As I was spending time in the yard this weekend, I was thinking about some of the typical activities people associate with this time of year - and the first application of 'weed-killer' usually tops the list. 'Weed' is not a scientific classification, like tree, perennial, or grass, rather it is a cultural stereotype for plants growing in places you don't want them to.
Consider the dandelion - to the little girls and boys, it is the 'pretty yellow flower' they pick for their mothers.
What we classically call weeds are plants that do serve a purpose - they thrive in particularly poor soil and water conditions, stabilizing the topsoil and begin the transformation of the soil into something more viable. Most are prolific seeders and have either a very shallow root system, allowing them to sprount in any little nook or cranny, or they have a very deep taproot, allowing them to draw water from farther below the surface. This characteristic also helps them survive fires that are relatively common in dry, parched landscapes.
So, what does all this mean to the home gardener and landscaper? If you have more unwanted plants in your lawn than you would like you probably have a poor soil condition you need to correct! All the weed-killer in the world won't change your soil conditions, in fact, they may have a negative impact, especially if applied improperly. You would be much better served if you were to invest in a soil test instead of immediately reaching for the latest bottle of chemicals to attempt to eradicate the little invaders. After all, how many decades have people been producing, selling, buying and applying weed-killer? And the dandelions haven't succumbed to them yet!
Proper selection of grasses to grow in the various areas of your yard, watering deeply only once or twice a week to promote deep rooting and setting your cutting height just a little higher to shade the roots of the grass all help to keep the weed population down. Topdress with compost every once in a while and aerate the lawn occasionally, too. If you have a particularly tough problem or are running out of time to solve your lawn care problems, you know where to find us!