Read Your Weeds

Crabgrass. Image courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Gardens

What are your weeds telling you?  The presence of certain weeds can clue you into the condition of your lawn or the shortcomings of your lawn care.  Learn to “read your weeds” for indications about your soil condition, and you’ll be on your way to preventing the conditions in which weeds thrive.

In general, weeds flourish in soil that is compacted, poorly fertilized, and incorrectly pH balanced.  Many commonly used lawn products contribute to these conditions. High nitrogen fertilizers disrupt soil nutrient balance, accelerate turf growth, and contribute to thatch buildup.  Pesticides harm soil microorganisms, beneficial insects, and earthworms that are essential to maintaining healthy soil.  Many common weeds, such as dandelions and plantains, prefer different types of degraded soils, so reading your weeds can help you amend your soil to fix specific deficiencies and problems.  Once these problems are solved, weeds should disappear from your lawn!

Example Weed Reads & Solutions:

  1. Crabgrass- You might be mowing too low or watering too less. Mow your lawn to at least three inches high and deliver one inch of water to your lawn each week (including rainfall). 
  2. Dandelions- Indicate a deficiency of calcium  and an excess of magnesium.
  3. Plantains– Preventing plantains involves aerating your soil and adding nutrients by top dressing with compost to improve soil health.
  4. Creeping Charlie– Indicates excessive moisture and compaction.  Place dirt in low areas in the lawn to eliminate poorly draining spots.  Reseed and top dress to outcompete this weed.