In the “green industry,” there are opinions on issues that run as deep as automobile enthusiasts and their love or hate for Ford, GM and Mopar.
But there is one issue that most pros agree on, and that is that bagged “Weed and Feed” products are NOT conducive to healthy lawns or our environment.
I have previously written about pesticides, lawns and our environment, but want to reiterate some of the key points for you here as we venture into Spring in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
Problems with Weed-n-Feed
- Bags of Weed-n-Feed sold to homeowners contain an over-abundance of nitrogen which detroys the soil and pushes too much top growth. They most normally contain ”quick release” fertilizers that create fast greening, but no sustainable long term benefit to the turf.
- Many experts will tell you that phosphorous leaching into groundwater is the big problem with these bagged products. And while I am not a fan of dumping mass amounts of anything on the lawn, I believe if homeowners and pros alike would follow labeling instructions, they are not endangering our groundwater or lakes. The key is FOLLOWING the DIRECTIONS on the bag! (I included this one in the interest of covering all bases!)
- A granular weed-n-feed product like the Scott’s Plus 2 product contains herbicide and fertilizer in one convenient bag: just dump in your spreader, set the release rate, and lay it down…easy! The problem is that you are hurling massive amounts of granular weed killers everywhere weather there are weeds there or not.
It doesn’t make sense to throw weed killer in areas of the lawn where there are no weeds! Whats more, while the weed control does not selectively kill the grass plants, it still puts heavy stress and pressure on them and can weaken them over time.
The best alternative to Weed-n-Feed products
I recommend a balanced approach that utilizes target weed control as needed with the eventual goal of eliminating it completely.
This is accomplished by spot-spraying weeds using a garden pump sprayer with liquid weed control mixed with water (according to label instructions). In some cases, a blanket application of liquid weed killer may be needed, but over time, this will be reduced until the weed problem is manageable by good old fashioned “pulling” by hand. (my own lawn is now managed by just hand pulling of weeds)
In addition to spot-spraying of weeds, I recommend slow-release organic or semi-organic (called ‘bridge’ products or ‘hybrid’) lawn fertilizers. These products will add nutrients to the soil without destroying it in the process. They also support healthy soil biotics which are the foundation of healthy turf.
On a final note: it’s not a good idea to completely “refuse to use pesticides” in your lawn if you indeed do have a major weed problem. Think about this: if your weeds go to seed every year and spread out to all the neighbors on your block, and they do not share the same environmental devotion as you, won’t you be indirectly causing them to put down greater amounts of pesticides every year? Your weeds will continue breeding in their lawns, and they will soak them with more weed killer; year after year! Think about that.
As I always say, “Balance is the key.” When Mother Nature operates in extremes (hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes), people and the environment are damaged, but when She sees fit to offer us balanced conditions (warm breezes, light rains, sunny days), everyone is happy. Which attitude should we take?
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