autumn’s cooler days arrive can help you create a lush and lovely lawn. Fall treatments knock out both annual and perennial weeds and can actually be the key to killing established perennial invaders such as dandelion and clover.

Types of Weeds

Winter annuals, a type of annual weed, germinate in late summer to early fall. They grow in fall, through winter warm spells, and into early spring. These weeds set seed in mid- to late spring, just before daytime air temperatures jump. Examples of winter annual weeds include Henbit, Annual Bluegrass, Chickweed, corn Speedwell and Lawn Burrweed (or Spurweed).

When you treat your lawn for weeds in autumn, you’ll target fall-germinating weeds, such as Henbit and Chickweed (annual weeds). Dandelion also germinates in fall, although compared to spring, the number of seeds germinating is generally less.

Fall is also an excellent time to control perennial weeds, because that’s the time of year when plants begin a process of winter food storage, shifting internal foodstuffs from leaves to roots. If you treat perennial weeds with herbicide in fall, the chemical moves from leaves to roots, essentially killing the weed at the root.

Treatment & Timing

If your fall weed treatments are targeting both annual and perennial weeds, you’ll want a weed killer that combines a pre- and post-emergent herbicide. This is because some weeds will already be growing, which the post-emergent herbicide will kill, and weeds that haven’t yet sprouted will be taken out by the pre-emergent herbicide.

Application timing will vary depending on where you live. In more northern locations, treat lawns as early as Labor Day; warmest areas may apply as late as October.

To find the right timing for your region, you can consider air temperature. Herbicides are most effective when air temperature is 50°F and above. But perhaps the best way to assure proper timing is to contact your local extension agent. They’ll know the right timing for your specific location. To learn more about timing herbicide applications, read our article on “Understanding Weed Killers”.

Problem Weeds

Some of the lawn interlopers worth treating during the cool season of the year include Annual Bluegrass, which tends to be a problem in warm-season lawns. Crabgrass invades both warm- and cool-season turf. Because Crabgrass sets seed throughout the growing season, it’s worth the effort to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent any late season-released seeds from germinating.

The best treatment for Annual Bluegrass and Crabgrass is a Crabgrass preventer, a pre-emergent herbicide that combats grassy weeds and can be applied in spring or fall. Unfortunately, these products aren’t traditionally sold year-round in all regions. If you know you’ll be dealing with these weeds in fall, it’s best to purchase a Crabgrass preventer in spring and store it in a cool, dry place until autumn’s cooler days arrive.

Wild Onion and its relative Wild Garlic can punctuate a dormant warm-season lawn with bright green exclamation points. Eliminate these smelly weeds with post-emergent herbicide. Lawn Burrweed is a winter annual weed that sets spurred seeds in spring, making a lawn a painful venture for people and pets. Control this prickly weed with a fall application of a pre-emergent herbicide.

For perennial weeds such as Plantain, Dandelion, Knotweed and Clover, apply a post-emergent herbicide in fall to send the killing chemicals directly to roots. This treatment will help reduce the numbers of these weeds in spring.

To identify and learn more about weeds mentioned in this article, check out our Guide to Common Lawn Weeds.

Fall Lawn Care Tips – Weed, Seed, & Feed

Halloween has arrived. The leaves have shed their lively green color for varying tints of yellows, oranges, and reds. As the daylight hours fade and temperatures drop, the trees and the grass prepare for the coming months of cold. Almost counter-intuitively, this time of transition is the best time of year to make headway with your lawn. To make sure you cover all your bases, remember the mantra: Weed, Seed, and Feed. If we cover those 3 basics in the fall, we’ve laid the foundation for a thick, green, healthy lawn come springtime. Weed How you approach each of these 3 core areas is dependent largely upon the size of your yard. Of course, dealing with weeds is simple for those with small yards – just pull them! But if your lawn is large or you’re really losing the battle with weeds, then we might need to pull out the “chemical weapons” (also known as herbicides). Herbicides come in liquid or granular form. Liquid herbicides generally come in a container with a built in hand-sprayer, or in concentrated form to be used with a pump sprayer or tow-behind sprayer. Granular herbicides are applied using a lawn spreader and can come as a standalone herbicide or as a 2-in-1 “weed and feed” combination. Another primary distinction between herbicides is selectivity. Selective herbicides are those that can be applied to weeds without causing harm to the grass surrounding them. In contrast, non-selective herbicides are indiscriminate, killing any and all plants that they come into contact with. Non-selective weedkillers are meant for use on cracks in the driveway or areas where no vegetation is desired. Using them on the lawn, even just as a spot application, is undesirable as this will leave unsightly brown pockmarks and create areas susceptible to weed growth in springtime. The last major difference between herbicides is the timing of the application relative to the growth cycle of the weed. If a weed control agent is applied before the weeds are visible, it’s classified as a pre-emergent herbicide. Those that are applied to weeds that have already sprouted are classified as post-emergent herbicides. A late fall application of post-emergent herbicide followed by a springtime pre-emergent sets us up for a weed-free lawn for the upcoming year. Seed As turfgrasses mature, the rate at which they spread slows. This is why it is important to maintain a consistent overseeding routine in order to prevent bare spots and thinning of the lawn. The young seedlings fill in the gaps and spread more rapidly than the older grasses, helping to prevent opportunistic weeds from taking root. Overseeding can be done with varying degrees of complexity and expense, but the fundamentals are the same regardless of the method you choose. First, remove any leaves, sticks, or other debris on the lawn. For small lawns a quick raking may suffice, but for medium or large lawns we recommend using a tow-behind sweeper or lawn vacuum to minimize the time and effort needed. Next, we must prepare the soil for seeding in order to maximize germination rates. The importance of removing thatch and ensuring that the soil is properly aerated cannot be understated. Dethatching can be done easily over small areas with a simple yard rake, or you can utilize a tow-behind attachment or a standalone unit known as a power rake. If the soil is highly compacted, it will be difficult for the fragile seedlings to take root and absorb the nutrients they need to survive. There are two basic types of aerators: spike and plug (also known as “core” aerators). Spike designs puncture the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to be absorbed more deeply by the root system. In contrast, plug or coring aerators use a hollowed “spoon” shape to extract small cylinders of thatch and soil to create larger holes for air/water/nutrient exchange while simultaneously improving compaction throughout the lawn. Once the lawn has been cleared, dethatched, and properly aerated, we can begin spreading. Some suggest a light topdressing first, which can further improve germination rates and improve soil drainage properties. Seed can be applied by hand, using a handheld spreader, a push spreader, a tow-behind spreader, or a power seeder (also known as a slit seeder). Spreading seed by hand or using a handheld spreader is great for tight spaces and around landscaping. Large areas are best covered by a broadcast push spreader which will cover the most ground in a single pass. Power seeding units are the most costly and don’t cover as much area in a single pass as a broadcast spreader, but have the highest germination rates and can be rented from home improvement centers as needed. Feed Once the seed is on the ground, it will require food and water to grow. For late fall overseeding, and particularly with its cool wet conditions, starter fertilizer is recommended over standard fertilizers, which contain higher concentrations of potassium than is beneficial for seedlings. Starter fertilizers contain higher relative concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, yet are diluted in overall concentration to prevent burning the tender young plants. After roughly 2 weeks of daily watering, the new seedlings should have sprouted and taken root. At this point, we may mow if needed. Any additional leaves that have fallen can be mulched to provide additional organic nutrients that will decompose over the next several months, providing optimal conditions for a thick, healthy lawn when the temperatures begin to rise again. Want more fall lawn care tips? Comment below with your specific questions Author: Brad Turner

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