Boost your lawn’s health and beauty

Submitted Photo The best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy lawn. Photo from Melinda Myers, LLC.

Weeds are more than a nuisance when trying to grow a lush green lawn. They’re an indication that you need to make some changes in your overall lawn care practices.

Start by evaluating your fertilization program or seek the help of a landscape professional. A properly fertilized lawn is better able to outcompete the weeds. A lawn filled with clover will benefit from a nutrient boost. This nitrogen fixing plant was often included in grass seed mixes to help establish new lawns. Some gardeners welcome this bee-friendly plant, but large unwanted clover populations may mean it’s time to adjust your fertilization program.

Use a slow release, organic nitrogen fertilizer, like Milorganite, to provide your lawn with needed nutrients over a long period of time. These fertilizers also help build your soil and the beneficial microorganisms that inhabit it.

Leave your clippings on the lawn. A season’s worth of clippings is equal to one fertilization. Short clippings do not cause thatch, but rather add organic matter and moisture as well as nitrogen to the soil.

Core aerate your lawn if chickweed, prostrate spurge, knotweed and moss are taking over. All these weeds thrive in compacted soil. Removing cores of soil with aeration creates openings in the thatch layer and compacted soil, allowing water, oxygen and nutrients to reach the plants’ roots.

Raise your mower height to manage crabgrass and weeds in general. Taller grass shades out this weed, helping to keep it under control. The taller grass also forms deeper roots, making it more drought and pest tolerate and able to compete with weeds.

Replace sun-loving bluegrass with shade tolerant grass mixes or groundcovers if violets, creeping Charlie and moss have crowded out the lawn. If this doesn’t work, consider having a certified arborist thin the crown of overhead trees to increase sunlight reaching the plants beneath. Or make it easy on yourself and embrace the shade. Grow a moss garden or mulch the tree roots, creating a healthier environment.

If you decide to intervene, select the most ecofriendly products available. The EPA has identified organic and reduced-risk weed killers for managing lawns. Spot treat problem areas to limit the amount of chemical used.

Be sure to adjust your lawn care practices to increase your lawn’s health and minimize the need to use these products in the future.

And if you’re like many and time is an issue, consider hiring a landscape professional to do the work for you. Then sit back and enjoy your new lush green lawn.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers is the author of over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening, The MN & WI Getting Started Garden Guide and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her website is