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Conquer Your Lawn: 10 Common Weeds and How to Beat Them

A lush, green lawn is a thing of beauty, but unwanted weeds can quickly turn your pride and joy into a patchy mess. Knowing your enemy is half the battle, so let’s explore ten common lawn invaders and how to get rid of them for good.

Here’s a closer look at those ten common lawn invaders, including their identification tips and specific control methods:

1. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):

 This cheerful symbol of spring is a perennial with a deep taproot, making simple pulling difficult. 

  • Identification: Recognizable bright yellow flowers followed by fluffy white seed heads. Leaves are deeply lobed with jagged edges, forming a rosette at the base.
  • Control: For small patches, use a dandelion puller to remove the entire taproot. For larger areas, consider a selective herbicide for broadleaf weeds applied after the flowers have bloomed but before seeds form.

2. Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.):

 This annual grassy weed thrives in hot, humid weather.  Crabgrass spreads quickly, so act fast.  

  • Identification: Annual grassy weed with light green to yellow-green blades that grow in a sprawling, crab-like pattern. Has feathery seed heads that emerge in late summer.
  • Control: Preventative measures are key. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring before crabgrass seeds germinate. For existing crabgrass, use a post-emergent herbicide labeled specifically for crabgrass control.

3. Clover (Trifolium spp.):

 While some consider clover a charming addition, it can steal nitrogen from your lawn.  If you decide to banish it, a broadleaf weed herbicide will do the trick.  However, clover can be beneficial by fixing nitrogen in the soil, so consider letting it grow in low-traffic areas.

  • Identification: There are many clover varieties, but most have three heart-shaped leaves and small white or pink flower clusters.
  • Control: Broadleaf weed herbicides are effective. However, clover can be beneficial by fixing nitrogen in the soil. Consider letting it grow in low-traffic areas and mowing regularly to keep it from flowering and spreading seeds.

4. Chickweed (Stellaria media):

 This low-growing winter annual thrives in cool, damp weather.  Hand-pulling small patches is effective, but for larger areas, use a broadleaf weed herbicide.  Thickening your lawn with grass seed can also help prevent chickweed from establishing itself.

  • Identification: Low-growing winter annual with small, oval-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers. Forms dense mats that can smother grass.
  • Control: Hand-pulling small patches is effective, especially in early spring when the soil is moist. For larger areas, use a broadleaf weed herbicide. Thickening your lawn with desirable grass seed can also help prevent chickweed from establishing itself.

5. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea):

 This persistent perennial spreads through creeping vines and stolons (above-ground stems).  

  • Identification: Perennial weed with scalloped, kidney-shaped leaves and small purple flowers. Spreads through creeping vines and stolons (above-ground stems) that root at the nodes.
  • Control: Hand-pulling is ineffective due to the stolons. Use a herbicide labeled for control of creeping charlie, ensuring thorough coverage of leaves and stems.

6. Nutsedge (Cyperus spp.):

  This sedge, resembling grass with triangular stems, is a nightmare for many homeowners.  Nutsedge reproduces through tubers underground, making control difficult.  

  • Identification: Sedge with triangular stems that resemble grass but lack the hollow center. Forms clumps with brown, nut-like tubers underground.
  • Control: Several selective herbicides are effective against nutsedge, but multiple applications may be necessary due to the tubers. Look for herbicides containing Cyperus as a target weed.

7.  Plantain (Plantago spp.):

  Plantain weed, scientifically known as Plantago major, is a resilient perennial herb with broad, ribbed leaves and tiny, inconspicuous flowers. Thriving in a variety of conditions, it’s often found in lawns, sidewalks, and disturbed areas, offering medicinal properties alongside its status as a common garden nuisance.

  • Identification: Broadleaf weeds with broad, ribbed leaves that come in various shapes depending on the species. Plantain major has broad, oval leaves, while plantain lanceolata has narrow, pointed leaves.
  • Control: Hand-pulling is effective for small patches, but ensure you remove the entire root system. For larger areas, use a broadleaf weed herbicide.

8.  Purslane (Portulaca oleracea):

 This succulent annual thrives in hot, dry conditions. Known for its edible qualities and high nutritional value, purslane is often considered a weed despite its culinary appeal and potential health benefits.

  • Identification: Annual succulent with fleshy, reddish stems and small, oval-shaped leaves. Produces small yellow flowers.
  • Control: Hand-pulling is easy for young purslane, but wear gloves as the sap can irritate skin. For larger areas, a post-emergent herbicide for broadleaf weeds is effective.

9.  Oxalis (Oxalis spp.) 

Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel or shamrock, is a genus of plants characterized by distinctive trifoliate leaves and delicate flowers. While some varieties are prized for their ornamental value, others, like Oxalis pes-caprae, can be invasive weeds, spreading rapidly in gardens and lawns.

  • Identification: These little broadleaf weeds resemble clover, with three heart-shaped leaves that fold up at night. They produce small yellow flowers with five petals. Several varieties exist, with some having reddish leaves.
  • Control: Hand-pulling is manageable for small patches, but larger areas might require a broadleaf weed herbicide. Look for herbicides labeled for control of oxalis.

10.  Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa): 

Quinoa weed, scientifically known as Chenopodium album, is an annual broadleaf plant that closely resembles the nutritious quinoa crop. However, unlike its cultivated counterpart, quinoa weed is considered an agricultural pest, competing with crops for resources and reducing yields. Quinoa thrives in disturbed soil. 

  • Identification: Yes, the grain you love can be a weed with green or reddish triangular leaves and small clusters of white flowers.
  • Control: Hand-pulling is effective for small patches. The key to preventing quinoa from spreading is to prevent further soil disturbance and reseed your lawn with desirable grass. Maintaining a healthy, dense lawn will also help crowd out quinoa.

Remember: Always read and follow the instructions carefully when using herbicides. Apply on a calm day with minimal wind to avoid drift and follow the recommended waiting period before letting children or pets on the treated area.

With a little knowledge and the right approach, you can take back your lawn and keep those unwanted weeds at bay!

Here are some additional tips for keeping your lawn weed-free:

  • Maintain a healthy lawn: A thick, healthy lawn is more resistant to weeds. Regular mowing, watering, and fertilization will help your grass outcompete weeds for space and nutrients.
  • Identify weeds early: It’s much easier to control a small patch of weeds than a large infestation. Learn to identify common weeds in your area so you can take action as soon as you see them.
  • Address the underlying cause: Sometimes, weeds are a symptom of a larger problem, such as poor soil quality or compacted soil. Addressing these issues can help prevent weeds from returning.
  • Consider natural weed control methods: For small infestations or organic lawns, there are a number of natural weed control methods available, such as hand-pulling, boiling water, and cornmeal gluten.

By following these tips, you can create a beautiful, weed-free lawn that you can enjoy all season long.