Lawn Management 101

Or, Just Say No to Weed ‘n Feed!

When it comes to lawn care and turf-grass management, I’m going to steal a line from country music singer Alan Jackson’s, ‘Where I come from’. As a fourth generation cotton farming family, I learned a little from the team who tended the crop from January through December, year after year. One thing that I did learn is that in agriculture, specific products are designed to do one thing, and only one thing. That’s the primary reason why we never saw a ‘weed and feed’ product designed for cotton!

The same holds true for turf grasses and your lawn—in my opinion. As we approach spring and warmer weather, you will be encouraged to buy fertilizers for healthier, greener lawns that claim to kill weeds at the same time. That is an awesome concept! Save time! Save money! Be weed free! (Maybe not.)

There are two reasons why you may want to avoid these products. The biggest of the two stems from the chemical composition of the products. Take the ‘weed killer’ element first. The particles must physically land on, and adhere to, the weed that you want to eliminate. But what about some of the beneficial plants that catch the weed killer as well? If you have shrubs, annuals or perennials next to your lawn, it is almost impossible to keep the product off of those plants when using a broadcast spreader.

The second reason is the application process itself. With some products, you have to water your lawn prior to spreading the ‘weed ‘n’ feed’ product. The water requirement is not to supply water to the root systems of your turf grass, but rather to wet the surface of the weed so that the weed killer is absorbed into the plant system. This is more of a shotgun approach which may or may not hit your intended targets, known as weeds.
Again, where I come from, fertilizer is a single product designed to promote both healthy root development and lush, green foliage. Whether you are growing cotton plants as a field crop, or Bermuda or St. Augustine turf grass in your lawn, the correct fertilizer is the key to success. Year after year, my lawn gets a balanced 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer in the spring and early summer. A 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer is the ratio of Nitrogen to Phosphorous to Potassium. My favorite is a 21-7-14 blend, however 15-5-10 will work equally as well.

Then you have those pesky spring weeds that pop up and thrive, partly due to the fertilizer as well. The good news is that there is nothing easier to eliminate than a healthy, actively growing unwanted weed. There are many extremely effective weed killers that are fast acting and permanent. For foliar spray weed killers, I always add two drops of Dawn dishwashing soap to the concentrated mix in the container. This acts as a ‘surfactant’ which helps with adhering the weed killer to the leafs of the weed plant, causing the weed to absorb the solution more effectively.

Bear in mind, there are many types of weeds. Most commonly, there are two types of weeds that we want to eliminate: grassy and broadleaf. It is always best to spray when there is little to no wind, on a sunny, warm day. Additionally, do not mow, and then spray your weed killer. The more leaf surface there is on the weed plant, the more weed killer will be absorbed into the plant system causing it to die that much quicker.