In May, our grass (turf) starts to grow and gain strength, but weeds are also gaining their hold. Plantain, dandelion and ground ivy are now visible and growing, setting and displaying flowers. Lawn weeds can be an indicator of soil chemistry and conditions in your lawn. Read below to learn about your soil composition and control methods if you have dandelions, plantain, ground ivy, or crabgrass. If your goal is to eliminate weeds from your lawn, hand pulling the few coming up now will be worth it in the long run – especially if it prevents you from applying chemical herbicides.
Dandelion: Dandelions love moist acidic soil and thrive on a lawn where the grass is mowed too low. Pluck them out now before the seeds emerge. If you maintain your grass height at 3-4 inches, the seeds will not be able to contact the soil or begin to germinate. Raising the pH of your soil will help to grow better turf and crowd them out. Photo from:
Plantain: Plantains (Broadleaf and Buckhorn) like compacted soil and spread by seed. Remove the plants before they set seed. Plantains have a strong tap root, so it is necessary to grab the plant by the crown. Gather the whole plant in your hand and yank. It is easiest to remove when the soil is moist – right after a heavy rain is best. Plantains push out over turf, so removal will allow the grass to rebound around it.
Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie): Ground Ivy is a member of the mint family and behaves similarly. It spreads by seeds and by rooting along the leaf nodes. Ground ivy thrives in shade but can also grow in full sun. It prefers moist, compacted soils. Improving drainage (aeration) can help with control, but raking or hand weeding is also helpful. If mowing over dense patches of this weed, it is best to bag up your cuttings. Photo from: http://turfweeds.cals.cornell.edu/plant/identify/212
Crabgrass: Crabgrass seeds germinate once soil temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees fahrenheit. Although you may not see crabgrass yet, taking action for preventing crabgrass now will be worth your effort later in the summer. We have had a cold spring so maintaining your turf at 3-4 inches should prevent the seeds from germinating. Crabgrass thrives in acidic low calcium soils. If crabgrass has taken over, apply a high calcium lime to your soil. With any bare patches of lawn, over-seed to crowd out weed seeds including crabgrass. Photo from: http://turfweeds.cals.cornell.edu/plant/identify/264