Spreading seed is an inexpensive way to grow a lush lawn, but exposed soil between germination and establishment makes it vulnerable to weeds. Although chemical weed preventers have different mixtures and instructions, you should not apply them while seeding or immediately afterward. You must allow one to four months between applying this type of chemical and spreading seed.
Chemical weed preventers, also called preemergent herbicides, are usually granules or liquids, but both require water to work. As the preventer soaks into the ground, it leaves a residual film in the top 1-inch of soil. Because most seeds germinate at or just below the soil’s surface, these preemergent herbicides remain active against any germination processes for up to four months, depending on the chemicals involved. Organic weed preventers work in a similar way. With many weeds being members of the grass family, all seeds, including desired lawn species, fail to germinate and sprout after you’ve used a weed preventer.
Even if you time your weed preventer and seeding periods correctly, you need to do the job right to get an even lawn with no bare patches. Apply seeds uniformly across your yard using a drop spreader on a mild fall day. Spread up to 1-inch of organic mulch over the seeds to conserve moisture and encourage germination. Water the seeds at least twice a day for short, 10-minute sessions. You do not want to wash away the seeds, but they need consistent moisture to grow. Hand pull any weeds that appear while the grass seedlings develop. Do not apply any chemicals for weed control.
Cool-season grasses are usually seeded, as opposed to warm-season grasses that usually need to be grown from sod or plugs. Because cool-season grass seeds germinate best in fall, apply your chemical preventer in spring to actively kill off weeds in spring and summer. In general, temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are good for weed preventer application. Hot days often cause the chemicals to vaporize into the atmosphere, reducing their effectiveness. By the time fall seeding weather arrives, the chemicals are no longer active and the grass seeds will be able to sprout.
Avoid the need for weed preventers by keeping your lawn healthy. Once established, only water your turf once a week during the growing season. Up to 1 inch of water during this watering session allows roots to search deeply for moisture to create strong grass. Shallow grass roots die in stressful conditions, like drought, and allow weeds to grow in thinned spots. Allow your turf to grow to a healthy height as well, typically between 1 and 3 inches, depending on the species. Long grass blades mean the grass can produce enough energy to stay healthy and compete with weeds. In short, healthy and well-maintained grass has less problems with weed growth.
However, you can get rid of these weeds just as fast as they have appeared.
The important thing to remember when new weeds appear in your newly sown lawn is not to act hastily – do not apply a Feed, Weed and Moss Killer type product of any kind on a newly sown lawn.
Although this can be frustrating and we can appreciate that a quick solution will be desired, the good news about these types of weeds is that they are largely shallow rooting and should come out with the first mow at the 6-8 week mark after sowing. If they don’t, they should be easy to pull out of the turf.
If you find that the weeds are recurring past the 6-8-week mark, you may wish to consider using a selective herbicide to spot spray your weeds. Some weed killers such as glyphosate (Roundup) kill more than just weeds, so it is important to not apply these as if they are not done precisely, they can kill your grass. Shop bought selective weed killers will recommend when to apply their product and how often and you should read the instructions thoroughly and adhere to them.
In short, here’s what you should do if you encounter weeds in your newly seeded lawn:
If you find that when the lawn is at least six months old and has been taken over by weeds or moss, you can use a Feed, Weed and Moss Killer product.
Once you pull up the label, hit “command F” on Mac or “control F” on PC and this opens up a search window. Type the word “Seed” in that window and it will reveal how many times that word appears in the label PDF.
First off, when I worked for TruGreen ChemLawn, Quincept was our go-to weed control for summer and I remember that every year that right around 3 weeks before overseeding time we would get a memo telling us to cut off the Quincept use. The memo would come early but would read “stop spraying Quincept 2 weeks prior to starting your overseedings for customers.”
Also of note, if you have crabgrass living after or during your seed grow in, you have to wait 28 days after emergence (when you see it) before spraying. It’s important to understand what mix you are seeding in this case because if you have a tall fescue, bluegrass mixed seed , the tall fescue will emerge in about 10 days but the bluegrass won’t emerge for 18-21 days so you need to wait 28 days AFTER THE BLUEGRASS emerges before spraying quinclorac. If you really want to be safe, wait the 28 days and 1-2 mowings before applying – this adds some extra protection for the late bloomers as mowing encourages new grass to “harden off” quicker.
So to be clear – you can apply this up to seeding, but once the seed germinates (4-5 days for rye, up to 21 days for bluegrass) you should NOT apply it to weeds until the new turf has been mowed 2-4 times or 4 weeks, whichever is longer. This is because baby grass is weak and can’t withstand/tolerate mesotrione .
Since releasing this year’s FREE Guide To Fall Seeding we have had some questions come about spraying weeds now leading up to the seeding. In and this blog post will answer those.