How to Get Rid of Weeds in Your Lawn

Updated: Jul. 21, 2024

We show you five strategies that simplify lawn weed control and maintain healthy grass.

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Time

Varies

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

$50 to $300 - depending on the size of your lawn and weed type/severity

Introduction

The bane of healthy lawns everywhere, aka weeds, are an unavoidable part of lawns. "If you want a lawn that looks like the eighteenth fairway at Augusta, you're in for quite a battle. One that will be very difficult to win," Joe Churchill, senior turf specialist for Reinders, says. However, there are ways to eradicate most weeds and achieve a healthy lawn consisting of mostly grass.

My yard is a far cry from fairway perfection, but I've eliminated most of the weeds by following the tips in this article. Ahead, experienced landscapers Churchill and Matt Cameron from CMS Landscaping offer advice on how to get rid of weeds in grass.

What Are Weeds?

Weeds are undesirable plants growing where they are not wanted. Besides being unwanted, weeds compete for resources from intentionally cultivated plants. "The true definition of a weed is 'any plant that is out of place,'" Churchill says, "So if you have a tulip popping up in the middle of your grass, technically it's a weed."

Do I Have to Eliminate Weeds?

"No, you do not," Churchill says. "Many homeowners choose to accept them. It's all a matter of what your level of tolerance and expectations are." If having a pristine lawn that is completely weed-free is something you value, then you will have to work to eliminate weeds.

But, if perfection is not your pursuit, those weeds can also do some good. Weeds like dandelion, clover and creeping charlie are food sources for pollinators like bees and butterflies.

When to Call a Pro

Call a pro if weeds have taken over a significant portion of your lawn, affecting its health. Also, if you are uncomfortable applying chemicals or have special safety considerations like pets or children, consider calling a pro. If you do not have the time or interest to learn how to get rid of weeds in grass, consult with a pro instead.

Tools Required

  • Adjustable height lawn mower
  • Cloth gloves
  • Dial sprayer
  • Fertilizer spreader
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Small pressure sprayer
  • Tank sprayer

Materials Required

  • Broadleaf herbicide
  • Crab grass preventer
  • Non-selective plant herbicide
  • Post-emergence crab grass killer

Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Keep Your Lawn Healthy

If you’re wondering how to get rid of weeds in grass, start with good lawn care habits. “The best defense to weed encroachment is to keep your lawn thick and healthy,” Churchill says.

  • Mow your grass when it needs it; one-third above the ideal cutting height. If you don’t know your grass types, take a plug of turn to a garden center and ask the staff to help with the identification.
  • Apply lawn fertilizer two to three times per season.
  • Overseed thin areas with quality grass seed mix in the spring and fall.
  • Water regularly to provide “around one to one and a half inches a week depending on soil characteristics and other environmental factors,” Cameron says.

A Man Spraying A Lawn With A Water HoseRobin Gentry/Getty Images

Step 2

Manage Broadleaf Weeds

Broadleaf weeds include any weed that has leaves, such as dandelions, clover and Creeping Charlie (ground ivy). These weeds are fairly easy to kill.

  • “If you don’t mind a bit of physical work, go ahead and pull them or dig them out of the ground,” Churchill says.
  • Another option for solitary weeds is to use a broadleaf weed killer herbicide in a small, trigger-controlled pump sprayer.
  • Treat larger broadleaf weed patches with weed killer applied with a tank sprayer.
  • A dial sprayer connected to a garden hose kills weeds over a wide area. First clear the yard of toys, furniture and anything else that can get contaminated by overspray. Broadleaf killers will kill anything with leaves, so keep away from flowerbeds.

Removing Dandelion From LawnLeonsbox/Getty Images

Step 3

Kill Perennial Grassy Weeds One by One

Perennial grassy weeds return year after year, going dormant in the winter and re-emerging in the spring. These weed types are a challenge to eradicate from your lawn.

“Perennial grassy weeds like quackgrass, orchardgrass, creeping bentgrass or rough stalk bluegrass, almost always need to be either pulled or sprayed with a nonselective herbicide like glyphosate or glufosinate,” Churchill says.

Nonselective herbicides will kill or damage any nearby grass, so instead of spraying you can apply it by hand to control the application area

  • Wear rubber gloves with cloth gloves layered over them.
  • Pour a small amount of herbicide solution into a bucket. Wear safety glasses.
  • Dip a gloved hand into the bucket to soak the glove with herbicide. Avoid getting any on your skin.
  • Individually coat weeds by wiping them with the coated glove. Take care not to get any on nearby grass you’d like to keep.
  • Follow all safety protocols for disposal and dry times.

How To Get Rid Of Weeds In Your Lawn Fh05apr 457 53 039 KseditTMB Studio

Step 4

Prevent Crabgrass in the Spring

Annual grassy weeds like crabgrass reseed themselves near the end of the growing season and then died. The seeds germinate the following spring to grow new plants. “[They] are annual plants, but they create a perennial problem,” Churchill says. The best way to manage crab grass is to prevent it from growing in the spring with a crab grass pre-emergence preventer.

  • Apply crab grass pre-emergence preventer granules with a spreader between the first and third mowings in the spring. “These herbicides are applied before the crabgrass sprouts, killing it as it emerges from the ground,” Churchill says.

Pro-tip: “Read the labels of materials you’re using carefully and have properly calibrated equipment,” Cameron says, to avoid overapplication.

Step 5

Control Existing Crabgrass

Once crabgrass shows up in your lawn, you have three options:

  • Hand-pull the clumps to prevent the plant from reseeding itself.
  • Let the crab grass go until the following spring and then use a preventer at the right time.
  • Treat clumps with a post-emergence crab grass killer.
Step 6

FAQs

Why do weeds keep returning in my yard?

Some weeds are perennial, meaning they go dormant during the winter and re-emerge in the spring. Some weeds, like crabgrass, disperse seeds before dying off in the fall. These seeds then sprout in the spring.

What weed killers should I avoid if I have a dog?

Part of learning how to get rid of weeds in grass is keeping pets and children safe. Avoid using weed killers that include glyphosate, organophosphates and paraquat, as these chemicals can be toxic to pets. If unsure, consult a professional.

How do I target weeds in pavers?

Established weeds in pavers can be pulled and scraped out. You can also treat cracks with a mix of 1 gallon of vinegar, 1 cup of salt and 2 tablespoons of dish soap, after picking off green growth first. Consider using polymeric sand in between pavers to prevent weed growth.

How do I target weeds in gravel?

Remove as much green growth as possible, then spray weeds with a vinegar, salt and dish soap mixture. Consider applying a pre-emergent treatment early in the spring and throughout the season to prevent weeds from sprouting. I like to use Preen Extended Control Weed Preventer. Also, add gravel to areas of thin coverage to help keep weeds down.

Step 7

About the Experts

  • Joe Churchill is a Senior Turf Specialist for Reinders, a major distributor of lawn care products throughout the Midwest. Churchill is certified in Turf Management and has over 25 years of experience in the turfgrass industry.
  • Matt Cameron is the owner of CMS Landscaping, a full-service lawn care and irrigation company in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Matt has 15 years of landscaping experience.
Step 8

Sources