As we move through January and early February, in Northwest Florida, our lawns are lying dormant. It's like hibernation. It's asleep, but it's not dead. That’s why, even though you won’t be mowing, weeding, watering and fertilizing, it's important that you don't forget about your lawn during this dormant period.
If you do, you'll find a host of unwelcome guests popping up throughout the spring and summer: weeds.
The key to a weed-free lawn: Pre-emergents
To give your lawn the best chance of avoiding common summer weed infestations like crabgrass, lambsquarters, mallow, pigweed, and spurge, there are a few important steps to take during the weeks of winter dormancy.
Of course, a thick, lush, healthy lawn is the best protection against weeds, because a healthy lawn doesn't leave much room for weeds to get established. But during the late winter and early spring, the proper application of pre-emergent herbicides is your best defense to manage weeds throughout the warmer growing season. For the best results, It's important to understand how pre-emergents work and the best time and method to apply them to your lawn.
Step One: Choose the right pre-emergent for the weeds you're fighting off
Like prescription drugs, various pre-emergent herbicides are designed to attack certain weeds, and they each have their own specific “dosage” and schedule. If you choose to handle pre-emergent application yourself, it's very important to review the labels thoroughly and ensure you're choosing the right one for the weed(s) that are most likely to germinate in your lawn.
Step Two: Apply the pre-emergent at the right time
This is very important. Different weeds germinate at different times based on the temperature of the soil. Pre-emergents are only effective if applied prior to the weed's germination. It's vital to not only use the right herbicide for the particular weeds, but to apply it before the weed has a chance to germinate in your lawn.
The key to preventing most summer weed varieties like crabgrass is to apply the herbicide before the soil temperature consistently stays above 50°F for several days. Keep your weather eye open and be ready to apply your pre-emergents before the weed seeds have a chance to germinate.
Step Three: “Water in” your pre-emergents to create an effective barrier
Pre-emergent herbicides work by creating a barrier an inch or two below the soil surface that stops any weed seeds below from growing enough to break the surface. To create that barrier at an appropriate depth, it's important to properly water your lawn immediately after application. Most herbicide suppliers recommend a half inch of irrigation or rain within 21 days of application. Since creating the barrier before the soil warms up enough to germinate the weeds is the only way to ensure success, it might be helpful to accomplish watering sooner than later.
Some Closing Tips
When it comes to applying pre-emergents yourself, there are a lot of factors you need to keep in mind so you don’t waste your time and money.
- Pre-emergents will be completely ineffective if you already see weeds. They must be applied before the weed seeds germinate.
- Pre-emergents will not destroy weeds or weed seeds, they simply prevent them from growing. Since weeds are naturally hearty and resilient plants, it's quite possible one application, even done correctly, will not prevent all weeds for the entire growing season.
- Although commercial herbicides are developed to attack specific weed seeds, they can also affect turf. If you are seeding your lawn, make sure to wait at least six weeks after putting down grass seed to apply a pre-emergent. Otherwise, it may keep your grass seed from growing too. If you plan to seed later in the year, be sure at least three months pass between your pre-emergent application and when you put down your grass seed.
- Think of your pre-emergent application as a blanket for your lawn. When applying the product, thorough, even coverage across the entire lawn is vital. Weeds will manage to infiltrate any tiny spot you missed, and can easily spread from there.
As a leading provider of custom lawn care for clients all around the Pensacola area, we are experts in understanding which pre-emergents work best for keeping Florida lawn weeds at bay. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss working with our Pensacola lawn maintenance company to develop your lawn care plan and take care of your concerns, contact us today.