Ask a Question forum: lawn care & weeds

Views: 673, Replies: 13 » Jump to the end

MuckDuck
Dec 29, 2016 10:12 PM CST
Just bought a house and have a yard for the first time. The lawn generally seems healthy but there are areas where there is something that I think looks like crab grass, and other areas where clumps of creeping charlie are forming all over. So far I have been ripping them out, but, particularly with the crab grass, I am worried that I am ripping up the normal grass of the lawn along with it.

My questions: are pulling weeds the right thing to do in the lawn at this time? Or is there another way to get rid of weeds, or should I leave it for a later time? What do I do about bare patches on the lawn, or is that something I worry about in spring? Especially because there are some areas that are mostly crab grass at this point and when I rip it up it is basically bare - how do I make that go away without damaging the lawn? Lastly, is there some kind of month-by-month guide about what I should be doing to maintain a nice lawn? I am coming at this with literally no experience, no knowledge, I don't even know what type of grass is on the lawn. Any help on what I should be doing would be appreciated.
Name: Jai or Jack
WV (Zone 6b)
Om shanti om.
Container Gardener Region: West Virginia Multi-Region Gardener Garden Photography Amaryllis Zinnias
Gardens in Buckets Annuals Houseplants Plant and/or Seed Trader Birds Garden Ideas: Level 1
Image
Jai_Ganesha
Dec 30, 2016 5:16 AM CST
What time of year is it where you live? Where (in general terms) is that? What kinds of grass? This will affect the answer.

WELCOME! :)
Keep going!
[Last edited by Jai_Ganesha - Dec 30, 2016 7:07 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1341941 (2)
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
stone
Dec 30, 2016 8:33 AM CST
Crab grass is an annual.... Ripping it out and adding it to the compost should be fine.... I'd worry less about the roots and simply be aware that dropped seeds will come back.

Personally, I'd worry less about turf grass, and put some consideration into what I wanted to plant that would be useful.

I'm busily planting turnips, rutabagas, carrots, beets, and spinach.... Also poppies....

If you still have a growing season.... I think that you would do far better to invest your efforts in a winter garden.... When spring comes, you can plant the vegetables that you would enjoy eating.... I grow a lot of tomatoes, beans and watermelons.

I also have patches of turf here and there, but I do absolutely nothing to encourage it.... I'd rather have wildflowers. I can't think of any benefits whatsoever in growing turf grass, but.... The birds and butterflies all benefit from the wildflowers at my house.... And.... Bambi too.

Thumb of 2016-12-30/stone/7e47b7

Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Dec 30, 2016 9:27 AM CST
Welcome! If you're in the USA then your Extension service may have a schedule for lawn care that would apply in your area. We can help you find it if you can let us know what State you are in.

As Stone said, crabgrass is an annual, and by now it has probably already shed its seeds for next year and the current year's crop should die out. It died out here quite some time ago so I'm guessing it either isn't crabgrass or you're somewhat further south. To be sure crabgrass is what you have would you be able to pull a plant of it up and take a picture? Does it have white sharply pointed rhizomes (underground stems), because that would suggest it is more likely quackgrass.

Mowing at the right height, fertilizing, and maybe aerifying the lawn helps to make the lawn thicker and healthy and reduce weeds. Do you think the bare spots with crabgrass are from foot traffic or could there be some pest problem? Depending where you are that may be something to address in the spring. If skunks or birds are tearing up the bare patches then there may be grubs there.

It's difficult to give specific advice without knowing what the predominant grass/es are in your lawn. We can maybe narrow it down to warm-season or cool-season grasses if you can let us know roughly where you are located. Different lawn grasses are used in different areas because not all do well everywhere.

The creeping Charlie can be difficult to get rid of. There are selective herbicides if you want to go that route, or you can try household Borax. If you need more information on the latter then let us know.

MuckDuck
Dec 31, 2016 7:14 AM CST
Jai_Ganesha said:What time of year is it where you live? Where (in general terms) is that? What kinds of grass? This will affect the answer.

WELCOME! :)


thanks - I live in northern Virginia, zone 7a, and we are heading into January. I unfortunately have no idea what type of grass it is, that information wasn't left by the previous owners.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Dec 31, 2016 7:48 AM CST
There's a lot of information on managing lawns in Virginia from Virginia Cooperative Extension here:

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/categor...

MuckDuck
Dec 31, 2016 7:51 AM CST
sooby said: Welcome! If you're in the USA then your Extension service may have a schedule for lawn care that would apply in your area. We can help you find it if you can let us know what State you are in.

As Stone said, crabgrass is an annual, and by now it has probably already shed its seeds for next year and the current year's crop should die out. It died out here quite some time ago so I'm guessing it either isn't crabgrass or you're somewhat further south. To be sure crabgrass is what you have would you be able to pull a plant of it up and take a picture? Does it have white sharply pointed rhizomes (underground stems), because that would suggest it is more likely quackgrass.

Mowing at the right height, fertilizing, and maybe aerifying the lawn helps to make the lawn thicker and healthy and reduce weeds. Do you think the bare spots with crabgrass are from foot traffic or could there be some pest problem? Depending where you are that may be something to address in the spring. If skunks or birds are tearing up the bare patches then there may be grubs there.

It's difficult to give specific advice without knowing what the predominant grass/es are in your lawn. We can maybe narrow it down to warm-season or cool-season grasses if you can let us know roughly where you are located. Different lawn grasses are used in different areas because not all do well everywhere.

The creeping Charlie can be difficult to get rid of. There are selective herbicides if you want to go that route, or you can try household Borax. If you need more information on the latter then let us know.



Thumb of 2016-12-31/MuckDuck/797746

Thanks for the detailed response! I uploaded a picture of one of the pulled "crabgrasses" - I am in northern virginia, zone 7a. Unfortunately, I don't know the type of grass that we have on the lawn - that information wasn't given to us. I do know that the previous owners aerated the lawn in mid to late fall, and that is pretty much the extent of my knowledge about it.

I am a bit mystified by the crab grass bare spot. It is in a section of the lawn that gets virtually no foot traffic, and it is basically all clustered in this one spot about 4ftx4ft. The rest of the grass in the front lawn is fairly thick and lush. There are some bare spots in the backyard in heavily trafficked areas, but they are just mud with various "creeping charlie" sprouts. The crab grass spot is near what I was told might be a Japanese maple - could that have something to do with it, roots or attracting a certain critter over there? It is the only thing "different" about that part of the lawn that I can think of.

I noticed that the prevoius owners left some herbicide in the garage. I could check it out but was (maybe naively?) hoping I could get rid of the weeds without using it. I don't mind the creeping charlie so much, but that ugly grass I took a picture of is really driving me nuts! Grumbling

Thanks again so much for the response. I want to keep the yard as healthy and nice as the previous owners did, but this is a whole new world for me!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
Image
sallyg
Dec 31, 2016 8:14 AM CST
You won't be doing much at this time of year there, since the grass isn't growing. NO herbicide use right now.

You could do a soil sample so you'll know if you need lime for pH (very possible in this area) and you could probably do that anytime. But mostly, check the extension suggestions. I think your first task will be 'weed and pre-emergent herbicide] in March when the forsythia blooms.

That crabgrass might be quackgrass (not sure the correct name) one that is perennial with very wiry deep runners. You could try digging that out now, and maybe toss in some lawn seed to the loose dirt that will sprout in spring. If it is a solid patch of that weedy perennial grass, maybe you should wait till warm weather, then use herbicide just on that spot. Then seed with lawn grass. I have the wiry grass and mostly just live with it except when it goes into flowerbeds.

Creeping charlie - can really take over in shade moist areas. But pulls up fairly easily. Keep pulling or wait for warm weather and use broadleaf herbicide.

Your lawn is probably a cool season grass, dull green right now but will green up in spring, grow a lot spring and fall, and fill in bare spots where you pulled weeds. (If it is very thick and tan like straw, then it is zoysia, a warm season grass, and a little different care. )
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Britnay
Detroit Mi (Zone 6a)
Oh! What's that?! ....oops...
Image
1hugaholic
Dec 31, 2016 8:32 AM CST
I worked with my father in his lawn care business for a few years. Crab grass is incredibly common. Make sure you pull them out at the roots so they don't grow back. You can find some crab grass weed killer at your local nursery. I'd grow Kentucky blue grass if you want grass seed. It's the most common and easy to grow. It'll match most grasses. Hope this helps.
Lord please let this seed not be a weed!
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Dec 31, 2016 8:34 AM CST
MuckDuck, it looks to have rhizomes, in which case it isn't crabgrass. I'm not sure from the picture if it is quackgrass, I would need to see it closer. I think it might be something else. Did any of it get a chance to flower?

Regarding the bare spot, it's difficult to say what that might be, it could be an insect pest if it's not from compaction. Can you post a picture of that too?
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
stone
Jan 3, 2017 4:38 PM CST
MuckDuck said:
Thumb of 2016-12-31/MuckDuck/797746
I uploaded a picture of one of the pulled "crabgrasses"

Looks like bermuda grass...
Lotta people plant that on purpose, it's a nightmare to get rid of.... will invade your flower beds, and nothing works to control it...

Maybe post a similar pic of the turf grass that you are trying to encourage?
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
Jan 3, 2017 4:45 PM CST
I agree with Stone. Most herbicides will kill absolutely everything before they will harm Bermuda Grass, however I would have thought that you were too far north for Bermuda.
Porkpal
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database.
Image
RickCorey
Jan 3, 2017 7:33 PM CST
Hi MuckDuck! Welcome to NGA.

One thing that might be producing nasty patches in your lawn could be poor drainage plus a low spot.

Look during or right after heavy rain, and check for puddles. If a puddle exists where the lawn is bad, you might need to improve the drainage or at least make the soil enough deeper in those spots that there is SOME root zone above the "high water table" that occurs during and after heavy rain.

The problem with poor drainage is that roots (even grass roots) need oxygen. Without it they drown (there's no photosynthesis underground). So during each heavy rain, the "water table" or saturated zone rises. Water displaces air from the large and medium-size pores in soil (voids or air channels). Once the pores or channels fill with water, diffusion of oxygen through them slows down by a factor of literally 10,000-fold.
https://garden.org/thread/view...

If the water doesn't drain away quickly, roots in the saturated zone will die soon and then rot. The plant has to re-grow roots after every rain ... so the plant dies, or becomes feeble and sickly, then dies. Weeds that tolerate drowned roots move in.

If drainage really is a problem, there are many solutions. Raised beds, drainage trenches, or the classic method: dig big, deep, sloping trenches and install perforated plastic pipe then backfill with drainage gravel. I would try to get away with finding the shortest possible path from the existing unwanted low spot to some other, lower spot, from which water CAN drain away freely. Then dig the smallest possible slit trench just deep enough to drain 12-18" of root zone in the "low spot".

But that might not be your problem.

I bought a place once where the prior owner had removed a huge above-ground pool. But he must have drenched the soil UNDER that pool with a long-lived herbicide. It took years for even junk-grass or other scrubby weeds to grow there.

Or someone might have dumped some plant-unfriendly trash into those spots, like construction waste or used oil.

Or far too much lime or fertilizer. Or NO lime or fertilizer, when they were needed. Or too much of some micro-nutrient, if they thought they were real smart guys when they were only semi-smart.

You might possibly dig a representative sample of soil from different depths under the bad spots, mix well, and send a sample to a soil-testing lab. Your Virginia co-op might have an inexpensive lab, or suggest ones you could mail to. Make sure they test for toxins - some might only look at fertilizer levels, pH and salt.

When in doubt, make a raised bed that rises 1-2 feet above the current grade. Take the soil from someplace that DOES support healthy plants, or buy a mix from a "dirt yard" or farm. The root zone will stay mostly or entirely above the questionable soil.

But you can only raise beautiful or useful plants in raised beds! Not lawns.
[Last edited by RickCorey - Jan 3, 2017 7:41 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1344745 (13)
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
stone
Jan 5, 2017 8:36 AM CST
RickCorey said:
But you can only raise beautiful or useful plants in raised beds! Not lawns.

Hmmm... Seems like I've seen turf growing very well in raised beds....

While Rick's discussion of possible culprits was accurate, I suspect the issue is more likely to be compaction, or maybe the previous owner had a large tree taken out, and then the stump ground.... That is the kind of thing which will make the colonization process slow.

If you stop pulling the Bermuda, it's likely that there will be a strong stand of turf there in a year or two.

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Ask a Question forum
Only the members of the Members group may reply to this thread.

Member Login:

Username:

Password:

[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by plantmanager and is called "Spinystar (Escobaria vivipara)"