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Complete Overhaul of Backyard Covered in Crabgrass & Weeds

Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) is a summer annual weed that thrives in moist, warm soil, although in maturity it tolerates less moisture. It tends to infest lawns with problems, such as bare spots or those that are kept too short. Left alone, crabgrass and other weeds can completely choke out a lawn or take over bare ground. Mowing won’t rid the yard of these pesky plants because many of them propagate from rhizomes and seeds. Completely overhauling a weed-infested backyard is a lengthy project but reclaiming it provides great rewards.

Cut it Down to Size

Put the mower on its lowest setting and mow down all the crabgrass and weeds in the backyard. Use the bag on the mower so that it vacuums up the weed’s seeds instead of having them scattered, only to germinate and sprout a whole new mess. With the weeds and crabgrass cut down, you can now choose to use an herbicide to get rid of the roots or employ a more organic method of control.


Solarization is a way to destroy weeds using the sun’s heat, so the best time to perform it is during the hottest time of the year. It is a lengthier process than using an herbicide, but it’s not toxic and it also kills certain soil-borne pathogens. The soil must be moist to a depth of 2 feet to retain heat, so water it slowly and deeply after mowing. Use clear plastic sheeting to cover the area, as close to the soil as possible, and anchor the sheeting with bricks or rocks to keep it from blowing away and to keep the air out and the heat in. Remove the plastic in six to eight weeks.

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A quicker way to kill the crabgrass and weeds is to use a non-selective herbicide containing glyphosate. You’ll need to wear protective clothing, gloves, eyewear and a mask to guard against breathing the fumes. Follow all label instructions for mixing and using the product. A general rule of thumb, however, calls for 2 ounces of glyphosate to 1 gallon of water. This provides you with a 1.5 percent solution, which is best for crabgrass treatment. Load the water and the chemical into a handheld sprayer. If you’ll be using a pump-up or backpack sprayer, mix the glyphosate and water in a separate container and then pour it into the sprayer. Glyphosate will kill almost everything with which it comes into contact, so use care when spraying it around desirable ornamentals.

A Clean Slate

Wait at least one week after spraying to till and plant. If you plan on planting a lawn, you’ll need to till the soil. Till as deep as you like if you used glyphosate to kill the weeds. If you solarized the area, you’ll need to be a bit more careful with the tilling depth and not dig more than 2 inches deep. Any deeper and you may bring pathogens or weed seeds to the surface of the soil, notes the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program.

Can you actually vacuum dandelions (and retain use of the vacuum)?

I came across a few people talking about this online, meaning it does seem to be a thing, but no one ever mentions how they get the seeds out of the vacuum. I don't mind buying a $30 dust buster for the task, but I also don't want it fritzing out immediately either.

Background: My yard is horribly infested with dandelions, but there's simply no way I can dig out that number of them this year (new baby and a toddler). Pesticides are banned here unless professionally applied (and there are still very few substances allowed) and the budget isn't there this year. I'm a bit desperate for ways to, preferably quickly, at least contain the spread for a year. Some of these dandelions are sending up more than one flower cluster per plant.

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Edit to add: It's too late to seed/resod the lawn this year and the dandelions are actually the entirety of the lawn in front.

you'd be the guy vacuuming his lawn and will thus be known henceforth by that name. consider sheet mulching

when i do it i sprinkle a bit of compost over wet cardboard, then ad

3feet of mulch. you can order it by the cubic yard delivered. if you know a arborist there is a good chance of them needing to get rid of fresh mulch(from the wood chipper) on the cheap, maybe free. but you don't get to say what time it is delivered or the content of the mulch

Well, I'm already a fairly well-known nonconformist/weirdo, so lawn vacuuming doesn't seem that off. On the other hand, killing the lawn flat out was my first choice, but everything seems to suggest that it doesn't kill dandelions. I'd just kill it anyway, 'cuz dead is an improvement, but my husband is balking at it due to lack of proof. You wouldn't happen to have a source saying "sheet mulching will eliminate dandelions", would you?

You can use a battery-powered Dustbuster, but frankly that's a lot of stoop labor, and personally I'd use a canister vac, WITH bag, not bagless.

I have a Kenmore Magic Blue canister vac that, while I've never used it on dandelion fluff, I have not the slightest doubt that it would cope superbly. It's just a hose that drops whatever it sucks up directly into the bag, it doesn't send it through the motor. And if it will pick up animal crackers, oyster crackers, rice crackers, Cheerios, marshmallows, cubes of cheese, bits of hot dog, and green beans and peas after the grandchildren have been here, dandelion fluff would be a doddle.

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Dandelions are actually one of the easier weeds to deal with on a plant-by-plant handpulling basis, because they don't grow back right away, so it leaves a nice blank spot for a while, which gives your lawn grass an opening.

When you're dealing with crabgrass, as soon as you pull up a plant, more seeds germinate in the soil now exposed to light. But with dandelions, when you pop one out, it leaves a satisfying blank space, and if you have any lawn grass left at all, it will immediately begin to colonize, given a little encouragement such as fertilizer and watering.

Get an ergonomic weed popper, they work better than the old-fashioned straight shank, or get a step-on weed digger. Then use a piece of cardboard to make yourself a 1 square foot frame. Then go out and pop dandelions from one square foot every time you get a spare 10 minutes. Just run out, pop the dandelions inside the frame, go back inside.

You'll be surprised how much you can get done. I used to get a lot done while Kid 1 was at preschool and Kid 2 was asleep upstairs in the crib with the windows open so I could hear when he woke up. I once planted an entire bed of tulips with Kid 1 at preschool and Kid 2 in the playpen next to me on the grass.