Is mid-March too early to think about weed control?
Absolutely not. In fact, March is exactly when you should be focusing on giving your lawn a bit of an edge in dealing with those pesky dandelions and other invaders.
If dandelions are your main issue throughout the summer, take heart. The things you need to get an edge are generally good advice for most weeds, including clover, plantain, and crab grass.
Unfortunately, crab grass requires a much more aggressive strategy, but we’ll come to that later in the season, once you’ve identified those patches.
For most weeds, you need to do two things: keep your grass competitive, and be prepared to dig. Digging means getting out there and buying a weed puller. These tools are simple to use, but extremely effective. A spade or trowel will work too, but you may find these just take too much work if you have a big lawn. A weeding tool is the perfect solution for dealing with broad-leaved weeds like dandelions and thistles. You might not be experiencing weeds just yet, but the pre-season sales at your home and garden centre make this the perfect time to get out and buy one.
By contrast, clover, like crab grass, may need a more aggressive plan involving digging out whole patches of lawn. But don’t despair just yet. Clover can actually help you identify another serious issue in your lawn: low nitrogen.
Clover absorbs its nitrogen from the air. Lawn grass needs to get it from the soil. Therefore, if you have a lot of clover in your lawn, it’s usually a pretty good indicator that your soil is lacking nitrogen. The grass can’t keep up, so the clover takes over. Simple fix? Get a high-nitrogen fertilizer…but DON’T fertilize your lawn until the ground has thawed completely (in most of Canada, that will be into late April or early May). If the ground hasn’t thawed, your fertilizer investment will simply wash away with the rain.
What you can do, assuming the snow has melted, is lay down some grass seed. Grass is, biologically, a weed itself, and its advantage comes in an early vigorous germination. This means it can start to sprout long before hot-weather weeds like dandelions even think about waking up for summer. Giving your lawn an overseeding once the snow has melted and the ground thawed just on the surface will help thicken its root base with new plants. This in turn will start to rob other weeds of nutrients, shade out those new weeds, and make it more difficult for fresh seeds from unwanted plants to take root and germinate.
So remember, if it’s still fairly cold where you live, take the opportunity to pre-seed your lawn, and take advantage of early season sales on high-nitrogen fertilizer and weeding tools. This combination will make sure you’re well prepared for the season ahead. There’s no such thing as a weed-free lawn, but with a little planning early in the season you can make dealing with weeds relatively painless.