People often refer to successful gardeners as having green fingers. That’s because they seem to have the ability to make anything grow. On the downside, when plants thrive in a garden, weeds often thrive alongside them.
The best way to get rid of weeds in any lawn is to prevent them from growing in the first place. If they do appear, remove them immediately before they establish themselves and self-seed.
The most likely place for weeds to become a problem is wherever the lawn has deteriorated and started to die off. Usually you will find that these bare spots are also badly compacted, which means these areas should be aerated.
Common lawn weeds
There are a huge number of weeds that you might find in the garden and it’s a good idea to know which is which. These are 25 of the very worst lawn weeds you might find.
- Black medic is an annual broadleaf weed that forms solid patches in the lawn. Low-growing with long trailing stems, it has three clover-like leaves and produces clusters of small, bright yellow flowers that appear during late spring and summer. Black medic thrives in dry, compact soil that is high in phosphorus.
- Common chickweed is also an annual broadleaf weed. It forms a mat of growth and produces tiny little star-like flowers. It is most prevalent during spring and fall when the weather is cool and moist. Mouse-ear chickweed is a perennial broadleaf weed that is similar to common chickweed, but its stems and leaves are hairier and it tolerates summer heat better.
- Henbit is a member of the mint family and has the same typically square-shaped stems. It is also annual broadleaf weed. It has light purple flowers that are shaped like little trumpets, and it usually appears in early spring.
- Knotweed is an annual broadleaf weed that thrives in compacted soil. It forms a tough mat effect and has blue-green leaves.
- Spotted spurge is an annual broadleaf weed that spreads rapidly. Its leaves have purple spots and it produces a milky sap.
- Cinquefoil is a common perennial broadleaf weed that looks a lot like a wild strawberry. It has five-part leaves, produces yellow flowers, and does not bear fruit. It thrives in poor soil.
- Dandelion is possibly the most common lawn weed worldwide. It thrives in thin lawns and produces bright yellow flowers that turn into fluffy seed balls that children traditionally use to tell the time! It is another perennial broadleaf weed.
- Ground ivy is also a perennial broadleaf weed. This is a creeping plant with round scalloped leaves and a square stem. It is a terrible nuisance in damp shady areas where it often forms large patches. Its flowers are purple-hued and trumpet-shaped.
- Nutgrass or nutsedge is a grass-like weed that is in fact of the perennial broadleaf type. It grows in patches in summer, loves moisture and is difficult to get rid of. Its leaves are a yellow-green color and they are shiny and stiff.
- Oxalis is another very common perennial broadleaf lawn weed. It has pale-green, clover-like leaves and little yellow flowers. If it is allowed to go to seed, its seed pods look like tiny cucumbers.
- Plantain is common in poorly nourished, thin lawns. There are two types, one with clusters of narrow, ribbed leaves and wiry-stemmed seed stalks, and another that has larger, rounded broad leaves and shorter seed spikes. Both types are perennial broadleaf weeds. It doesn’t like well fertilized soil.
- Sheep sorrel, which is also known as red sorrel or sourgrass, is a pest that thrives in acid soil. Its leaves have a spear or arrow shape and its roots are long and stringy. It is also a perennial broadleaf weed.
- Speedwell is a perennial broadleaf weed of the Veronica species. There is also an annual species which, like the perennial type has creeping stems with leaves on opposite sides and small blue or white flowers with only four petals.
- Violets, which are all too familiar with their purple-blue flowers and heart-shaped leaves, sometimes invade lawns. This is another perennial broadleaf weed and you will need to dig it out.
- White clover is a perennial broadleaf weed that forms very obvious patches in lawn and it spreads as its stem creeps along the ground. Its white blossoms attract bees and other stinging insects.
- Wild garlic is a perennial broadleaf weed that emerges in clumps in many lawns in spring. Although its foliage disappears in summer, it reappears in fall. It can take years to get rid of.
- Annual bluegrass, as its name suggests, is an annual grassy weed. It has fine blades and grows best in cool, damp weather, usually emerging in spring. It produces lots of whitish-colored seed heads and form patches. It usually dies naturally in hot, dry weather.
- Crabgrass is a notorious annual grassy weed that flourishes in hot, showery weather. There are two types, one that is smooth and the other hairy. Both types have coarse blades and they are yellow-green in color. Crabgrass gets its name from the way the plant spreads out in a crab-like manner.
- Foxtail is another annual grassy weed and there are several different species that infest lawns, particularly those that are newly planted. It looks rather like crabgrass but is a bit more upright and it gets fuzzy seed heads.
- Goosegrass, which is also called silver crabgrass, is very common where the soil is compacted and not well nourished. It forms flat rosettes of tough stems that have a whitish center. Improving soil conditions usually gets rid of it.
- Bentgrass is a perennial grassy weed that has soft, fine blades and forms tufts. It often dies naturally in hot, dry weather
- Bermuda grass, also known as wire grass, is classified as a perennial grassy weed that is considered a scourge in many areas. It has tough, wiry stems and spreads rapidly. But is also valued as a warm-season grass in some regions. It is brown and dormant during winter.
- Coarse fescue is another perennial grassy weed and probably the most common type to be found in lawns. It has rough-edged blades and forms coarse, dark green clumps. The best way to get rid of it is to dig it out.
- Muhlenbergia (or Nimbelwilll) is a perennial grassy weed with thin blades that are a grey-green color. It has thin, wiry stems and forms patches that look a lot like bentgrass. Like Bermuda grass, it is brown and dormant during winter.
- Paspalum is a species of coarse yellow-green, warm-season clump grasses.
Tips to prevent weeds in the lawn
One of the best ways to keep weeds out of lawns is to make sure that your lawn remains healthy all year round. You will have seen from the list of common lawn weeds that many of them thrive in poor, under-nourished soil. Many thrive in damp soil as well. So by maintaining the quality of your soil and ensuring you have good drainage, you will be well on your way to beating the weeds.
Many weeds thrive in compacted soil, so aeration is another trick to help keep them away. De-thatching by getting rid of that spongy layer that builds up below the grass stems, is also helpful, and in addition it lessens the possibility of the thatch becoming a breeding ground for pests and diseases.
Keeping your grass the right height also helps to control weeds. Generally cutting relatively high not only encourages the blades to grow, but it also has the effect of creating a deeper rooting system which makes the grass better able to overcome invading weeds. Furthermore by regularly mowing your lawn you will help to completely eradicate the broad leafed species.
Proper watering will also help to prevent weeds from growing, usually by cutting down on the frequency and volume of water used.
How to get rid of weeds
The best, although certainly not the quickest or easiest, way to get rid of weeds is to remove them by hand. If you do this before they go to seed, and you make sure you pull the entire root out then they won’t grow again.
Regular mowing is a good way to control broad-leafed species. Every time you mow the grass you hamper their growth. But it doesn’t work with other types.
If you can’t control weeds effectively using these methods then you will have to resort to a herbicide. But you do need to be sure that the type is specific for the type of weeds you are trying to kill and control. There are also non-selective herbicides, but these are designed to kill all plant life. Unless you are going to renovate your lawn you won’t want to use the latter type.
If you opt for chemical control of weeds you will find that there are selective types specifically designed to control broadleaf weeds. These are normally available in spray, granular and in aerosol form. Then there are selective chemicals that can be used to control crabgrass and other annual grasses that spring up in the lawn. There are also non-selective chemicals that are formulated to kill perennial weed grasses – but these, as we have already stated, will kill everything. Unfortunately there aren’t any selective chemicals that will remove perennial weed grasses and allow the rest of the grass to survive.