Weed control and fertilization for the DIY'er
You want a green, lush, weed free lawn but you don't know where to start? Not sure if you are putting down enough fertilize or weed control? Ladies and gentleman, I am here to help. If you are that DIY'er that wants to have the best looking lawn on the block, I have a simple to follow plan that will not disappoint.
Weed Control and Fertilization Basics
Let us look at the fundamentals of basic weed control and fertilization for turf. First, fertilizing your turf at least three times per year is a must. Grass is a living, breathing organism. If the only food your turf gets is that Springtime application of Weed n Feed, then I would not expect a nice looking lawn (try going half the year without food, then get back with me). Second, weeds grow through the year, so weed control applications need to happen through the year as well. At least two applications (three is preferable) of a granular and liquid weed control is advised. Most pre and post emergent herbicides provide a one to two month barrier for weed control. Third, a high nitrogen fertilize should be applied in the late fall. This is what your turf will feed on during the winter months.
So how do we know when it is time to apply the products? Let's make this simple (it's lawn care not rocket science right?), we have four seasons Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. In the last paragraph, I advised a minimum of four applications for the year. The first application can be applied between the last week of February and the last week of March. This application is primarily for crabgrass and weed pre emergent with fertilize. The fertilize used should be low in Nitrogen (10-15%) and preferably slow release. The second application can be either granular fertilize with weed control or a liquid weed control. The condition of the lawn will determine what to do. If the lawn has a lot of weeds, then the liquid application is the right choice. If weeds are minimal then use a granular, but make sure the nitrogen is on the low side (10-15%). The liquid application can be applied using either a handheld sprayer or a backpack sprayer (I will explain equipment later). I prefer a backpack sprayer because I can mix up to 4 gallons of weed control which will easily cover a 6,000 square foot lawn. Now between this application and the next, there may be a need to spray some weed control. Always keep some mixed in your sprayer for spot treating purposes. The third application of the year will be a granular, slow release fertilize with a moderate nitrogen level (20-25%). Apply this around the middle of August to the end of September. The purpose of this application is to help the turf rebound from heat stress, heavy foot traffic (kids, dogs, parties) and to feed the turf. You may or may not need to spray weed control. This will depend on the overall condition of your lawn. Finally, the last application of the year is a high nitrogen (30-40%) granular fertilize. Apply between the last week of October up to the end of November. The purpose of this application is to give your turf something to feed on during the non growing season. Below is a sample schedule for this program:
1. February - March Granular fertilize 13-0-5 with Crabgrass pre-emergent
2. May June Granular fertilize 13-0-5 with weed control or Liquid weed control (2 4-D)
3. August - September Granular fertilize 25-0-4 and spot treat for weeds (2 4-D)
4. October - November Granular fertilize 46-0-0
Three S's Spreaders, Sprayers, Square Footage
Now that we understand some of the fundamentals of lawn care and we have a general plan of action, I am sure the next questions are how the heck do I know how much fertilize and weed control to use? How do I figure out what low, moderate, and high nitrogen is? And what equipment do I need and how do I use it? I will answer these questions in this section. Lets attack the first question, which is how much fertilize and weed control to use. We need to figure out the square footage of our lawn. To get the square footage we need the length and width of the lawn. You can do this by taking large strides (3 feet) and counting off the number of strides it takes from the front to the back of the yard and from side to side. If it takes 40 strides to get to the back of your lawn (40 x 3 =120') and 15 strides to go across your lawn (15 x 3 =45'), multiply 120' x 45' to get 5,400 square feet. Most 50 lb bags of granular will cover 10,000 square feet, so with this in mind we know that it will take half of a bag to cover 5,400 square feet. Pretty simple stuff right? For liquid applications you want to mix two ounces of weed control product with one gallon of water. One gallon of water will cover about 1,500 square feet, so about four gallons of water and eight ounces of weed control will cover a 5,400 square foot lawn. One question down and two to go. So how do we know what low, moderate, and high nitrogen is? First of all it will be on the front of the bag. If you are looking at the front of the bag you will see three numbers (i.e. 10-0-5, 24-8-15, 46-0-0, etc.). The first number is the percentage amount of nitrogen per pound of granular and the other numbers are phosphorous and potassium. For equipment there are many options that are cheap to expensive. A good rule of thumb if you are a DIY'er is to go somewhere in the middle when choosing equipment. On granular spreaders you can spend $25.00 up to $500.00. When selecting a spreader ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure the to get a spreader with tires and not plastic wheels (you will thank me later for that tip). My recommendation for a good home owner spreader is the Earthway 2050P ($114.00), which can be ordered on Amazon. For liquid applications, hand sprayers/backpack sprayers can cost $30.00 up to $800.00. If you go the handheld route keep in mind you will have to stop an pump after several seconds of spraying and you will have to stop and mix more chemical, but with that being said, my favorite handheld sprayer is the Round Up Pro two gallon sprayer ($45.00) which you can order from Amazon or most box stores carry them too. For a backpack sprayer you can't go wrong with the Round Up backpack four gallon sprayer ($70.00)which can be ordered from Amazon. I highly recommend the backpack sprayer because you can carry it on your back which allows you to continuously pump the handle to keep the pressure up. This allows a more thorough application and will save a lot of time and effort. Now that we have our equipment we need to know how to use it. The Earthway spreaders directions will serve as a guide as to where to set your gauge. Walking at a certain speed ensures that you won't put down too much or too little fertilize. Your pace should be as if you are comfortably walking down a sidewalk (about 2-3 mph.). This pace will give you about a six foot spread width. When spreading fertilizer use an up and back pattern and make sure to overlap when spreading. When spraying liquid, first make sure you give the sprayer a good shake to make sure everything mixes thoroughly. Make sure to use the red tip that comes with the backpack sprayer. Before spraying your lawn I would practice spraying on your driveway. This will get you acclimated to how wide a path your spraying and how fast you need to walk. The surface should be completely covered but not saturated. A few passes up and down your driveway will give you a good idea of the pace you need to spray.
Fertilize And Weed Control Purchase
Finding the products you need is really easy. The website www.domyown.com is a great place to order your materials online. Most lawn and landscape centers that supply people like me also have a retail section for the DIY'er and will have spreaders and sprayers too. There you can find exactly what you need for the program I have laid out for you. If your lawn is like our example above, one 50 lb bag of product will provide two applications. The liquid weed control (2 4-D Amine by the way) will last you two years because of the quantity you will have to buy. You can store these products on a shelf in your garage.
In closing, I hope this information helps out and if you have any questions you can always email me or call me and I will be glad to help.