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Old 07-03-2011, 11:43 AM   #1
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


Hello, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm a newlywed and potential home buyer, currently in a rental agreement with option to buy. I'm excited about doing as much of the home maintenance myself as I can, but we are on a very limited budget.

One of the first things I'd like to improve on is the quality of the lawn grass, and getting rid of weeds. We can't afford sod, and because of the size of the yard, reseading the whole thing is out of the question.

Our property is just over an acre, with 95% mowed, probably 50% lawn grass and 50% weeds (not all identified). I have done a few tests on areas with moss and low growth using chemicals, and I can see it would take a lot of money to treat our entire yard for the various types of weeds. So other than small problem areas, we're not looking to use many chemicals. I've already made a lot of progress this summer on broadleaf weeds and anything with a center root just by using cutting tools a few days after mowing.

I've told my wife that because we can't afford to redo or treat the whole yard, we'll have to make up for it with hard work. I'm thinking I'll do as much prep work as possible by removing weeds, then seeding and fertilizing thin or bare areas. Having little experience (on my own property... I've done a lot of yard work for others growing up, and have common sense), and not wanting to waste hours of labor, I'm looking for ideas or pointers on weeding and improving lawn grass growth on a low budget.

I live in northern Michigan, where we have sandy, loose soil. I have bought all the normal yard tools in the spring, and have the support of a very knowledgeable locally owned hardware store that I frequent, but all of their solutions are quite pricey. I know there must be others out there who have accomplished similar goals with sweat and hard work, and I'd like to hear your ideas.

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Old 07-03-2011, 12:34 PM   #2
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


2 words: hand weeding

works wonders, highly underrated - just doesnt scale well. but for an acre, no prob.
try to use nature to help you. you have sandy soil so thats a bonus - easier to pull. seems to be easier to pull weeds after a big rain. sometimes its helpful to holdoff on mowing. the shade created by longer grass is supposed to slow down weeds. also, letting certain weeds grow some makes it easier to pull. just dont let them get so big that they start flowering and making seeds - either pull or mow just before this point.
crabgrass requires extra vigilance - pull it all out as much as you can muster -large mounds and new shoots, a divide and conquer strategy might help.
privacy fences, sidewalks etc can help compartmentalize the task.
Also keep an eye on adjacent weedy property as the wind blow the seed your way.
weeds are not all equal. get to know which ones are worse and revise your plan accordingly. some weeds, like creeping charlie ,are practically impossible to control by pulling alone.

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Old 07-03-2011, 02:05 PM   #3
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


Getting an awesome lawn on a tight budget is going to be tough.

I use Scotts lawn products and am happy with the results, but they aren't inexpensive.

For weed control, I like Ortho Weed-B-Gon for existing problems. Weed control requires a product that will stick on the leaves. Granular products rely on wet leaves to stick to. Applying to dry weeds will limit the effectiveness. Weed-B-Gon is applied with a pump sprayer or hose end sprayer.

Also, proper soil conditions are important, as well as adequate water. Without feeding the grass with some sort of fertilizer, a thick green lawn will be tough to achieve.

The best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy lawn.
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Old 07-03-2011, 03:21 PM   #4
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


Thanks for the responses. Rodeo, I've already been attacking weeds like crazy, and am making good headway with just pulling and cutting with a dandelion weeder. I'm cargill to catch everything I can before it goes to seed, and pile everything behind trees near an adjacent field to prevent any spreading. I will then usually cover the weed waste with grass clippings and other dry leafy waste to prevent anything from blowing back. Should I be song anything differently with the pulled weeds? Is there any point at which the weed waste could be considered "dead" enough to spread out elsewhere (not on our near lawn, I'm thinking vegetable garden, etc.), or are there never any nutrients from this?

I bought some moss killer just to use on a test area, and at $12.99/bottle for a 20'x25' area, I'd say I could get further ahead digging and raking it out than spending that kind of money times 50 to cover all the area I need to. I'm not afraid of the work, and I'm aware I will have to spend some money here and there to facilitate steady progress.

I have some additional questions on thickening up the lawn with new seed. Should I never leave bare spots after raking out moss or plucking broad leaf weeds? I've read and heard that if I remove moss, add lime, and water a lot, that the grass will fill in. We haven't been in the house long enough for me to tell if that will work, but from what I've done so far, I do frequently leave bare spots, which I'm keeping my eye on. Should I buy a bag of seed to scatter when I work up bare spots? I assume local supply places will know what grows best in this area, so I'll do some more asking. I just don't want to put money into something and see no results.

About fertilizer, should I keep adding things to enrich the soil before thinking about seeding, or can I just seed and water for now, and fertilize only where it's needed?

There is only one tall tree at the front of the lot, by the road, but the grass grows best in that area. But that could also be because it is a couple feet lower than the ground by the house, and collects more moisture. I think I could classify the entire property as full time sun.

Thanks again for the tips. I'm not cheap, but I'd rather make the house payment than have everything perfectly green. And hopefully hard work will be rewarding.

P.S., I've already noticed things pull better after a heavy rain, thanks for that explanation.
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Old 07-04-2011, 07:13 AM   #5
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


[quote=loneframer;679082]Getting an awesome lawn on a tight budget is going to be tough.

I use Scotts lawn products and am happy with the results, but they aren't inexpensive.

For weed control, I like Ortho Weed-B-Gon for existing problems. Weed control requires a product that will stick on the leaves. Granular products rely on wet leaves to stick to. Applying to dry weeds will limit the effectiveness. Weed-B-Gon is applied with a pump sprayer or hose end sprayer.

I used this a couple weeks ago on a big path of clover I have been trying to get rid of for years( tried numerous products) and to my amazment, it worked!

Also, proper soil conditions are important, as well as adequate water. Without feeding the grass with some sort of fertilizer, a thick green lawn will be tough to achieve.

The best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy lawn.[/quote]
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:09 AM   #6
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


chrisn, I've also found Weed-B-Gon to be effective on clover. I have had stubborn areas that required a second treatment, but have all but eliminated clover in my lawn. I think the family of rabbits in my neighborhood reseed from time to time though.

As for moss, it tends to like acidic soil conditions. I raked up all areas of moss, treated heavily with lime and re-seeded. Moss control products are expensive, although they do work.

Lawns are a lot of work. It's a constant vigil against drought, insects, fungus, soil conditions, compaction....

If you don't enjoy maintaining a lawn, look into an annual lawn care program. They are fairly reasonable and guarantee results. All you are required to do is water and mow.

Additional services such as aerating and de-thatching are extra.

It is nice to come home to a green, weed-free lawn.
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Old 07-04-2011, 08:49 AM   #7
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


This former turfgrass manager has said it once and will say it again. The best defense against all things is feeding turfgrass regularly. Mowing it tall, and trying to keep it drained and free of moisture after dusk--when bugs and disease spores attach to the blades. It is a total strength in numbers game.

Scotts has done a masterful job of bundling a turfgrass feed, bug and diseases stuff, into an annual program for consumers that is hard to screw up. The chemicals are all pelleted so they will not burn and about all you have to do is add water. The problem, as mentioned is the cost partly of the packaging with the pretty lawn on it.

With as much land as you have, you need to buy fertilizers in bulk, in damned ugly brown bags, and store them for use in tight fitting plastic containers. An 80 to 100 pound sack of food, without the pretty picture, will cost you what 15-25 pounds of a Scott's product does. Same stuff. No margin in it for a retailer though.

Buy a whirlybird spreader.

The NPK ratio is the that string of three numbers on the sack. It relates to what is in the sack in terms of available nutrients to plants like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. A 100 pound bag, whether pretty Scott's or its generic form in brown bags from your feed or ag supply store marked 22-10-10 for example contains 42 pounds of plant nutrients along with minerals and even plastics to pellet the fertilizer. The rest can be and is often just about anything under US inert labeling laws.

Aerate every season and detatch if you have to do so. If you are seeing a lot of moss, the water is not draining. You have to adjust your drainage.

Weed-B-Gone is one of the last effective herbicides a consumer can get without a license but because of its over and misappropriate use? It may soon be banned. Do not get used to it.

You know, before you get totally carried away? You should pull some samples and have a soil lab run an analysis for you. Call one near and they will instruct you how to prepare the samples. Soil tests are not expensive and you could save thousands and tossing the wrong things at your situation.

Last edited by user1007; 07-04-2011 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 07-04-2011, 12:41 PM   #8
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


There are alway's varibles first i want to say sod is alway's my last choice it requires too much maintenance. If you have tall fescue your only choice being on a budgit is to embrace it and plant more i have a tall fescue lawn and it looks great the wide blades are not as soft and cushey but it is a very nice lawn tall fescue is a very herty gass that is resistant to insects disease and drought it is very deep rooted which would work well in your soil. second as for your weeds pulling is best in small areas and has to be repeated often as you never get the whole root system. With weeds you must remember that the seeds can lay dormant for up to 20 years waiting for the right conditions to germinate things like soil temp moisture and sun light the first two you can do nothing about but the third can be controled by keeping your lawn thick and healthy to achieve this you need to fertilize you can do this with a small push or tow behind spreader i recommend going to tractor supply for this if you have one by you next the fertilizer you can pick up a better product than scotts for less money from a john deere landscape supply or farm and feed store the first application should be made in early may and should include a pre-emergent crab grass preventer this is important as crab grass kills your good grass the last mid october this is the least i would do. Now as for weeds a small pump spayer can be purchased pretty cheap and you can buy any three-way weed contol concentrate and mix at 1.3oz per gallon of water you get this at any farm supply the only bad thing is you may have to buy in a 1 gallen or larger and may seem expensive but it goes a long way and is much cheaper than pre mix products. remember proper watering and mowing is very important mow at 3.5-4 inches with sharp blades. When seeding you should core aerate first you can rent a machine to do this at your hardware. if money is a concern work in sections cutting steps to save $ will only end with bad results resulting in the $ you did spend being throwen down the drain

Good luck
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Old 07-04-2011, 01:10 PM   #9
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Eliminate weeds and improve lawn grass on a budget


Welcome,Bill----Would you mind editing your post and adding a few spaces? The 'enter ' key does that.

Thanks,Mike. ( I'm kind of squinty eyed)

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