All homeowners know that weed control is pretty much a constant battle. After all, there is a reason they’re called weeds! Weeds are invasive plant species that can spread like wildfire. It requires a certain amount of diligence to prevent weeds from growing in your lawn or garden. But landscapers seem to be able to manage them effectively with minimal work every few weeks. So what do lawn companies use to kill weeds, and are there tricks of the trade that you can use on your property?
I’ll discuss in today’s article.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
It’s old advice, but it’s good advice. The time you spend preventing weeds will save you much more time remediating a major weed problem in your lawn.
Taking the right steps early in the spring can minimize the amount of work you need to do to maintain your perfectly manicured lawn.
Part of that can include choosing the right herbicidal solutions to either prevent or kill weeds. Pre-emergent (treatment before weeds emerge) and post-emergent (treatment after weeds are growing) solutions act very differently. The former prevents weed seeds from germinating and taking root. The latter kills weeds that have set up camp in your lawn or garden.
While many of the weed control products at the hardware store are effective, sometimes you just need to pull out the big guns.
Perhaps you didn’t get around to applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring and now your lawn is overgrown with crabgrass and other weeds.
Or perhaps you have a very large area that you need to cover and the little bottle of solution from the local hardware store just isn’t going to cut it.
Landscapers often have access to heavy-duty pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides.
Here are some of the things lawn companies use to kill weeds, broken down by category.
Pre-emergent weed control
One of the best ways to stay on top of weed growth is by using a pre-emergent method, and this is what professional landscapers rely on to minimize the time, effort and product they’ll use at your property for the rest of the growing season.
Pre-emergent means that you’re using an herbicide or an organic substance (like corn-gluten, for example) to block weeds before they germinate and emerge from the ground.
This is a really effective strategy for blocking the pressure of annual weeds on your turfgrass. Annual weeds are those which die back every fall, but come back with a vengeance in the spring when the seeds they left behind germinate.
Crabgrass is one of the most obvious examples of this. Left untreated it can quickly crowd out and smother lawn grass, overwhelming an otherwise healthy lawn in just a few years. Block its seeds from germinating in the spring, however, and you can disrupt the life cycle of this invasive lawn weed.
Nipping annual weeds in the bud – pun intended – means that these nasty guys don’t even have a chance to grow at all, let alone spread their seeds to propagate and create a bigger problem for next year.
Applying an effective pre-emergent in early spring is the secret to many a landscaper’s success. One application can block weed seeds for 3-5 months.
Overseeding and (most) Pre-Emergents Don’t Mix
One critical component of a pre-emergent solution is that it will prevent most seeds from germinating. Thus, you will not be able to lay grass seed or other types of seed at the same time as pre-emergents.
This is a bummer for most homeowners who like to use spring to overseed their lawn and thicken it up for the season they’ll use it most.
If you’re planning to overseed this spring, I recommend using this product from Scotts. It prevents crabgrass and dandelions but allows grass seed to germinate. It also has the perfect quick-release formula that’s high in phosphorous for new lawns, so it’s the perfect product to use in the spring when spreading your over-seeding grass seed.
Pre-emergents should not kill established plants and won’t kill weeds that have been established, so anything that has germinated (even if you haven’t noticed it yet) won’t be touched.
A lot of people see a dandelion after applying pre-emergent and think the product is awful … that’s not necessarily true. It may have already started to sprout before application.
Choosing the Right Pre-Emergent (what to look for)
Some of the best chemicals for pre-emergent weed control include trifluralin, bensulide, DCPA, dichlobenil, oryzalin, and simazine.
These are the active compounds that lawn companies use to kill weeds before they germinate. They are marketed for controlling broadleaf weeds like clover and Black Medic as well as grasses, and they are commonly used around flower beds, trees, shrubs, and even crops.
If you don’t have access to a landscape supply company, then you can also look for these chemicals in the products available at your local hardware store, or on Amazon.
In agricultural applications, farmers can use pre-emergent herbicides such as Avadex Liquid EC, Fortress Microactiv, Edge Granula, or Valtera to prevent weeds from popping up in their crops. The selected chemical can depend on the type of crop being grown, and if you’re interested in these products you may be able to find them at your local farming supply store.
If you’re hesitant to use harsh chemicals like this on your property, you’re not alone. You can avoid these and still effectively prevent weeds by using corn gluten – an effective natural pre-emergent herbicide. Espoma makes a good product, but like anything you have to get your application timing and distribution right to see good results.
Post-Emergent Weed Control Like the Pros
Not all weeds can be controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide. There may also be occasions where you didn’t have the opportunity to apply a pre-emergent or perhaps it was less effective than you’d hoped.
In these situations, post-emergent herbicides and weed control methods can be implemented to combat your weedly lawn.
Note that while pre-emergent herbicides can be more broadly effective since they all prevent germination, post-emergent herbicides are oftentimes more species-specific, so you really have to do your homework, identify the weed that you have in your lawn, and buy a product that’s specifically designed to kill that weed.
One of the most popular chemicals for post-emergent weed control is glyphosate.
It is a general purpose weed killer that is used frequently and available in many forms. If you’re wondering what do lawn companies use to kill weeds … well this is probably it.
It is most effective when there is at least 42% glyphosate in the product being used. However, it’s worth noting that there are some concerns about how safe it is for human health, even though it has been in use for over 30 years.
Other Popular Herbicide Options
Other common post-emergent herbicidal chemicals include 2,4-D, dicamba, and MCPP for broadleaf weed species. For grass-like weeds, fluazifopbutyl and sethoxydim are used.
If You’re Going to Go Chemical, What’s Your Best Bet?
2,4-D, in particular, has been tested extensively and used for over 30 years in a variety of landscape settings. Research supports the use of this chemical given its safety for the environment and human health.
A 10-year study showed that there is no relationship between 2,4-D and cancer.
With that said, if you’re going to use any chemicals on your lawn (or anywhere), you must take proper precautions. Wear effective PPE, including a face-mask or respirator and safety goggles. Wear long sleeves and long pants. Make sure you put up signs or alert neighbors with children and pets that your lawn has been treated and they should stay off for their own safety.
What do Farmers Use?
Farmers have access to stronger post-emergent solutions, and will regularly use them to protect their crops and livelihood.
These can include herbicides such as Axial, Signal, Simplicity GoDri, Traxos, Varro, Odyssey Ultra NXT, Solo ADV, Solo Ultra, and Viper ADV. Some of these may be available at a farm supply store if there is one near you.
What Else Do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds?
Many landscapers pay timely visits to maintain your lawn and garden. Part of these visits will also include manual management of weeds.
Manual management of weeds, though labor-intensive, can be just as effective as post-emergent herbicides.
And one perk to using old-fashioned, time-tested weed control methods? It’s good exercise!
One way to prevent weeds in your garden beds is to add mulch. This will deprive weeds of the sunlight and air they need to germinate and survive.
Mulched beds are also attractive, and help retain moisture so you have to water your garden less. Adding mulch provides a finishing touch to a garden bed that makes everything look neat and uniform and can really transform the curb appeal of your home.
No you’re not going to mulch your lawn, but mulching your grass clippings can help smother weed seedlings if your lawn is otherwise thick and healthy.
Pulling Weeds by Hand
Manually pulling weeds that have popped up can be time-consuming and hard work. I like to minimize this task by using a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring, and just pulling the weeds that sneak past the goalkeeper (as I call it).
When manually pulling weeds, it is important to get the entire plant (including the root). A simple garden spade or a specialized weed-pulling tool such as a dandelion digger can be helpful.
But the most important advice I can offer is to pull weeds after a deep watering or soaking rainfall. The ground will be soft and moist, and this makes it easier to pull weeds. This is a particularly helpful tip if you have dandelions to remove from your lawn – they have a long taproot so moist soil is critical.
Also – if you have kids, this is a great punishment.
There are some more natural and non-toxic solutions that you can create for spot-treating weeds.
But, it’s important to note that these are specifically for spot-treatment because they will kill anything and do not specifically target weeds (you’ll kill the grass you spray too).
For example, 1 cup of salt mixed into 2 cups of water creates a solution that kills weeds when sprayed onto their roots.
Apple cider vinegar or regular white vinegar also work similarly.
These are good natural solutions to stubborn weeds you can’t pull.
Crowd Them Out
Letting your grass grow a little taller can help crowd out weeds by preventing them from getting sunlight.
Longer grass also means deeper roots that can better compete with weeds for nutrients in the soil.
Ideally, grass should be a couple of inches tall but no shorter than an inch, and you should never mow more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time.
To prevent cutting your grass too short, adjust the height on the blade of your mower to the highest setting. This will ensure that you just trim a little off the top when you do mow your lawn.
Overseeding your weedy lawn every year is a great way to naturally control weeds … plant more grass so there’s absolutely no room for them to grow!
What Do Lawn Companies Use to Kill Weeds?
There are a number of effective methods available for weed control, and most of the products and techniques that lawn companies and landscapers use to control weeds are available to the general public.
However, landscapers and lawn companies often have better access to certain herbicidal chemicals.
Sometimes their products seem to work better because they have chemicals available in higher concentrations, and sometimes it’s a product that is only available for commercial use.
If you don’t want to work with chemical sprays at all, that’s fair (and probably smart), but if you have good PPE and don’t mind the risks, then it’s worthwhile to check the hardware store products for the appropriate chemicals. The products you find on the shelf are for consumer use and are less likely to inadvertently do damage to your lawn (or your family).
And most of these off-the-shelf products work just fine if used as directed.
If you’re determined to use commercial-grade products on your property, you may be able to find the products you’re looking for at farm supply or landscape supply stores near you.
If there are no stores of that kind in your area, you may be able to purchase commercial-grade herbicides and weed treatments online.
The caveat with purchasing from a farm or landscape store is that sometimes they require a license or certification in order to buy certain products.
If you’re trying to buy from a specialty store locally, it’s worth calling ahead before making the trip.
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