How To Restore A Really Weedy Lawn

We’ve all seen those lawns, those verges, those front yards, we can sort of remember a time perhaps not that long ago when someone put down a new lawn, but now, it’s not so perfect anymore, its been neglected, and badly, and that once perfect new lawn is now a jungle of weeds. So if we’re ever faced with that same situation of a lawn which has been overcome with masses of weeds of all types, maybe after moving into a new home, here’s an action plan to try to restore a weedy patch of ground back to a useful and enjoyable lawn once more.

Let’s start by doing the thing that we should never do, but I think is okay in this case, let’s ‘assume’ that the lawn area in question was turfed sometime in the past twenty years, which I think is a reasonable enough assumption, especially if we can see that there is some type of lawn amongst those weeds.

If the area was turfed in the past twenty years then it’s reasonable to also assume that the lawn type instaled is probably a fairly decent lawn variety and type which would most likely be able to be brought back to full life and health again, with not too much effort or cost. So forget about getting the mini-digger in just yet, and forget about spending our hard earned money on expensive roll-on sod if there’s no need to at all. Let’s first try removing all those weeds from our lawn.

At this stage it really is necessary for us to identify what lawn type we have growing. Is it Bermudagras, Zoysiagrass, Saint Augustine, or something else? Is the lawn a mix? A mixed lawn which has been neglected can be common, Bermudagrass could have invaded a Buffalo lawn etc, so we should find out what we have and what we want to keep.

Begin With Lawn Mowing and Watering

Regular lawn mowing is the first place to begin with our endeavour, start a regular lawn mowing program which is appropriate for the season, ie more frequent mowing in the warmer months. This will help stop the spreading of more weed seeds from the existing weeds, and it will train the lawn itself to grow at a lower height again as it was bred to do, and it will help us begin to see what we’re dealing with in regards to what weeds we have.

Hand removal of large weeds should be done using a spade or mattock, those big clumpy tall type grassy weeds, rye etc, Canadian fleabane should also be hand pulled every time it is seen. We do this to get rid of our biggest troubles in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort, also weed sprays can have a harder time trying to kill these bigger more troublesome weeds, so it’s just easier to put an hour aside on a weekend to just get it over and done with.

Once our lawn mowing regimen has begun, we should start regular lawn watering too, appropriate to the season, yes we want to water both lawn and weeds together, and we need to keep up the watering to the lawn as is required from now on.

Fertilize The Lawn

Now is the perfect time to fertilize our lawns and our weeds!

So let’s put down some decent quality fertilizer about one or two weeks before we intend to spray for weeds. We want the lawn and the weeds to both be flourishing. The lawn to flourish to help it to recover, and the weeds to flourish so that they will actively take up more herbicide, thus giving us greater weed killing success. Fertilizing lawns before applying herbicides is always a wise action.

Weed Spraying

Remember not to spray for weeds either one week prior to lawn mowing, or one week after lawn mowing. Spraying too soon after lawn mowing can poison the lawn itself, while mowing too soon after mowing can remove much of the herbicide from off the leaves of the weeds.

Now, it’s important to know if we have a Saint Augustine lawn that we intend to keep, if we do then we MUST buy a weed spray which is suitable for use on Saint Augustine lawns, as other weed sprays can kill Saint Augustine lawns.

The weed spray we will be looking to purchase will be a broadleaf weed killer, as this weed killer type will control the most amount of different weed types possible, we buy it in concentrated form, which comes in a small bottle, There are many brands available and cost is low enough, maybe around the $20.00 mark, maybe a little more or less.

We also want to purchase a bottle sprayer, with a wand, these too are inexpensive and with many choices available at our local hardware store.

The herbicide should be mixed and applied to the lawn according to manufacturers recommendations. Always follow the manufacturers instructions for safe use of their product for your lawn and for your own health.

A repeat application of herbicide will be required with weedy lawns, and once again the manufacturer will most likely recommend a safe re-application time for us to re-apply a second or third application of broadleaf herbicide to our lawns. Always give the lawn time to rest and recover and to get strong again between herbicide applications.

Some weeds can be particularly difficult or near impossible to kill with sprays, some will require a specialised weed spray, and for some weed types which have underground corms we may need to look at professional weed spraying options or to remove the topsoil if the lawn area is heavily infested, the other option with difficult weeds is to remove them all by hand, slowly over months is fine, but they will need to be removed entirely.

Continuing care of our lawns is required here, we continue to mow, to water, and to fertilize the lawn just as if it were a healthy normal lawn, even if weeds are still present. Then we re-apply further applications of broadleaf weed killer every so often, as per manufacturers recommendations for reapplication rates, until the lawn is almost or entirely weed free.

How’s The Lawn Looking?

Hopefully after a month, then two, then three, our lawns should be looking like lawns once again. Most weeds should now be gone, and the lawn well underway to a full recovery, getting better with each passing week.

So what else can we be doing to help our lawns to fully recover during this time?

The weeds should be minimizing more all the time, we can help this process along by doing a bit of hand weeding of any new big troublesome weeds, and any other little weeds too. It doesn’t need to take a large effort, just a little time every now again, maybe 10 or 15 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday each week.

Any hard to remove stubborn weeds can be hand pulled too. No point in continuing spraying.

If the lawn is coming back decently enough, it’s time to start a regular fertilization program, apply a regular granular fertilizer every two months, or a slow release fertilizer every three months. Always aim to use a quality lawn fertilizer with trace elements, we have an abundance of choice.

We may find that some weeds just aren't dying off. Many weed types may need a different specialized weed spray, and so far we’ve only applied a broad spectrum herbicide. Tougher weed types will need to be identified and a special weed spray purchased for their treatment, or otherwise we could hand pull the tougher weed types.

Keep up with regular lawn mowing, and if there are no weed seeds present and if most weeds are gone, then we may be able to start mulch mowing our lawns to help feed the lawn and protect and enrich the soil over the life of the lawn.

As the lawn is looking much better we may also look to see if we might need to top dress the lawn. We might want to top dress to even out an uneven lawn, or we may wish to top dress the lawn with a rich soil to add more nutrients to the existing soil.

And that’s really about all there is to it.

A small to medium lawn might have cost us about $60.00 - $80.00 to bring back to life and health, plus a few minutes here and there to spray or hand pull weeds and to fertilize. Not much money or effort at all, and hundreds or thousands of dollars cheaper than pulling it all out and buying new roll on sod.

As long as the underlying lawn is of a decent type, we should be able to recover it rather easily in many cases.

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