Weeding & Feeding 101: Know Before You Seed
When it comes to lawn care, you’d be surprised how much science is involved.
You’re shooting in the dark from the start. You don’t even know what “kind” of grass you have, never mind determining the right herbicide and fertilizer to care for it.
But it seems like a Catch 22. You use chemicals to kill invading plants and hope it doesn’t destroy your grass— then, you lay down compost to nourish your turf and hope it doesn’t breed pesky weeds.
You just want a green lawn, but all the fancy instructions, complex chemical labels and scary industry terms are intimidating.
Don’t worry. We’re here to help. Let’s take it back to the basics—
Understanding the Role of Herbicides on Weeds
Herbicides are pesticides used to eliminate unwanted plants, like weeds, from your yard. Because they are controlled substances designed for killing plant life, they’re not something we recommend choosing without proper understanding of their effects.
Pre-emergent vs Post-emergent Herbicides
The key to preventing unwanted weed growth is to “nip in the bud.” Just as you remove buds from a plant to prevent it from flowering or fruiting, you have to off the weeds before they start growing.
This is what we call a pre-emergent herbicide, as it kills weeds when they begin sprouting from seeds. It will not control existing weeds; that’s what a post-emergent herbicide is for.
Selective vs Non-selective Herbicides
A selective herbicide is exactly as it sounds. Once laid down, it’ll target or “select” specific plants, such as broadleaf weeds or dandelions, but leave your grass unaffected.
Non-selective herbicides kill all plants. They don’t discriminate against weeds— they wipe out everything in their path. This is not the kind of stuff you want to lay on your turf; it’s best for areas like sidewalks where you want a clean-slate from any plant growth.
Contact vs Systemic Herbicides
These two terms relate to the way the plant absorbs chemicals. Contact herbicides will only destroy what they touch. When spraying contact herbicides on existing weeds, the plant will shrivel up and die, but the roots will remain.
Systemic herbicides actually absorb into the plant itself and shoot through the root system itself; so once hit, the entire structure crumbles.
Always Read the Herbicide Label & Do Your Research
Traditional weed prevention products like Weed & Feed boast the fact that they both kill weeds and fertilize your lawn with nutrients. But they’re designed to be cheap and quick solutions, often hiding the affect the concoctions have on your soil’s phosphorus and other mineral levels.
Other products like Turf Builder resemble herbicides, but are actually fertilizers that don’t target weeds. Although Turf Builder specifically offers variations of their product that do offer weed control, ensure you’re doing your homework before you pick up any ole’ jug at your garden shop.
Just like you read the label on food products before buying them for your children, you too should be mindful of the chemicals you use outside of your home. Here at Swazy & Alexander, we have BeeSafe product options to protect your family and the environment without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Before Using Herbicides, Check Your Soil & Grass Type
Be sure to check your grass and soil to see which kind of nutrients it requires for rich growth. No two lawns are the same, and your property has its own unique needs.
Not sure how to test your soil? Our expert technicians can check your PH balance and offer recommendations for neutralizing for a healthy turf. Be sure to test your soil prior to exploring fertilization options, too!
Understanding the Role of Fertilizers on Your Turf
After treating your turf with herbicides, you’ll want to ensure you’re keeping it lush and vibrant with proper fertilization practices during the fall. When it comes to feeding your lawn, ensure you’re selecting the best type of application for your property’s needs.
Liquid solutions are often water-soluble, synthetic chemicals or powders. They help to provide an even application and release nutrients quickly to plants.
Spayable fertilizers can be applied to your treetops and directly onto high foliage and give the mixer more control, but it’s best to leave the blending to the experts since it is easy to burn foliage.
These dry blends are created by combining various nutrients and traditionally disperse more slowly, allowing for less applications.
Granular fertilizers are more effective to use before your plants begin to grow in the spring and can also be specially crafted by fertilization professionals for your lawn’s unique needs.
This is your all natural stuff— no chemicals or hidden additives.
Sometimes viewed as the more expensive choice, organic fertilizers often overlooked, but can often be the most nutrient-rich and environmentally safe application option and have become much more cost effective recently. Organic fertilizers will build the microbes in your soil, which is a key element to effective fertilizer uptake.
When Purchasing Fertilizer, Stick to the Big 3 Minerals
Although many fertilizers are packed with a long laundry list of ingredients, keep your eyes peeled for these three: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They help your grass stay green, strengthen its roots and build stronger plant cells.
These three powerhouse minerals also help your lawn maintain moisture, fight disease and survive stressors like heat and impact. Some additional nutrients found in common fertilizers are helpful, but oftentimes the other stuff is just “filler.”
Coveting a Brag-Worthy Lawn?
Weeding and feeding your turf certainly brings life to and brightens up your property, however, there are many other ways to make your house the nicest on the block.
We have some tips just for you! Check out our Ultimate Guide to Curb Appeal for six ways to instantly increase your home value.
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When to kill weeds before seeding – 7b
I am looking to overseed this fall, but have some serious weeds/crab grass.
When is a good time to spray these things? And what is the best to use?
I don’t know a lot about this subject but I just asked this earlier this week and I was recommended that product and they said spray it on the yard on a day that’s not going to rain, wait 7 days and respray if needed.
Then wait 4-6 weeks and then you can overseed.
Does this kill most of the grass too or just weeds and such? My backyard is half nutsedge and the other half is sporadic crabgrass patches. Front yard is almost all crabgrass now.
I'd rather opt for the concentrate if you don't mind mixing it yourself: Ortho WeedClear Killer Concentrate that along with an non-ionic surfactant like: Southern AG Surfactant, I've never had much luck with the hose sprayers because you can either spray too much or too little. I prefer to do a spot spray if I'm just killing weeds around the yard and not trying to nuke it. I'm also not sure if the ready spray has any surfactant in it to help break up the water tension and allow the spray to stick better on the leaves.
As per most instructions you don't want to spray on super hot days 85+, during the summer your grass is already pretty stressed so spraying on a real hot day can stress it out even more and burn your lawn. I usually spray during the evening since the yard doesn't get much use after 7 PM and it'll allow the spray to have time to dry out and possibly be absorbed by the weeds. I actually just sprayed my yard probably 3 days ago. I'm in Zone 8B. As mentioned by some, you want to wait at least 4-6 weeks after killing weeds before overseeding.
Don’t Plant Immediately After Tilling and 9 Other Tilling Tips
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One of the most vital steps in preparing the soil for planting is tilling it. Tilling is essential because of the benefits it offers.
When the soil is tilled, weed growth is inhibited, aeration is improved, and some insects are removed.
But did you know that after tilling the soil, you should not plant immediately?
Well, if you did not know, now you do. Beyond this, there are other tips you should be aware of when tilling the soil. We shall touch on some of these tips in this article.
Table of Contents
Can You Plant Immediately After Tilling?
It is not recommended that you plant immediately after tilling. Instead, you should wait some time.
A waiting period allows organic materials, compost, microorganisms, and soil enhancements to begin breaking down and providing nutrients to the soil.
Beyond the above, the condition of the soil also determines if one can plant immediately after tilling.
For one, soil that is very wet after tilling should not be worked further. You should wait until it stops forming large clumps and is a bit dry before planting.
Also, if the soil contains a significant amount of weeds, wait a while before planting. This way, you can be sure the weeds are dead before sowing seeds or planting.
If the tilling was not done early enough and planting season is rapidly approaching its end, you may elect to plant immediately.
How Long Should You Wait to Plant After Tilling?
You could wait only a few days to plant after tilling. But it is better to wait for at least a week before planting.
Some sources recommend waiting for 2 to 3 weeks after tilling before planting. During this period, some of the beneficial microorganisms will have recovered and resumed improving the soil.
During the waiting period, most of the exposed weeds will have died. It is also expected that more soil nutrients would be available.
What to Do After Tilling a Yard?
Once you are done tilling, the yard will be filled with debris, bumps, rocks, and grass clusters. You have to clean off the surface and rake it out smooth in preparation for lawn seeding.
To remove the leftover debris, rake through the soil in straight rows from one end of the tilled area to the other.
After getting the debris off the area, level the soil using the blunt side of the rake, creating a smooth seedbed.
When all this is done, monitor the yard during the waiting period before you plant. If any weeds show up, rake the soil again to remove them.
Is It Better to Till Wet or Dry?
The soil should neither be too wet nor too dry when you are tilling it.
While wet soil is easy to till, it causes soil particles to squeeze together. In the end, the soil hardens and inhibits the growth of seedlings and the germination of seeds.
On the other hand, it is quite hard to till dry soil. But beyond that, when you do till dry soil, the particles are broken into fine dust.
The implication of this is that the soil would be more prone to erosion – whether by water or by wind.
Overall, it is best to till the soil when its moisture content is in-between. Not too wet or too dry, just moist enough to preserve soil health while allowing easy tilling.
You may pack some soil into your hands and try to crumble it before tilling. If it has a crumbly texture, you may get on with tilling it.
However, if the soil is sticky or if it resists crumbling, it is still wet. Wait a few days to allow it to dry a bit.
Do I Need to Remove Grass After Tilling?
You need to remove any grass from your yard after tilling. If you do not, the grass may regrow from the seeds or roots present in or on the leftover grass.
So, to avoid having issues when you eventually cultivate your plants, it is best to remove any grass clumps after tilling.
Should I Kill Weeds Before Tilling?
Killing weeds before tilling is most applicable if you are working on a piece of land with a high weed presence.
If you do not kill weeds before tilling, you may just clog the tines of the tiller.
You may also propagate the growth of the weeds by cutting their roots or burying their seeds. However, if they are killed before you till this would most likely not happen.
To kill weeds, you may apply chemicals (herbicides), or you may use non-chemical methods.
When Should You Till the Soil?
It is best to till the soil when the soil becomes warm and dry. For this reason, most people till the soil in spring.
Generally, the soil should be at a temperature of at least 60°F before you start tilling.
Should I Fertilize Before Tilling?
Tilling ensures that any fertilizer you apply to the soil is well-absorbed. However, it is best to apply fertilizer after tilling, not before.
If you apply fertilizer before tilling, then there is a chance that some of the nutrients will be too deep for the plants to reach and they will just leach away.
Is Aerating the Same as Tilling?
While aerating and tilling are quite similar, there are some differences.
Aerating is done after planting when the plants have started growing. On the other hand, tilling is done before planting.
The goal of tilling is to ensure that the soil has optimal texture and nutrients are more accessible. Tilling also ensures that water is well-distributed, weeds are removed, and the soil is aerated.
Aerating focuses mainly on ensuring that the soil is well-aerated. It may, however, also help with removing weeds.