Brian Prunty

With any lawn and any form of lawn care there is the constant battle against weeds. We often blame seeds blowing in and germinating but we need to look deeper to find the real source or cause for weeds. Is your soil compacted? Is the turf not thick enough to crowd out weeds? Is the soil's PH, drainage, minerals or organic content out of whack? Weeds are inevitable, but you can dramatically reduce the amount of weeds by properly managing your lawn care program.


There are several ways to manage weeds in your lawn. Eating them is one of my favorites but only recommended when you know your lawn has been organically treated for over a year. When I mention eating them, I don't mean getting on all fours and grazing like livestock. I mean harvesting them as a food source. Barnyard grass, Carpetweed, Chicory, Curly Dock, Dandelion, Lamb's Quarters, Plantain, Purslane and most violets are edible or can be used to make beverages. Weeds like Daisy, Field Horsetail, Hawkweed, Heal-all, Henbit, Mallow, Moneywort, Speedwell, and Yarrow have herbal properties. My personal favorite weed is clover! Clover should not be targeted when controlling weeds and I personally believe it should be added to your seed mix when reseeding. Clover's benefits outweigh a pure monoculture of turf grass. It provides a great source of nitrogen for your lawn. Clover removes nitrogen from the atmosphere and locks it in the soils for your grass to use. It also crowds out unwanted weeds and stays green all summer long. When people use a "weed-n-feed" product, they are removing clover from their lawn and dramatically increasing their need for synthetic products.

How do you deal with unwanted weeds when managing your lawn organically? You have followed all the steps, behaviors and tricks but still have weeds. Now it is time to attack weeds on an individual basis which can be time consuming. Organic methods to eradicate weeds are simple by concept. Here are several methods: Manually pull, spot spray, solarization and torching.

Hand Weed PullerManually Pull:
This method is more labor intensive, time consuming and tedious. You can typically purchase a cheap tool that will get the job done. There is no annual cost once you make the purchase of a proper tool. There are a lot of fancy gadgets out there but I have found that a simple fish tail weeding tool works great especially after a good rain.

Spot Spray:
The organic weed spray is a rapidly growing market and it kills weeds without using chemicals. Typically they are made from natural ingredients like vinegar, clove oil or orange oil based formulas. These sprays are non-selective meaning they can kill the weeds or your grass. These sprays remove the protectant waxy cuticle Spot Sprayingof the leaf, exposing the leaf surface to direct sun light and air causing them to dry out. These sprays can be expensive when compared to synthetic sprays and only work at warmer temperatures 65 degrees and above. In some cases multiple applications are required.

Solarization is the process of covering a section of your lawn with a thick heavy black rubber mat. Pond liners are perfect for this method. By covering a portion of the lawn you can kill back the vegetation in just over a week during the summer heat. You must seed immediately once the cover is removed or weeds will move in and overtake the area. This is an easy way to kill off a section of your lawn without chemicals if you need to start from scratch. The down side of this method is having to purchase and store a liner and driving the neighbors nuts.

What guy wouldn't want to utilize a flame thrower? There are several torches out on the market but the Red Dragon Flame Weeders are one of the more popular brands. These torches throw a flame around 2,000 degrees and require only a split second to kill the weed. During that one second of heat the water within the plant boils killing it off. Older weeds have an established root system and may rebound back. After a few torching treatments they'll eventually die. It is extremely important to read and follow the owner's manual and never use a torch in dry or windy conditions or around mulch beds. It is also recommended to purchase a torch that has an ignition switch to prevent burns to your hands during the lighting process.

Remember, weed problems are more than weed seeds blowing in. There are deeper underlying issues typically with your soil that are causing weeds. Identify your weeds, research and address the real cause of weed infestation. By following a proper lawn care program you will reduce the need to treat weeds in your lawn.

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