A Homeowner's Guide To Lawn Weeds

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Wisconsin has a humid continental climate, meaning its winters are harsh and cold, and summers are warm and humid. That kind of climate is a magnet for multiple types of pesky weeds to sneak into your lawn. Unwanted weeds can infiltrate your once-pristine lawn through a multitude of sneaky pathways. Wind and birds play courier to seeds, dispersing them with every gust or flap. Your seemingly innocent lawn equipment, those bags of grass seed, and even the organic soil enhancements you introduce can unwittingly harbor these pesky invaders. Your shoes, clothes, or furry companions might unwittingly become carriers, bringing in these unwanted guests.

The good news is you're not powerless in this battle. Many ways exist to keep weeds out of your lawn and achieve that lush green lawn of your dreams. One of the best ways to combat lawn weeds is to familiarize yourself with them and take care of them before they really become a problem. Below is a guide to the types of weeds found in Wisconsin and how to identify them.

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Lawn Weeds In Wisconsin

crabgrass bunch growth

As the weather warms up, there are many kinds of weeds that can pop up on your lawn. Identifying those weeds before they become a problem is the best way to control and manage them. Below are a few of the most common weeds you find in Wisconsin.

Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf Plantain Weed Control

Broadleaf plantain is a perennial weed in the Plantaginaceae family, commonly found in lawns and gardens in Wisconsin. It has broad, oval leaves with a smooth edge. Broadleaf plantain can be easily pulled by hand, but it can also be controlled with herbicides.

Creeping Charlie

creeping charlie up close

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy or gill-over-the-ground, is a perennial weed common in lawns, gardens, and other areas. It is a mint family member with small, heart-shaped leaves and blue or purple flowers. Creeping Charlie spreads quickly by underground runners, and it can be difficult to control. Hand-pulling small amounts and herbicides are the two most effective control methods.


purslane up close

Purslane, a member of the Portuculaceae family, is an annual weed that resembles baby jade plants. Its stems grow flat on the ground, clumping together to form large mats of leaves. The weed is best identified by its fleshy, succulent leaves with yellow flowers and its tendency to show up in highly disturbed areas and in croplands, rocky bluffs, barnyards, nursery plots, cracks in pavements and sidewalks, and even in waste areas. Hand-pulling, herbicides, and solarization are the best methods for controlling and eradicating this pesky weed.


How to identify crabgrass

Crabgrass is an annual weed and a member of the Poaceae family and is the most common weed in Wisconsin. The leaves of crabgrass appear broader than grass blades and grow in clumps close to the ground. Its stems grow outward in a circular shape. A single crabgrass plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds, making it a problem for many homeowners. Herbicides are the only control method that has a lasting effect on keeping crabgrass out of your lawn.

Annual Bluegrass

What does Bluegrass look like

Annual bluegrass, also known as Poa annua, is an annual grassy lawn weed and a member of the Poaceae family. Often mistaken for Kentucky bluegrass, its lighter green shade sets it apart. The weed germinates in late summer or early autumn and is active throughout the autumn and flowers the following spring. It usually leaves behind ugly bare spots all over the lawn. The nuisance weed is difficult to eradicate, as its seeds can lie dormant for many years. The right combination of pre-and post-emergent herbicides is the best form of management.

Controlling Lawn Weeds

the importance of weed control

Tackling those stubborn weeds in your garden involves a diverse arsenal of strategies tailored to the specific type of weed, the extent of the infestation, and your personal preferences. Here's a rundown of some of the most tried-and-true methods for weed control:

  • Hand-pulling: Nothing beats the effectiveness of getting your hands dirty for a small-scale weed intervention. Though it demands time and effort, hand-pulling is a potent approach.
  • Mowing: While mowing won't eradicate weeds entirely, it does a commendable job of reigning them in. This technique is particularly handy for keeping grassy weeds in check, ensuring a neater landscape.
  • Herbicides: These chemical warriors are engineered to conquer weeds. A plethora of herbicide options exists, so pinpointing the right one for your specific weed adversary is crucial.
  • Smothering: Envision a blanket of darkness suffocating unwanted growth. Smothering involves employing tarps, cardboard, or similar materials to cut off sunlight, eventually putting an end to weeds. Just note, this method requires a bit of patience as it might take weeks or even months to see full results.
  • Biocontrol: Nature's own soldiers step onto the battlefield here. Utilizing insects or other organisms to wage war on weeds is a novel yet increasingly popular strategy. It's a biological approach that's gaining traction.

In your quest for a weed-free haven, remember: the ultimate power lies in a strategic combination of these techniques. By harmonizing various methods, you'll eradicate the current weed invasion and craft a defense system that deters future incursions. It's a symphony of control, where different intervention notes unite to orchestrate a triumphant victory against those unwelcome intruders.

Preventing Lawn Weeds

The best method of controlling lawn weeds is to prevent them from happening in the first place. By using these methods, you can make your lawn inhabitable to weeds. These methods include:

  • Aerating your lawn regularly. This method helps improve drainage and reduce the amount of thatch in your lawn. Thatch is a layer of dead and decaying organic matter that can build up over time, creating an ideal environment for weeds. Aeration can be done by renting an aerator from a home improvement store, using liquid aeration, or hiring a professional.
  • Mowing your lawn regularly. This will help to keep the grass healthy and growing evenly, making it less susceptible to weed invasion. Mow your lawn to the recommended height for your type of grass, usually 2-3 inches height.
  • Watering your lawn deeply and infrequently. This method helps grass roots grow deep, making them less dependent on surface moisture, which weeds prefer. Watering your lawn deeply once or twice a week rather than shallowly daily keeps turfgrass strong and weeds out.
  • Fertilize your lawn according to the manufacturer's instructions. This tried and true method is essential in helping the grass grow strong and healthy, making it less susceptible to weed invasion. Fertilizing your lawn in the spring and fall when the grass is actively growing will make it inhabitable to weeds.
  • Remove weeds as soon as you see them. This method prevents weeds from seeding and spreading. If you see a weed, pull it out by the roots. You may also need to use a herbicide if the weed is large or has a deep taproot.
  • Consider using a pre-emergent herbicide. This type of herbicide will kill weed seeds before they have a chance to germinate. Using the appropriate pre-emergent herbicides is important to combat the weed that invade your lawn. Pre-emergent herbicides are typically applied in the spring before weeds start to germinate.

By using these methods for preventative care, you have the best chance of of keeping your lawn lush and weed free.