Since weed and feed products are designed to prevent germination — or to eradicate a living plant — they can, for the most part, have a similar effect on young turf grass. The only exception is the pre-emergent herbicide siduron, which is actually used to assist in seed germination. When using a pre-emergent that does not contain siduron, wait a minimum of two months before seeding. If using a product designed for broadleaf weeds, read the label carefully, because the active ingredient in these post-emergent herbicides have a wider range for the waiting period. Grass can be planted in as little as one month after application for products using 2,4-D to as much as six months for atrazine-based products.
Weed and feed products consist of fertilizers such as nitrogen or potassium, and a pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicide. If the weed and feed is designed for spring application, it contains a pre-emergent. If it is designed for later in the growing season, it incorporates a post-emergent herbicide. Knowing which one you are using is important because the herbicides affect plants in significantly different ways.
You want a beautiful lawn for your family to enjoy, but it’s no longer enough to just mow it. You have to fertilize, water, kill weeds and then reseed any bare spots. Using a weed and feed product saved you some time, so now you’re ready to plant some grass seed. You may have to wait a bit longer, though, depending on the type of weed and feed product you used.
Why You Wait
Pre-emergent weed and feed is applied in early spring so the herbicide is in place before the undesirable weeds germinate. Pre-emergent herbicide works by inhibiting germination. It must be watered with at least one-half inch of water to move the chemical from the surface into the soil. Post-emergent herbicides, however, must be applied while the weeds are actively growing because for the chemical to work, the herbicide must be absorbed into the plant.
When you are ready to seed your lawn, use a garden rake to remove debris and to break up the surface to ensure the seed comes into contact with the soil. Broadcast the seeds in two directions to ensure complete coverage, and water the ground lightly and often for up to two weeks — keeping the soil moist. Once seedlings have established, gradually reduce the frequency of the watering, but lengthen the amount of time per watering. This will encourage a deep root system for your grass.
Remember that all herbicides are different and the exact time you must wait to apply weed killers to newly planted grass will vary from one product to another. Also, some herbicides cannot be applied to certain species of turfgrass. For best results, always refer to the herbicide bottle’s label.
Some pre-emergent herbicides can safely be used during seeding and usually come mixed with a seed starter. These products have the active ingredient Siduron – also known as Tupersan – that works by suppressing weed seeds while improving root development of the new grass. The fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicide mix is applied with a drop or rotary spreader using a rate of 2 1/2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The spreader setting and actual application depends on the brand of starter fertilizer plus weed control you use, and you should always follow the instructions found on the label.
A general rule of thumb is to wait at least until you have mowed the new grass four times before using any standard postemergent broadleaf herbicide. A standard pre-emergent herbicide should not be applied until at least three to four months after seeding the area.
Weed Control after Seeding
You can control weeds in newly planted grass seed and seedlings without the use of herbicides. Manually pulling the weeds by hand when they first appear keeps them from producing seeds and prevents the problematic plants from spreading, according to the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website. They suggest keeping the newly planted grass weed free with proper mowing, irrigation and fertilization. Since newly planted turfgrass has short roots, keep the root zone moist by watering the soil lightly. However, avoid over saturating the soil. After the turfgrass has become established, promote deep and healthy root growth by watering infrequently but deeply.
Weed management should be completed before seeding the lawn with a non-selective herbicide seven to 14 days before you till the soil. A second application of the herbicide may be required to kill any weeds you missed during the first treatment. Wait another seven days until tilling the soil if a second application is used.
Before you plant grass seed, you should always prepare the area by removing any weeds that may be growing in the location. Even with careful preparation of the planting site, weeds can still develop among the newly planted grass seed. Weed killers, however, can harm grass seeds and seedlings if applied too early or improperly.
Marylee Gowans has written about gardening for both online and print publications. She attended the University of Akron, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. In 2009, she received master gardener certification from the Master Gardeners of Summit County, Ohio.
Only use a weed and feed if the weed infestation is completely uniform over the entire lawn and all species of weeds targeted will be affected by the herbicide in the weed and feed. This scenario doesn’t occur often, so it is more likely the use of an herbicide and a fertilizer separately will be needed. If the weeds are uniformly spread over the area to be treated, match the appropriate weed and feed product to your grass, the seed you have recently applied or want to apply, and the time of year.
It is important to know what kind of grass you have growing or want to have growing. Certain chemicals act differently on different species of grass and weeds. For example, the common herbicide 2,4-D is toxic to some cultivars of St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), which grows in the area roughly covered by U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. Another common herbicide, atrazine, is potentially lethal to grass when applied in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the instructions on the bag of each weed and feed product to determine how it will affect seeding.
Herbicides can target weeds before they germinate from seed – pre-emergent – or as developed plants – post-emergent. Before you seed, you can use a non-selective, post-emergent herbicide to control any weeds in the area to be seeded. Most of these can be applied up to two weeks before seeding to control any existing weeds. Herbicides should not be used after seeding until the new seedlings are established. Mowing and spot treatments can be used to control weeds until the seeded area is actively growing and requires only maintenance watering. Establishment times vary depending on the type of seed you use and your weather conditions.
Using Weed and Feed
It’s important to know a little about herbicides so you can make the best choice for when to apply seed in an area that has been treated for weeds. The most common types of herbicide in weed and feed products are selective and systemic. Selective herbicides target a species of plant to kill while systemic herbicides work by being absorbed though the roots and then transported throughout the plant, killing it from within. Read the bag label to see what kind of herbicide is used in the weed and feed you are considering using or have used. The bag label will tell you how many days you must wait before applying seed to a lawn that has been treated with that product.
Weed and feed fertilizers are often used in combination with seeding. Weed and feed formulations consist of two components: a herbicide to kill weeds and a fertilizer to strengthen the turf. The herbicide will weaken the grass as well as the weeds and the fertilizer will strengthen the weeds as well as the grass. When applying seed over a weed and feed application, remember that some weed and feeds can prevent grass seeds from growing.
Sara DeBerry is a graduate of the University of Florida holding a masters degree in environmental horticulture and a minor in entomology and nematology. DeBerry has been writing for government agencies since 2004 and has published peer reviewed scientific articles during her studies at UF.