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Weed Whacking | Fall 2011 Out Here Magazine

Using a herbicide in the fall destroys the weed through its root system; the most effective herbicides contain more than one active ingredient, such as Trimec ® Lawn Weed Killer.

Start now to create a lush, healthy lawn next spring

By Carol Davis
Photography courtesy of PBI/Gordon

Keeping weeds at bay in your lawn is more manageable each spring when you begin treating it in the fall. That's just one of the keys to having a thicker, healthier lawn next spring, says Gary Custis, Manager of Field Research for PBI/Gordon Corporation, a Kansas City, Missouri lawn and garden product manufacturer.

According to Custis, winter annuals (such as henbit, clover or chickweed) germinate in late summer or fall, go dormant through the winter, and flower in the spring. Perennials (such as dandelion and white clover) also start their growth cycle each fall before overwintering, making autumn the ideal time to treat them with herbicides.

"You want to control them (weeds) while they're young and actively growing," he says. "If you control them in the fall, you won't have them in the spring."

Herbicides destroy the weed through its leaves and root system and the most effective products contain more than one active ingredient.

"I like Gordon's® Trimec® Lawn Weed Killer because it contains three active ingredients" Custis says. The interaction of these ingredients is effective for solving the weed problems you see popping up. Trimec's combination works well to kill just about any broadleaf weed without harming lawns when used as directed.

Another defense against weed invasions is to maintain a thick, healthy lawn. To achieve this, fertilize each fall.

"In the fall, your lawn is growing its root system," Custis says. Adding fertilizer while the weather is cool will stimulate root growth before winter really sets in. High rates of nitrogen helps build up food reserves, so your lawn will be greener and healthier in the spring.

To create a spectacular lawn next spring, listen to the experts like Custis and follow these steps now:

  • Seeding. Fall (not spring) is the time to seed. Temperatures in the fall get cooler, so young seedlings have a better chance to develop. If you seed in the spring and tender young plants go into a hot summer, the chances of them surviving are pretty slim.
  • Watering. One big mistake many people make is to stop watering in the fall. If it's a dry fall, the roots can't develop. You don't have to water as often as in the summer heat, unless you're not having regular rains.
  • Mowing. Continue to mow at the highest mower blade setting until the very last mowing of the season — then take it down to a lower setting for the winter. By leaving the lawn tall, you allow the longer blades of grass to produce energy. A good rule of thumb to follow is to never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade. By leaving two-thirds of the blade, there's enough tissue to produce food instead of using reserve food that's in the plant. Try to keep it at a taller height until the very last moment, and then take it down a notch to let it rest during the cold season.
  • Raking. Keep fall leaves raked and off your lawn, especially newly-sown lawns. When leaves lie on top and shut off light, grass can't produce new food and has to rely on stored food.
  • Soil testing. Even if you've had a soil test done for your garden, it's a good idea to have separate testing for your lawn to determine any nutrient deficiencies. A soil test for your lawn is different than for your garden area because for your lawn, you only test about 2 inches below the surface because that's how deep grass roots grow. If you take a sample any deeper, you'll be testing soil the roots never reach.

"Following these tips gives you the best chance for a lush, healthy and weed-free lawn next spring," says Custis.

Carol Davis is editor of Out Here.