Your lawn “seemed” like it was the beautiful outdoor play and entertainment space that you needed it to be. Now that summer is at its peak, suddenly it’s turning into an ugly lawn full of weeds. Now what?
Actually, weed propagation during the summer is very common and can reveal some things to you about your soil. Most lawns that have not been cared for or have unhealthy soil will experience an abundance of weeds starting in mid to late summer. At Green Roots Organic lawn care, we see this frequently with new clients that call us during this time and we’ve learned some tricks to help turn around their lawns and end the season on a better note. In fact, our step-by-step process prevents weeds from coming back with such force the following season.
Whether you’re looking at an abundance of new and diverse plant life in your once green grass or weeds and crabgrass have turned your lawn into more weeds than grass, we’ll tell you what to do next.
Where Did All These Weeds Suddenly Come From?
If your lawn is suddenly finishing out the summer bombarded by weeds that could be a sign that you are mowing too short. Lawns that have shorter blades are more susceptible to weed infestations especially during the hot summer months. Weeds tend to thrive in late summer when extreme temperatures are more common and weed seeds can take shallow roots in compacted soil. Common types include invasive ground ivy, crabgrass, white clover, nutsedge, splurge and many others.
To prevent a lawn full of weeds,, the secret is in the maintenance of the soil surface and the health of the soil beneath. We find a very common issue on residential lawns is soil compaction resulting from infrequent aerations and family, friends, and pets playing in the yard. Compacted soil can prevent grass from planting deeper roots that they need for nutrient absorption and greater disease resistance. This allows weeds to plant their shallow roots in the soil that your grass needs to survive, therefore creating a competition for resources.
Other factors that can affect your lawn’s ability to establish deep roots and priority for soil nutrients are related to watering patterns and changing temperatures. Fungal disease in the soil can result from improper watering and extra moisture, affecting your lawn’s ability to reach the nutrients it needs. Check out our blog post about best watering practices to learn more about preventing soil diseases, brown lawns, and protecting the health of your lawn.
Imbalances in pH and nutrients within the soil can also be a cause of weed overgrowth and dead grass. Acidic soil and heavy alkaline soil can diminish available resources for your otherwise healthy lawn. If this is the case for your lawn, you’ll want to use regular seasonal fertilizer and soil conditioning as part of your lawn care and get a soil test to see exactly what nutrients it might be missing. Otherwise, weeds will likely keep coming back.
Okay, What Are My Next Steps?
Unfortunately, at this stage of the season, with a lawn full of weeds the best approach is to plan for next year. The good news is that the upcoming Fall season represents, in the Northeast, the best and most optimal time to seed your lawn and prepare for next spring and beyond.
The best way to reduce weed infestations is to have a thick lawn full of grass and ensure your soil is not compacted. The key is to reduce compaction by cultivating the soil through a practice called aeration. Lawn aeration allows the top layers of soil to be broken up, exposing more soil surface area to nutrients from air and water, and gives grassroots greater access to moisture. It then exposes grassroots to these nutrients, allowing them to pull in more of what they need to grow strong and establish deeper roots.
We prepare late summer lawns that are full of weeds by first cutting the grass very short which will not eliminate the weeds but will improve seed to soil contact to maximize seed germination. We then power rake through debris, making sure no thatch or other debris gets left behind. Once the lawn is cut, power raked and all debris is removed from the lawn we will aerate your lawn ensuring we do it deeply for lawns that are heavily compacted.
Aeration involves taking a few passes over the lawn with an aerator, in order to loosen compacted soil and mix up the organic matter in the top layers of soil where your grass is growing. If you have a particularly bad year with weeds, it may be because your lawn has not been aerated in more than one year. Heavy clay soil and extreme temperatures can also cause your soil to become overly compacted. Loose soil allows greater nutrient and water absorption for the entire root.
Is Aeration Alone Enough?
Aeration will help your grass become stronger and more resilient, naturally. For this reason, we recommend aerating your lawn every year in the early fall. For the best weed protection aeration can be combined with other lawn care best practices.
After aeration, it is critical to overseed your lawn. Seeding at this time will give your lawn the best chance to perform well next year. The key to maximize germination is to do it at the most optimal time which is during the Fall and when the soil temperatures are above 50 degrees. This will help give your lawn grasses a competitive edge in the competition for nutrients during the next growing season. Seeds should be chosen based on your local climate and the amount of sun or shade your lawn gets.
Different lawns require different grass types. We recommend using Turf Type Tall Fescue for mixed shade and sun lawns. For more shaded lawns, try a Fine Fescue blend. Both types are also likely available at your local garden center. You’ll need approximately 6 to 8 lb of grass seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Seeds that have the most surface area exposure to soil are most likely to germinate.
Lightly rake over the lawn to evenly distribute the new grass seed. Water your lawn regularly 2-3 times a day for 5-15 minutes each time for the next 3-4 weeks. The key to proper germination is consistent watering.
How Can I Lock In Nutrients And Help My Grass Edge-Out Spring Weeds?
Now that you’ve aerated and overseeded your lawn, you can lock in nutrients and ensure optimal soil health into the spring by using a good soil conditioner and an organic, nutrient-rich top dressing. Adding rich compost or other lawn fertilizers 2-3 weeks after reseeding will help blanket your grass seed and exposed grassroots with nutrient-rich protection during dormancy and cold temperatures.
After application, wait another 2-3 weeks before its next cutting. Be sure to leave your lawn a little longer than usual, being careful not to cut it too short. This can help protect the new grass blades that have germinated and help to keep nutrients within the soil and more exposed to the grassroots.
When spring arrives, your lawn will have the foundation it needs to have a great season! The spring usually represents the time of season that your lawn will grow, mature and spread the best! Adhering to a proper watering schedule will help you prevent fungal growth, soil nutrient depletion, and shallow roots throughout the next growing season. Setting up a seasonal fertilizing schedule will give your green lawn the best odds at fighting future weeds.
When Is The Best Time To Aerate, Reseed, And Fertilize My Lawn?
We recommend aeration and overseeding in September-October, depending on weather conditions, soil type, and the condition of your lawn. Adhering to a fall lawn revival schedule will give your lawn great odds for the spring, and help prevent weed propagation and an ugly lawn during next year’s hot summer months.
If weeds are a recurring issue for your lawn or adhering to a seasonal lawn care schedule that requires aeration, reseeding, and applying fertilizer doesn’t work well with your already busy home improvement schedule, we’re here to help. We offer a variety of fall lawn care packages that provide custom lawn services, tailored to your lawn’s specific needs.
Looking for more information? Keep an eye out for our latest lawn care blog posts for DIY tricks and lawn care tips from an industry-leading, local expert. Or, get in touch with us today for a free instant quote for your unique lawn care needs. We’re happy to help and excited to grow with you!