The Province of Ontario has banned chemical pest control and while the new organic alternatives are very effective, they do not provide the immediate results of the past. “There are no more magic bullets,” as Kyle our CEO likes to say. What this means for weed management is that because it can take more than one application to kill a weed and there are more airborne weed seeds from untended and wild areas, good weed-fighting cultural habits by homeowners are more important than ever.
While any good lawn care professional will make sure he has the best weed management product on the market for his clients, organic products have many more limitations on their use. Many cannot be used during some parts of the year, require a lot of after care, or there is a limit to the total amount that can be used on a lawn each year. So what a homeowner does between visits makes a big difference for the results he can expect.
Above everything of course, healthy lawns have fewer problems. Mowing and watering properly will keep your grass growing vigorously, leaving fewer places where weeds can start. Here are some other tactics that will minimize the introduction and spread of weeds and weed grasses.
- Decapitate them! Many weeds spread only by seed. Dandelions are well known for this, sprouting white puffs containing hundreds of seeds that can be carried for miles by the wind. But no flower means no seed. Removing weed flowers as they appear is fast, easy and makes the weed waste energy growing another blossom.
- Mow strategically. Rosette weeds like dandelion, thistle and plantain can be kept in check by regular mowing to remove flowers and injure the leaves. For creeping weeds like creeping charlie, black medic and clover, attach a collection bag to the mower. Often these weeds can re-root and spread from cuttings and seeds. Plus, nobody said you had to mow your whole lawn. A quick run along the sidewalk where some persistent plantain is trying to go to seed only takes minutes. Grass LIKES being cut frequently.
- Avoid outside contamination. Do weed seeds blow in through your back fence all year from an untended field? A small investment in a screen hedge now will save you untold aggravation later. Do you have professionals mow your lawn? Make sure they are hosing off their equipment between jobs so your lawn does not host seeds from that sloppy lawn three blocks over.
- Pull sparingly, and if you do, patch afterwards. Pulling is not a good long-term fix. Many weeds can grow back from a fragment of taproot left behind. With creeping weeds it is very hard to get the whole colony. In either case, pulling the weed often leaves a shallow pit full of loose soil. This is a perfect home for a new weed seed. If you are pulling weeds, just pull the top off, healthy grass should crowd out that area, and sprinkle some grass seed in the vacant spot and care for it as you would any new seed. Let the plant you want, live in that spot.