Weeds in Your Lawn and Garden – You Can Win the War

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Warmer weather and some much needed rains have arrived and with that comes a surge of weeds. Weeds growing in your home and garden are not just unsightly; they steal nutrients, water, and sunlight from desired plants while hosting several diseases and insect pests that also cause landscape headaches. The following are some questions regarding weed management that the Catawba County Extension Service recently received.

Q:  We have crabgrass problems in our lawn every year. How can I reduce crabgrass growth without spending so much time and money on chemicals?

A:  The vast majority of lawns in our area are tall fescue. Tall fescue is a cool season grass; meaning that it does not grow well during the summer heat. For this reason, fertilizer should not be applied to a tall fescue lawn during the spring and summer months. To reduce crabgrass growth you should fertilize at the correct times – Sept, Oct, and Feb (Labor Day, Halloween, and Valentine ’s Day). People putting fertilizer on their lawn now are feeding the weeds! The second practice for reducing crabgrass growth is to raise your mowing height to 3-4 inches. Research at North Carolina State University showed that the percent crabgrass cover was reduced from 79% in turf mowed at a one inch height to 31% crabgrass cover in turf mowed to a three inch height. In this study, turf mowed at a 4 inch height had 0% crabgrass cover!

Q: What can I do to keep weeds from germinating? I heard that I should not put mulch down in the spring.

A: Mulch is one of the best ways to improve your soil quality and suppress weed growth. For gardeners that plant late winter crops such as peas, potatoes, kale, etc. it is recommended to leave mulch off of the soil to allow sunlight to warm the soil temperature for better veggie growth. Soil temperatures are no longer an issue. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch will create an effective barrier to weed growth (although some weeds will break through) while maintaining soil moisture and a long list of other benefits. Mulch can lead to more slugs so be on the lookout.

Q: Is it true that some weeds are edible?

A: Yes, there are many weeds that are edible such as: lambsquarters, plantain, wild garlic, purselane, dandelions, and others. Only forage plants that you are certain have not been recently sprayed with an herbicide. Be absolutely sure that you have identified the weed correctly and that you are eating the edible parts.

More information on edible weeds can be found at:


Call our office for more weed management strategies – 828-465-8240.

Written By

Photo of George Place, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionGeorge PlaceCounty Extension Director (828) 465-8240 (Office) george_place@ncsu.eduCatawba County, North Carolina
Posted on May 10, 2016
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