Gardening can be a matter of perspective: One person’s weed is another person’s flower! But some types of weeds are not just a blip on the radar; they can take over your grass in a hurry if left alone. “Prevention is always easier than treating after the fact,” says Clint Waltz, Ph.D., extension turfgrass specialist at the University of Georgia’s Turfgrass Research & Education Center. “But it’s also important to have realistic expectations. There’s no such thing as perfection, and most of us will never achieve the look of a putting green for a front lawn.”
However, there’s plenty you can do to keep things in check. For starters, many weeds are best controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide, which is put down before the weeds appear and create a barrier so that their seeds cannot germinate, says Waltz. If you’d prefer an organic option, know its limitations: Research shows that most products currently available don’t control weeds well and can be as toxic as synthetic types. Plus, they’ll require repeat application, won’t control mature or perennial weeds, and are non-selective (meaning they suppress all plant growth they contact, not just the weeds, so you may kill grass, too, if you’re not careful about where you apply it).
Most importantly—and we can’t stress this enough—no matter what you’re thinking about using, identify what kind of grass you have before applying anything because some types of grasses can be damaged by certain weed control products.
Typically, the type of grass in your yard falls into two main categories: Warm season and cool season. Warm season grasses grow during the warm times of year, roughly May to September; they’re mostly found in the South. Cool season grasses grow during cooler times of year, typically from December to early February; they’re mostly found in the north and upper third of the country. In transitional parts of the country such as the Mid-Atlantic, you may have both types, says Waltz.