Home › Lawn problems › Controlling lawn weeds
A confession - controlling lawn weeds isn't high on my own personal list of priorities but my other half feels very differently!
So if, like him, you are horrified by the appearance of a lawn mottled with weedy patches, read on.
As he rightly points out, if left to their own devices, many lawn weeds can get out of control and take over large areas of your lawn.
Therefore controlling lawn weeds is a necessary and ongoing task if your ambition is a perfect lawn.
Needless to say, the best time to tackle a lawn weed problem is in the early stages of an infestation.
This page provides information to help you identify, prevent and control some of the most common lawn weeds.
You can use the links below to jump down the page to the information on each weed:
Creeping Buttercup | White Clover | English Daisy | Dandelion | Mouse-Eared Chickweed | Broadleaf Plantain | Ribwort/Buckhorn Plantain | Self Heal/Heal All | Speedwell
The Creeping Buttercup is the type most commonly found in lawns. It 'creeps' (rather quickly!) across the lawn by forming runners; long lateral stems which root at the nodes.
It is a vigorous perennial weed which can soon take over large areas of your lawn and borders so tackle it early!
The biggest problem with the Creeping Buttercup is that it forms low growing rosettes with the growing point at the soil surface.
This means that mowing has little effect on it. It is also very resistant to trampling.
Even worse, it can easily regenerate from any fragments of stem left in the ground and its seed remains viable for many years so it can be an ongoing problem.
The Creeping Buttercup prefers heavy, wet soils so improving drainage can go some way to discouraging it.
In the early stages of an infestation you can try hand weeding it taking care to remove the runners in their entirety.
It is particularly important to remove the growing points at the base of each rosette.
Chemical control may be the best solution if the problem is severe. Look for a selective weedkiller containing fluroxypyr and clopyralid such as 'Verdone Extra' or 'Verdone Extra Ready to Use'.
In chalky or sandy soils you may have a problem with the Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) which has a bulbous base and forms rosettes. As it doesn't form runners it is much easier to dig out than the Creeping Buttercup.
White Clover is another very common perennial lawn weed. Take steps to control it early because, like the Creeping Buttercup, it is very aggressive and spreads rapidly by means of lateral stems which root at the nodes to form a network of plants.
Its low growing habit makes it resistant to mowing.
White Clover isn't too fussy about soil type but it does particularly well in impoverished soils.
Like other legumes it is able to 'fix' its own nitrogen giving it a significant advantage over lawn grasses in nutrient depleted soil. In these conditions it will easily out perform your turf.
You can prevent it gaining a foothold by carrying out a regular programme of lawn maintenance including correct watering and feeding. This should eventually thicken up your lawn grass and give it a chance to fight back.
Allowing the grass to grow longer also deters the spread of clover.
It is difficult to handweed once established. In the early stages of an infestation you may be able to remove it by plugging.
Chemical control is effective but you may need to make repeat applications. Use a product containing either mecoprop, such as 'Bayer Advanced Concentrate' or 'Bayer Advanced Ready to Use' or a combination of fluroxypyr and clopyralid, such as 'Verdone Extra' or 'Verdone Extra Ready to Use'.
The English Daisy is one of those lawn weeds that you either love or hate and many of us appreciate a scattering of cheery daisies on our lawns.
The low growing rosettes of leaves are unaffected by mowing and are resistant to trampling.
The English Daisy prefers short grass and will rapidly gain a foothold if your lawn has worn or bare patches. It can often be a sign that you are mowing your lawn too closely.
Preventative measures include a good lawn maintenance programme to encourage a dense sward, and avoiding the temptation to mow too closely.
A few scattered plants can be easily weeded out by hand using a fork or a daisy grubber.
Chemical control is effective and straightforward using a selective weed killer containing fluroxypyr & clopyralid such as 'Verdone Extra' or 'Verdone Extra Ready to Use'.
One application should be enough but if not, repeat after a six week interval.
Dandelions need no introduction and rank as one of the most common lawn weeds. They seem to be found everywhere and tolerate a wide range of conditions. The rosettes of leaves are not killed by mowing.
Dandelions spread very rapidly and successfully by seed - the familiar white puffballs or 'Dandelion Clocks'.
They also produce a long vertical taproot, sometimes forked, which can go deep into the ground on mature plants. Any fragments of taproot left in the ground can regenerate.
It is virtually impossible to eradicate Dandelions completely as the seeds can be blown into your garden from many miles away.
Your best line of defence is to make it harder for them to find a suitable place to germinate by maintaining your lawn correctly and, in particular, by preventing bare patches.
However you decide to control them, take the trouble to remove and dispose of the flowerheads to prevent seed formation.
Hand weeding is possible and it is easier to remove the taproot in its entirety whilst the plants are still young.
Chemical control, using spot applications of herbicide, may be a better option for established Dandelions. Both 'Bayer Advanced' and 'Verdone Extra' should do the trick.
This low growing relative of the Common Chickweed tolerates a wide variety of growing conditions allowing it to develop into dense spreading mats.
Of all the common lawn weeds, Mouse-Eared Chickweed is the most resistant to mowing as its prostrate growth habit enables it to survive even the closest mowing heights.
Mouse-Eared Chickweed establishes itself most easily in areas of the lawn where the grass is sparse.
Therefore the best way to prevent it is to maintain and feed your lawn to encourage healthy growth, and to tackle any thin or bare patches by reseeding.
It can be hand weeded although it is difficult to remove all the parts of the plant and this leads to the possibility of regeneration.
Chemical control is effective. Seedlings germinate mainly in late summer and then overwinter before a fresh flush of growth in spring.
For this reason an early spring application of lawn sand or Iron Sulphate (Ferrous Sulphate) can be an effective control.
Alternatively, both 'Bayer Advanced' and 'Verdone Extra' will kill Mouse-Eared Chickweed.
Broadleaf Plantains thrive in heavy and compacted soils and the seeds will readily germinate on worn, bare areas of turf.
The low growing rosettes are resistant to mowing and survive very well on heavily trampled parts of the lawn.
They can be detered by good lawncare practices including aeration and spiking to relieve compaction.
Handweeding is possible although the tough roots may take a bit of digging out.
Weedkillers such as 'Bayer Advanced' and 'Verdone Extra' are effective, although the Bayer has the edge.
Ribwort is found in a wide range of conditions. It tolerates very alkaline soils, close mowing and compaction, although it is less resistant to trampling than the Greater Plantain.
A good lawn mainenance programme, including aeration, will relieve compaction and prevent the bare patches which are an open invitation to Ribwort seeds.
Quite easy to hand weed.
Can be controlled with either 'Bayer Advanced' or 'Verdone Extra'.
A very persistent weed that often only becomes apparent when the flowers appear.
Self Heal develops a prostrate habit on lawns which makes it resistant to mowing and trampling.
It is aggressive and, left unchecked, will form large spreading mats that can out compete the grass.
Once established it is difficult to remove by hand without leaving behind fragments that will regenerate.
If large mats are present it may be easier to actually lift and renew sections of affected turf.
Can be controlled using either 'Bayer Advanced' or 'Verdone Extra'.
Other species of Speedwell that are often found in lawns include Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) and Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis).
Speedwell is another very aggressive lawn weed that adopts a low growing, dense habit making it resistant to mowing.
The trailing stems root readily at the nodes to form new plants and, left unchecked, can rapidly overwhelm your lawn.
Any fragments left on the lawn can potentially root so take care to remove, and dispose of, all cuttings and rakings.
Speedwell is less likely to become established in a healthy, strongly growing lawn so practising good lawn maintenance, including correct feeding, can help as a preventative measure.
In the early stages of an infestation, individual plants can be dug out.
If the problem is more widespread you can rake the lawn to raise the stems before mowing - but do collect all the cuttings!
Raking and scarifying can also help, but again collect all the fragments.
Feeding the grass and allowing it to grow slightly longer can also help to control the problem.
Chemical treatments are unlikely to be completely effective. You can try applying Iron Sulphate (Ferrous Sulphate) in spring to check the spread.
Weedkillers containing fluroxypyr such as 'Verdone Extra' or 'Verdone Extra Ready to Use' are most likely to be effective.
Find out more about other annoying lawn issues at common lawn problems.
Many lawn problems can be prevented by good lawn maintenance practices. Find out more at Lawn Maintenance: How to Keep your Lawn in Great Condition.
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