Pre-emergence weed killers prevent seeds from sprouting. They create a chemical barrier on the soil surface that suppresses seed development. What this means is, if you sow your own seed after applying a pre-emergence weed killer, the seed isn’t likely to grow. However, some pre-emergence products only affect grassy weeds, so you can safely sow most vegetable and flower seeds after applying these herbicides. The same doesn’t apply to reseeding or overseeding your lawn. Grass seed won’t sprout until a pre-emergence weed killer has decayed and become ineffective. For example, it isn’t safe to sow lawn seed until four months after applying a crabgrass preventer.
It makes sense to be cautious about sowing seed after using weed killer. Certain herbicides can harm sprouting seeds and young plants. However, while you must wait several months to sow seed after applying some weed killers, you only need to wait a few days after applying others. The reason for this difference lies in the effect of the active chemicals in the individual products. Read the label carefully and follow all the directions when applying a weed killer.
You can sow seeds in as little as a week or even sooner after spraying glyphosate, a systemic, nonselective weed killer. Glyphosate moves from the leaves to the roots of plants, destroying the entire plant, but leaving no residue in the soil. The chemical affects many types of plants, including weeds, grasses and desirable plants, but after the liquid is absorbed into the plant, it doesn’t pose any further threat. You can safely sow ornamental flower seeds a day after spraying with glyphosate and grass and vegetable seeds, three days after, even though the herbicide takes up to seven days to destroy weeds. If you remove the dying weeds too soon, live roots could remain in the soil, ready to regrow. Another systemic weed killer that doesn’t affect seeds is pelargonic acid.
Sowing seed after applying a pre-emergence weed killer disturbs the chemical barrier on the soil surface, which means that weed seeds may germinate too.
Many selective weed killers leave little or no trace in the soil, and they target certain plants while leaving others unharmed. Generally, these types of herbicides destroy either grassy weeds or broadleaf weeds. You can safely sow most seeds in your vegetable or flower patch a day after applying selective herbicides, such as sethoxydim, clethodim and bentazon, for grassy weeds. These herbicides only affect your desired plants if the plants belong to the grass family. For lawns, herbicides that destroy broadleaf weeds are effective, but it isn’t safe to reseed until a month after applying these products, unless the label states differently.
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.
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.
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.
Writing professionally since 2010, Amy Rodriguez cultivates successful cacti, succulents, bulbs, carnivorous plants and orchids at home. With an electronics degree and more than 10 years of experience, she applies her love of gadgets to the gardening world as she continues her education through college classes and gardening activities.