JoAnne Skelly: A healthy lawn has fewer weeds

Do you struggle to eliminate weeds from your lawn each year? The best defense against lawn weeds is a healthy lawn. Healthy lawns are thick with deep roots and enough resilience to handle summer heat. Thin, patchy lawns are stressed and easily invaded by weeds.

If you already have weeds in your lawn, start to solve weed issues by figuring out why your lawn is stressed and what you can do about it. Read “Tips for a Healthy Lawn” at

Some weeds, such as dandelions, grow back from the roots and it’s hard to dig them out. These weeds are perennials and grow back each year. To control perennial weeds by hand, dig as much of the root as possible. Revisit the spot regularly and dig out weeds if they regrow.

Sometimes herbicides are needed. If you’ve de-stressed your lawn by watering deeply and evenly, mowing high and fertilizing appropriately and you still have more weeds than you can remove by hand, you might need to use a pesticide that kills weeds. There are many choices available on the market. They vary in several ways. Before you select a product, read the entire label carefully, and make sure it can be used in a lawn. Pick a product that works on the specific weeds occurring in your lawn, that breaks down quickly and has the lowest toxicity. Look for the signal word “Caution” on the front label of the herbicide. You must follow the label directions exactly.

Use caution with weed-and-feed-type products. Instead, spot-treat weeds with a selective herbicide, and apply fertilizer separately when needed. When herbicides are used on entire lawns, your trees and other plants might be damaged or killed if the product gets into their roots underneath the lawn or on suckers. Even trees and other plants some distance away from the lawn might be injured by the herbicide.

Tips for managing lawn weeds:

Add organic matter to lawn soils for stronger turf and fewer weeds. Don’t add more than one-quarter inch of organic matter to an existing lawn at a time.

Mow high (3 inches) for strong, deep grass roots.

Accept a few weeds in your lawn.

Pull or dig weeds when they first appear, before they make seed and become big problems.

Avoid using weed killers or weed-and-feed-type products on entire lawns. They can damage adjacent trees and shrubs that have roots in or near the lawn area.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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