How To Weed And Seed A Lawn

Learn how to identify and treat the 10 most common lawn weeds such as nutsedge, crabgrass and dandelion. A patchy and weedy lawn is unpleasant and unappealing. Luckily, there are ways you can get rid of the weeds and replant grass seed to have a lush lawn. Before you start, it's important that you purchase the right type of seed for your… It might seem like an easy task, but learning how to plant grass seed correctly is essential for growing a thick, healthy lawn.

Common Lawn Weeds and How to Get Rid of Them

Even the best-tended lawns come under attack from common weeds. Weed seeds float in on the wind, creeping weeds claim more territory, and weeds you thought you pulled quietly continue to grow. How well your lawn copes with the onslaught depends on the weeds involved, the response you choose and your lawn’s overall health. Understanding common lawn weeds and the options available to fight them can help you successfully combat the invasion.

To help simplify weed defense, we’ve charted 10 common lawn weeds, including their characteristics, type and how they spread, and most importantly- how to eliminate them. Weeds, like ornamental garden plants, can be annuals or perennials. Annual weeds, such as crabgrass, complete their entire life cycle in a single growing season, and then die, leaving seeds behind to continue the legacy. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, come back year after year from their roots, and distribute new seeds to boot. Weeds can also be grass-like, broadleaf or sedge. Choosing the right weed control product requires understanding the weed you want to fight and its stage of growth. Pre-emergent weed controls, sometime called preventers, work to keep weed seeds from germinating and developing. Post-emergent weed controls fight weeds that have already germinated and emerged from the soil.

PLANTAIN

Characteristics:

  • Broad leaves with five prominent veins running from the base
  • Short, winged leaf stalk
  • Dense, erect flower spikes

Weed Type:

Broadleaf perennial with shallow, fibrous roots.

How it Spreads:

By small, angular seeds. The mature seeds in one spike will range in color from orange all the way to black. Spikes will include seeds in shades of brown between the two extremes.

Controls:

  • Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4
  • Pennington UltraGreen Southern Weed and Feed 34-0-4
  • IMAGE Kills Nutsedge

DANDELION

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Serrated, comb- and tooth-like leaves
  • Hollow, leafless stalk
  • Yellow, petal-like flowers mature to white puffballs

Weed Type:

Broadleaf perennial with a long, deep taproot.

How it Spreads:

By seeds that germinate year-round in accommodating climates.

Controls:

  • Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4
  • Pennington UltraGreen Southern Weed and Feed 34-0-4
  • IMAGE All-In-One Weed Killer
  • IMAGE Kills Nutsedge

CRABGRASS

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Flat, pointed, narrow leaves, rolled at the base with a prominent midvein
  • Short, flat, purplish-green stems
  • Fringy, spike-like flower heads

Weed Type:

Annual summer grass that germinates throughout the season, capable of producing 150,000 seeds per plant, per season.

How it Spreads:

By seeds and lower stem pieces that root.

Controls:

Pennington UltraGreen Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer III 30-0-4

YELLOW NUTSEDGE

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Grass-like leaves, v-shaped in cross-section
  • Erect, hairless, triangular stems
  • Golden-brown flower spikelets

Weed Type:

Perennial sedge that forms dense colonies.

How it Spreads:

By seeds and rhizomes, but primarily by underground tubers known as nutlets.

Controls:

  • IMAGE All-In-One Weed Killer
  • IMAGE Kills Nutsedge

THISTLE

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Prickly, deeply-lobed leaves
  • Slender, hairless stems
  • White, purple or pink flowers

Weed Type:

Broadleaf with many annual and perennial species and seeds that remain viable for many years.

How it Spreads:

By seeds and root fragments.

Controls:

  • Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4

QUICKGRASS

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Upright, flat, rough-edged, blue-green leaves
  • Leaf blade grasps the stem at its base
  • Flattened spike of alternating flowers and seeds

Weed Type:

Perennial grass most active during cool spring and fall seasons.

How it Spreads:

By seeds and rhizomes, but primarily by underground tubers known as nutlets.

Controls:

  • IMAGE All-In-One Weed Killer
  • IMAGE Kills Nutsedge

OXALIS (ALSO KNOWN AS CREEPING WOODSORREL)

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Heart-shaped leaflets, often purplish, occur three per leaf and fold down in heat
  • Hairy, upright stems
  • Bright yellow spring flowers

Weed Type:

Broadleaf perennial with a shallow taproot and fibrous, expansive root system.

How it Spreads:

By creeping stems, extensive roots, pointed seed capsules that expel seeds, and root and stem fragments.

Controls:

  • Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4
  • IMAGE All-In-One Weed Killer
  • IMAGE for St. Augustinegrass & Centipedegrass

COMMON RAGWEED

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Hairy, fernlike, deeply-lobed leaves
  • Coarse, hairy stems
  • Inconspicuous, green-yellow flowers

Weed Type:

Broadleaf annual (responsible for hay fever) with shallow, fibrous roots.

How it Spreads:

By seed, with a single plant producing up to 60,000 seeds or more per season.

Controls:

Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4

PURSLANE

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Thick, purple-green, succulent leaves
  • Succulent, branching stems
  • Small, yellow flowers

Weed Type:

Broadleaf annual that develops thick, multi-branched mats.

How it Spreads:

By brown and black seed and stem fragments.

Controls:

  • Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4
  • IMAGE All-In-One Weed Killer

GROUND IVY

Weed Name:

Characteristics:

  • Rounded, scalloped leaves
  • Four-sided, mint-family, squared stems
  • Small, funnel-shaped, purple flowers

Weed Type:

Broadleaf, mat-forming perennial with a distinctive odor when crushed.

How it Spreads:

By seed and above-ground runners, known as stolons, that root at the nodes.

Controls:

  • Pennington UltraGreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4
  • IMAGE All-In-One Weed Killer

Weed-Control Options

When choosing weed-control products, take into consideration your target weeds, whether they’re still seeds or emerged plants, and the type of lawn grass you grow. Different types of weeds call for different controls, and some Southern lawn grasses, such as St. Augustinegrass and Centipedegrass, are sensitive to some weed-control products. Always check the label to make sure the product you choose is suitable for your lawn grass.

A top-notch weed-management program involves the following types of weed control products*:

  • Crabgrass Preventers: Crabgrass plants die after setting their seeds, but their seeds live on. Germination starts in spring, once soil temperatures reach approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit – the same temperature that sends forsythia shrubs into bloom. Proper weed management works to stop those seeds from germinating and rid your lawn of any that sneak through. Pennington UltraGreen Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer III 30-0-4 inhibits germination and root development of crabgrass and stops many weed grasses and broadleaf weed seeds when applied in early spring, before weed seeds germinate. While controlling weeds for three to five months, this nitrogen-rich product continues to feed your lawn. Pennington UltraGreen Crabgrass Preventer Plus Fertilizer III 30-0-4 prevents crabgrass germination, suppresses other weed grass and broadleaf weed seeds and controls weed grass for three to five months while feeding your lawn with slow-release nitrogen.
  • Weed & Feed Fertilizers: As the name implies, weed & feed products tackle common lawn weeds while feeding lawn grasses to better help them act against weed invasion. Pennington UltraGreen Weed & Feed 30-0-4 and Pennington UltraGreen Southern Weed & Feed 34-0-4, both safe on Centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass lawns, kill and suppress tough existing broadleaf weeds and control new weeds for up to three months in established lawns. Applied when weeds are actively growing in late spring and early summer, and again in early fall, these weed & feed products continue to feed your lawn grass and keep it beautiful and green.
  • Targeted Weed Control: When existing perennial weeds continue to be a problem, or when new weed seeds germinate and seedlings emerge, a targeted post-emergent herbicide is the answer. For best results, treat weeds while they’re small and actively growing throughout the season. IMAGE All-in-One Weed Killer herbicide offers a broad spectrum of selective weed control for difficult sedges, crabgrass and broadleaf weeds, killing weed roots, shoots and nutlets. These weed killers target weeds only and are suitable for most cool- and warm-season lawn grasses. IMAGE Kills Nutsedge and IMAGE Herbicide for St. Augustinegrass and Centipedegrass provide targeted, selective control of tenacious, emerged weeds.

Well maintained lawns naturally control weeds.

Keeping your lawn grass healthy and competitive provides the best defense against lawn weed invasions. Follow these four steps to a healthier, stronger lawn:

1. Always mow at the recommended mowing height for your type of lawn grass. This helps promote healthy root growth and increases resistance to pests and disease.

2. Mow based on grass growth, not your calendar. Time your mowing so you remove roughly one-third of the length of the grass blades in a single mowing.

3. Supplement natural rainfall by irrigating your lawn as needed. Proper watering provides an average lawn with the equivalent of about 1 inch of rainfall each week. This allows moisture to penetrate deeply and encourages healthy, deep root growth. Watering only once or twice per week is better than more frequent watering.

4. Keep your lawn well-fed with quality weed & feed or fertilizer-only products, such as the Pennington UltraGreen line of lawn fertilizers.

*Always consult the product label for your specific lawn grass type before using any type of weed control products.

Pennington is a trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc. Alaska, Lilly Miller, Moss Out!, Image and UltraGreen are registered trademarks of Central Garden & Pet Company.

How to Reseed a Lawn with Weeds

This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 93% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 81,192 times.

A patchy and weedy lawn is unpleasant and unappealing. Luckily, there are ways you can get rid of the weeds and replant grass seed to have a lush lawn. Before you start, it’s important that you purchase the right type of seed for your environment and you test your lawn so you know which kind of amendments and compost to use. If your lawn is really spotty and full of weeds, you should kill all of the weeds and old grass in your lawn and start over. If you only have a few weeds, you can spot weed and reseed.

How to plant grass seed: A simple guide to success

Lawns are everywhere. Some are highly tended; others, not so much. My own lawn is a mixed planting of three types of turf grass (Kentucky blue, fescue, and perennial rye grass), clover, violets, ground ivy, and various other “weeds”, which is exactly how I like it (and so do the resident honey bees and bumble bees!). Regardless of how perfectionistic you are about your lawn, at one point or another, you’ll find yourself needing to plant grass seed. Whether it’s to fill in a bare spot left behind by Fido or a wayward snowplow, or to install a brand-new lawn after a construction project, learning how to plant grass seed is a necessity for most homeowners. This article offers a simple guide to success, no matter the reason for your reseeding efforts.

There are many different types of lawn grasses. Be sure to choose varieties that are suited to your climate.

Start with the best type of grass for your climate

As a professional horticulturist and a former landscaper, I’ve seeded dozens of brand-new lawns over the years, and I’ve over-seeded bare spots in hundreds more. No matter how large or how small your job is, success always starts with selecting the best grass seed for your region. Different grass species thrive in different climates. There are cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. The label of the package will tell you which grass varieties are included. It will also tell you whether or not there is a starter fertilizer included. Do not choose a blend that includes weed control products. They could harm young seedlings.

Which grass seed is best for your yard also depends on the amount of sunlight it receives. I suggest contacting a local garden center or feed store and speaking with them about the best options for your region. There are also some useful online maps with all the information you’ll need to choose the appropriate grass species for your growing conditions if you live in the US.

Some brands of grass seed come blended with a “filler” product intended to help you distribute the seed evenly and to act as a protective covering. I personally avoid these products because they are more costly than purchasing a bag of high-quality plain seed and they don’t cover as large of an area.

Preparing the ground for planting

After selecting and purchasing the seed, it’s time to prepare the soil for the planting process. This is a very important step in knowing how to plant grass seed successfully. The tender roots of young grass plants will not grow well in compacted soils so it’s essential that this step be done properly. Here are instructions for prepping the ground to overseed bare spots in an established lawn and instructions on how to prepare for planting grass seed in a large bare area.

Preparation for seeding a bare spot in the lawn: Begin by using a cultivator to remove the dead grass. If it’s a small spot, use a hand cultivator. If it’s a larger spot, use a diamond hoe or warren hoe. Then, dig up the area down to a depth of two or three inches with a shovel or trowel. Loosen the soil and break up any clumps.

To repair a “doggie spot” in your lawn, start by removing the dead grass.

Preparation for planting grass seed in a large bare area: If you want to know how to plant grass seed in larger areas successfully, begin by loosening the top three to five inches of soil. Use a rototiller for the job if it’s a very large lawn area. Use a shovel or hoe if it’s an area that’s just a few square feet.

For a smaller area, break up the soil using a warren hoe or a shovel. Larger areas may require a rototiller.

Whether the area is small or large, after loosening the soil, it’s time to rake it smooth. Use a bow rake or a seeding rake to further break up any soil clods and rake the soil out into fine particles and a smooth finish. Use the tines of the rake to smash any large clumps of dirt if necessary.

After loosening the soil, rake it out smoothly and break up any clumps.

The final step of site preparation for planting grass seed is to water the area well. Putting seed down on damp soil encourages speedy germination and provides immediate moisture to emerging roots.

Wetting the area before planting is an important step in the process.

How to plant grass seed

For small areas, use your hand to distribute the seed, flinging it out over the area. For large areas, use a walk-behind broadcast spreader or a hand-held hopper spreader to disperse the seed. It’s all too easy to put down too much seed, or conversely, not enough seed. When you’re finished, the grass seeds should be evenly spread over the soil surface. They should be about one-quarter to one-half inch apart (obviously no one expects you to actually measure – just eyeball it). If you sow grass seed too thickly, the plants will outcompete each other and their growth will suffer. If you don’t sow them thickly enough, weeds may move in.

In smaller areas, grass seed can be spread by hand. For large areas, use a mechanical spreader.

How to ensure good coverage

Sometimes it’s challenging to ensure ample coverage of grass seedlings. If you are using a drop spreader, I suggest distributing the seeds in one direction and then making a second pass in the perpendicular direction. This two-directional overseeding promotes more even grass seed germination and distribution. If you are spreading the seed by hand, it’s a bit easier to eye, but dropping the seeds from different angles helps.

What to put on top of newly planted grass seed

After the seeds are sown, cover them immediately to protect them from birds, keep them moist, and prevent them from washing away in a heavy rain. There are several different mulches you can use for the job. In my experience, straw (not hay, which can be filled with weed seeds), screened compost, or mushroom soil are prime choices. These products also act as soil amendments when they break down and can improve your soil’s fertility and structure. All three of these options are available from your local garden store or landscape supply center. Erosion mats are another option. They can easily be unrolled over the area with little mess and are biodegradable, though they’re also a good bit more expensive than the previous choices. Peat moss is not a good idea because it can repel water once it has dried out.

No matter what you choose to use to cover grass seed, more is definitely not better. One-quarter of an inch is about as thick as you should go. Compost and mushroom soil are great for covering fall-seeded lawns. Their dark color absorbs the sun’s heat and keeps the soil warm all night long. This speeds germination and encourages rapid lawn establishment prior to winter’s arrival.

After spreading the seed, cover the area with a mulch of straw, fine compost, or mushroom soil.

How long does it take for grass seed to germinate

Some varieties of turfgrass take longer to germinate than others. For example, perennial rye grass germinates in as little as 3 to 5 days, fescues take more like 10 days, Kentucky bluegrass takes 2 to 3 weeks, and warm-season grasses like centipede, Bermuda, and zoysia grasses can take over a month. If your grass seed is a mixture of varieties, know that not all of them will germinate at the same time. To encourage good germination and a healthy start no matter which type of grass seed you planted, it’s critical that you keep the seeded area and the young plants well-watered until they are established. See the section below on watering for more info on how and when to water new grass.

Water newly planted grass in well and keep it watered until it’s established.

Planting grass seed in fall

In many climates, the best time to plant grass seed is in the autumn. The still-warm soil of late August, September, October, or November encourages optimum root growth, while the cooling air temperatures discourage excessive top growth. This is perfect for establishing lawn grasses and promoting extensive root growth. It also makes the turf more resistant to drought and better able to access nutrients in the soil. In addition, in most regions, fall also brings increased amounts of rainfall. This means you won’t have to lug out the hose and sprinkler as often.

It’s time to plant grass seed in the fall when nighttime temperatures drop down to about 60 degrees F. Keep an eye on the forecast. Opt for sowing grass seed when there’s a day or two of rain predicted.

Planting grass seed in spring

Spring is another great time to seed the lawn. It’s particularly good if you live where springs are long and cool. For spring planting, it’s absolutely essential that you continue to regularly water the seed and the sprouted grass through the remainder of the spring, summer, and well into the fall. Establishment failures are often connected to improper watering. Early summer is another possible time, but you’ll need to water more often.

How often to water grass seed after planting

Water newly planted grass seed daily if the weather is over 80 degrees F. Every other day is a good watering schedule if temperatures are cooler. Prior to germination, wet the top inch or so of soil. But, once the grass seed germinates and begins to grow, reduce the frequency of irrigation but water more deeply. Once your new grass is about two inches tall, reduce your watering schedule to once or twice a week, but water until the ground is wet down to a depth of about three inches.

Once grass is fully established, stop irrigation all together, unless there’s a prolonged period of drought. When it comes to watering established lawns, it’s always better to water less frequently but very deeply. Always water lawn in the morning, if possible, to reduce the chance of fungal disease issues.

Young grass plants can be mowed when they are 3 inches tall.

When is it safe to mow new grass?

Mow new grass when it reaches a height of about 3 inches. Mow high through the first growing season (3 to 4 inches). Make sure your mower blades are sharp (here’s my favorite sharpening tool) so they cut the grass cleanly, rather than tearing it which can create an entryway for disease.

When to fertilize new grass

When learning how to plant grass seed, many people think you should add fertilizer at planting time. This is not a good practice however, because fertilizers (especially salt-based synthetic lawn fertilizers) can burn tender young grass roots. Instead, top-dress the lawn with compost (here’s how) or use an organic granular lawn fertilizer instead of a synthetic brand. You can start to fertilize new lawns after you’ve mowed the grass 6 times.

Now that you know how to plant grass seed, it’s easy to see how doing it right can make all the difference. Follow the steps outlined above and you’ll have a healthy, thriving lawn instead of one that’s struggling.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

What do you suggest for slugs. I have huge issues worth them this summer. I have switched to a battery lawnmower vs. gas. Would the gas have killed them in the past? Anyway I planted triple rye seed this fall and found hundreds of them.I have been going out at night and scooping them up with a spoon and dumping them in soapy water but I never beat them just control them somewhat. Thanks kindly for any advice.

Hi Barb. Here’s an article on our site that discusses what to do about slugs: https://savvygardening.com/how-to-get-rid-of-slugs-in-the-garden-organically/

Annwen mazetti says

I see you don’t compost the soil. Just want to double check that that is ok – do I really only need to topdres?

If your home is new construction then I would suggest working compost into the area. But, if you have an existing lawn, there’s really no absolute need. It doesn’t hurt to add compost prior to planting, though.

Amy Conley says

What do you suggest for moles that are destroying my yard and therefore my grass? It needs to be safe around pets.

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