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How one gardener deals with weeds in the lawn

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Courtesy of Helen Yoest

(Read caption) Oxalis is a frequently seen lawn weed. Whether it bothers you enough to try to deal with it is another matter. With small amounts, you may just leave it alone.

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Weeding is a necessary evil. Some gardeners actually find weeding therapeutic. Others appear not to care at all -- judging from the amount of weeds in their gardens!

In my home garden, Helen's Haven, I don’t like weeds and work hard to keep them from germinating in the first place.

Two main ways I do this is by limiting the sun exposure my soil receives -- with minimal disruptions when holes are dug and I add an adequate mulch layer (about three to four inches of composted leaf mulch) each year.

This helps tremendously in my beds, but the lawn area is full of weeds.

Although there's a current movement to get rid of or replace lawns, I happen to be in the camp of people who like a little lawn. Not only do I find it the perfect foil for my garden beds, but my kids like to play on the grass.

I don’t use chemicals for weed control, so weeds have to be managed some other way. If I remember, I’ll put down a pre-emergent organic compound, such as corn gluten. A pre-emergent keeps seeds from germinating.

The application has to be timed for specific weeds though, since germination times vary.

To remember when to control crabgrass is easy since, in Raleigh, N.C., where I live, it’s applied when the forsythia blooms.

But then I have to think about when in August to put it down to keep the Poa annua (annual bluegrass) from germinating. I really don’t like Poa annua. The timing of this gets tricky since I will also reseed my tall fescue each fall. Pre-emergent works to keep seeds from germinating, it doesn’t care it it’s an annual bluegrass or a crabgrass or a fescue.

If I put pre-emergent down too early, it may not be effective on Poa annua, but will not affect the fescue. If I put it down too late, it would be better for the Poa annua, but causes me to delay reseeding the fescue, which lessens the time fescue has to get a good start before winter arrives. Icarumba! It all gets so tedious.

But, if I time it right, I eliminate two big sets of problems.

As summer progresses, I find a menagerie of menacing weeds I have to deal with. Clover, oxalis, nutsedge, and Bermuda, just to name a few, seem to like making hay in my lawn.

I’ve studied the aesthetics of each of these to better understand my disdain and to see if we can come together somehow and live in harmony. I found out that with lawn weeds, it’s like a game -- you win some and you lose some.

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