Integrated Pest Management for Weeds

Here’s the silver lining: Weeds won’t grow where they don’t have any room. A healthy, strong lawn is naturally resilient to weeds. Integrated Pest Management, also known as IPM, can be a fantastic approach to keeping common lawn weeds at bay.

This broad-based, sustainable lawn care philosophy and practice is built on proactive measures - monitor, track, prevent - that aim to suppress the problem while minimizing risks to people and the environment. That said, different weeds require different management approaches, but IPM can be a tool in which to not only address but also prevent problematic weeds from taking over your lawn.

HOW TO USE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT FOR WEEDS

The first step to addressing and preventing problematic weeds in your lawn is to identify the weed species first and foremost. You’ll also want to know if the weed species is invasive.

While the best defense against lawn weeds, or any pest, is a healthy and strong lawn, you can use IPM as a complement to key lawn care basics in order to spot a potential problem before it becomes a full-scale issue by doing the following:

  1. Monitor – Regularly inspect your lawn and look for the action thresholds you’ve set or those that are recommended for weeds in your local area and for your turfgrass type. Note: A threshold is the point at which action should be taken. Example: 12 flowering dandelions in a 500 sq foot backyard.
  2. Track – Use a notebook or spreadsheet to keep track of when you inspected your lawn, what weed life and activity you saw, the population size and placement in your lawn, and what treatment actions you took, if any.
  3. Prevent – While most weeds are not problematic, invasive species are more likely to become an issue and should be controlled more aggressively. Underlying lawn care issues (e.g. overwatering, low fertility, compacted soil, etc.) can promote the growth of different weed species; therefore, your early and proactive identification efforts may help to narrow down the factors promoting the spread of the weed.
  4. Control & Evaluate Reviewing what pest control measures you took (i.e. overseeding), when you took them and to what effect they have had is an important step in an IPM for weed prevention and management plan, so you can best understand effectiveness and evaluate what additional preventive measures, if any, should be taken.

Something to Know: Some weeds may still invade but will be easy to pull or use spot treatment. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy with improper feeding, too much water, poor soil, or mowing too low to the ground.

TIPS FOR BEING SUCCESSFUL WITH IPM FOR WEEDS

  • Grow a grass species appropriate for your region and climate.
  • Water deeply and infrequently – making sure not to overwater.
  • Mow regularly but mow high so not to remove too much leaf tissue at any one mowing.
  • Follow nutrient recommendations for your grass species.
  • Alleviate soil compaction with aeration if needed.
  • When thatch levels exceed half an inch, dethatch.

PRO TIP: In bare areas/areas with thin turf, overseed to help grasses outcompete weeds. Follow establishment recommendations to help promote germination and establishment of the seed. Remove weeds by hand when they are young and before they flower, set seed, form vegetative parts, or spread into patches. Remove other sources of weeds seeds. For example, thistle and millet seed bird feeders can be a source of weeds. If weeds are pervasive, completely renovate or replace weak areas of the lawn with new turf.

Under the IPM approach, it is important to use less drastic, harsh chemicals and only when absolutely needed as those chemicals will affect your soil’s health, which can cause weeds to thrive.

For a more in-depth look at IPM, check out this Homeowner’s Guide to Integrated Pest Management from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.