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Now is the Time to Pull Weeds

Hawkbit (fall dandelion)

Hawkbit (fall dandelion)



Take a look around your yard. If it’s anything like mine, the weeds are weeds are winning the battle right about now. We managed to keep up for quite a while, but extremely healthy specimens of plantain, chickweed, crabgrass, quackgrass, broadleaf dock, dandelion and fall dandelion are everywhere.
As much as it is tempting to say “Wait ’til next year,” or to simply mow the weeds with the mower, you’ll be far better off to get out there and pull those weeds. Now.
Look closely at many of these weeds — especially crabgrass, chickweed and plantain — and you’ll see seeds beginning to form at the tops of the plants. If these seeds dry out and hit the ground, you’ll have even more of these weeds next year.
Since we don’t recommend blanket synthetic herbicides that harm the soil, we hope you’ll simply go out and pull all these easily identifiable weeds. If anything is great about fall weeding, it’s instant gratification. The weeds are large, easy to grab and, most often, pop out of the soil fairly easily.
If the seeds are fully formed on the plants, don’t immediately add them to the compost pile. Instead, drown the plants in water for a month or so to make sure the weed seeds can never sprout in the future.
If you don’t have the time or energy to pull the weeds — a weedhound works well — you might consider at least mowing them down with a bagging mower. The bag will collect the tops of the weeds, including the seeds, and these can then be drowned in water.
Fall is also a great time to do lawn renovation in general. If you have more weeds than grass, you should try to evaluate why the weeds are winning. Is the soil healthy, or is it compacted? Is the pH correct (about 6.5-7.0), or do you need to add lime and fertilizer? Begin your renovation with a soil test from your local Cooperative Extension office and then develop a game plan that may include overseeding, dethatching and aeration, or top-dressing with compost, compost tea.

One weed identification note: Many folks are confused by the bloom of the plant commonly known as fall dandelion or fall hawkbit. Though similar in appearance, the plant known botanically as Leontodon autumnalis is only loosely related to the spring dandelion, Taraxacum officinale. This perennial can produce several flowers per thin stem, as apposed to one flower per thick stem with the dandelion, and its roots are more shallow — whereas the dandelion has the tell-tale deep tap-root. The seed heads are similar and should not be allowed to form.
In other words, pull these plants to avoid the formation of seeds. The sooner the better.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Jerry

    Unfortunately my yard is mostly crabgrass. It exploded after an application of organic fertilizer back in July. Too much to weed out. I’m having difficulty finding an organic lawn maintenance company in my area. I guess I will have to go it on my own. I’ll check the pH. Is putting down corn gluten a good option this time of the year?


    • Paul Tukey

      Corn gluten won’t give you any weed suppression at this time to year. Certainly not enough to make it worth your money and time.

      Trying to diagnose why you got an explosion of crabgrass after the organic fertilizer application is difficult at best without having been there, but I’m guessing there was no cause-and-effect relationship. You may have been mowing too low in the spring, which would have exposed the crabgrass seeds to sunlight.

      I’d make sure the crabgrass doesn’t go to seed, or if it has already, try to collect it with a bag. Scratch the soil surface and overseed this fall and then be sure to let your lawn grow 3-4 inches tall next spring. Do check the pH and overall fertility, too. If you do all those things, you won’t have the same crabgrass problem next year.

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