The Q&A Archives: Overgrown Weeds

Question: I have a backyard with weeds that are 4-5ft tall. It hasn't been mowed for more than two years. Its a 100sq ft. I will like to grow a lawn but I don't know were to start? Please help its a jungle back there and the insects (ants and spiders) find a way into my apartment. I'm hoping if I could clean it, it would keep them out. Thanks for your help.

Answer: Before you can grow a lawn, you will need to test your soil, eliminate the existing weeds, prepare the soil, and then plant the grass seed in early September (the best time of year to seed grass.)

First, test your soil to check fertility and soil pH levels. The test results will help you in preparing the soil and with your lawn care maintenance. Your local Cornell cooperative extension should be able to help you wiht the testing and interpreting the results.

Do not let the weeds bloom and set seed, cut them back to remove flowers and prevent seed formation. You could begin to remove the weeds by digging them out by the roots, however this would be a big job if they are so tall and if any are woody. You could also use an herbicide containing glyphosate, read and follow the label directions carefully. Some persistent weeds might require more than one application.

Once you have controlled the weeds, loosen the soil down at least six inches. Work in organic matter such as compost, also add fertilizer and/or lime as indicated by the soil test results. Then level it and rake the surface smooth.

You may find that many weed seeds begin to germinate. Rake the area to disturb the weeds while they are still very tiny. Do not dig deeply with the rake, just rake enought to get the weeds. This will help reduce weed problems in the lawn later on.

At the end of August or beginning of September, rake the soil surface to create a seed bed and seed it. Water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist, meaning damp like a wrung out sponge, while the grass is germinating. Good luck with your lawn!

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