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.
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’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.
Using Weed and Feed
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.
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.
Choosing appropriate grass varieties is the first step in ensuring your lawn performs up to your aspirations. Grasses vary widely in their preferences and tolerances, just like other types of plants. Kentucky bluegrass and Bermudagrass, for example, differ significantly in climate and maintenance requirements. Planting grass varieties appropriate to your growing region gives your seed a natural advantage.
Always read and follow herbicide and fertilizer labels, especially the instructions for use on newly seeded lawns and your grass type. As a general rule, avoid pre-emergent weed treatments at least 10 to 12 weeks before seeding — or longer for some products. After planting, reserve broad-spectrum weed treatments until new lawns have been mowed at least two to three times; for fall-planted seed, that usually means spring.
1. Planting the wrong type of seed
Seeding success depends on an environment conducive to good grass growth. Knowing how your soil measures up on certain essentials, such as soil pH and plant nutrients, allows you to provide the foundation an outstanding lawn needs. Soil testing processed through a reputable soil laboratory eliminates guesswork and reveals changes you need to make.
Using the proper amount of seed for your project influences success, whether you’re starting from scratch or overseeding an existing lawn. New lawns or spot repairs take about twice the amount of seed needed for overseeding thin areas. Quality grass seed labels include guidance on optimal seeding rates to maximize your results.
Many homeowners think lime is a lawn care necessity, but that doesn’t hold true across the board. Normal lawn care can naturally cause soil pH to drop lower over time, and lime applications benefit lawns that need pH raised. But in some cases, soil pH may already be high. Using too much lime or applying it unnecessarily can be as damaging as failing to add lime when it’s needed.