Pet Friendly Weed Control

I will be offline for a couple of days. The Handyguys were kind enough to pitch in with an answer to a recent reader question.

Dear Home Ec 101,

Is there such a thing as a weed killer that will not affect my dogs? In addition to the two greyhounds that live in the house, I have multiple neighbors who think the leash law does not apply to them, plus several feral cats that like to hang in my window boxes to torture said greyhounds. I can keep my dogs off the lawn for a couple days, but what about the other guys? Right now my lawn has been taken over by clover, dollar weed, dandelions, and sticky weed. Oh and crabgrass, gotta love that crabgrass. Everything I’ve found at Home Depot/Lowe’s/Wal-Mart states not to use around pets or children. Oh, and I asked a friend who owns a landscaping business, and his comment was’ if you mow you lawn regularly, the weeds can’t take over’. Well duh. But that doesn’t help me now.

Signed,

Longing for a Lovely Lawn

The Handyguys Say:

weedsYou are right to be concerned about casually applying unknown chemicals on your lawn without identifying potentially negative effects on your pets, the environment, and yourself.

If you must use a chemical herbicide, be sure to follow the manufacturers directions. Most most lawn care products will recommend that all people and pets remain off of the treated lawn for at least 24 hr and/or after the product is watered into the lawn. The product is generally considered safe after it has been absorbed into the lawn. Remember, not every fertilizer contains dangerous chemicals, but the products with herbicides and (especially) pesticides are the most dangerous to humans and animals.
The Safest Fix for Weeds
One safe fix for you and your pets is to pull them out of the ground one at a time. You can purchase a weed puller from you home center which makes this chore a little easier. Try pulling the weeds right after you have had some rain, and you will discover that many of the weeds pull out with little effort in soft wet soil. If that kind of work and dedication is not for you, then perhaps you should begin thinking about your long term options for a green lawn that is safe for your pets.
Long term methods for health lawn with fewer weeds
Consider these methods for a healthy lawn that has fewer weeds:
1. Aerate and over-seed and fertilize in the fall. Thick lawns crowd out weeds. If you want a great lawn in the spring, your fall lawn regiment is vitally important.
2. Crabgrass is a huge menace to our lawns. It is not easily destroyed by typical weed killers because it is a grassy weed… more like grass than weeds. Consider spreading corn gluten pellets which act as a pre-emergent and will prevent the crab grass from seeding. This approach will take 3 years of diligent application in early spring to make a difference.
3. Once your grass begins growing, mow high and often.
sharpen4. Sharpen your mower blade each season for a proper cut. 5. Pull weeds by hand as they begin appearing.
6. Test the PH of you soil. You can purchase cheap kits at a local nursery or home center. Soil that is acidic will require an application of lime to get your PH balance between 6.0 and 7.0 which is ideal for lawns.
7. Fertilize often using small amounts of fertilizer. Don’t assume that using more product is better.

If you would rather not handle the lawn care chores yourself and would like more natural option, you can contact one of the mostly natural lawn care companies that are cropping up around the country.

In our opinion, the modern notion of a perfect green lawn is a bit distorted. White Clover, which helps soil by adding nitrogen, was once consider an important part of a healthy lawn. Now we want a single species of grass with no variety or “imperfections”. Perhaps all the perfect golf courses we see on T.V. have distorted our vision of a healthy lawn. For a totally natural and safe lawn for our pets, our kids and ourselves, we may just have to live with a little less perfection.

This article was written by The Handyguys Podcast, offering home improvement advice through audio and video podcasts.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. CJ McD says

    You can try corn gluten too. http://www.eartheasy.com/article_corn_gluten.htm

    More info on the web. Just google corn gluten.
    —–

    Our trick is to gently re-seed the lawn and spread a thin layer of composted soil over it. It will fall through the grass and sprout a wonderfully thick lawn. Then, when cutting, cut no shorter than 3 inches to help crowd out weeds.

  2. Sandy says

    I would be very happy to live with 'a little less perfection'. My homeower's association has other plans. Sigh.

  3. caryn verell says

    unless you are one of those people who care nothing about growing anything other than a picture perfect lawn which by the way can be extremely unfrugal in the money department as well as the labor involved…cut your grass at about 3 inches and often…being every week or two. overseed and fertilize if you must, but keep that mower in shape. consider the weed seed that just blows in the wind and you will find that unless you have thistle or something trully noxiousm, no matter what you are gonna have weeds of some kind. everytime a bird poops you have the beginning of whatever it ate taking seed somewhere.

  4. tinkerschnitzel says

    Some of those weeds actually help attract the good bugs, so I usually wait until they have bloomed, but before they seed to mow. And never cut more than a third off the height of the grass – it causes it to turn brown. Check the feed stores for Garret Juice and Lawn Food. We went organic last year, and it's made a huge difference.

  5. says

    I have a brick patio where weeds pop up. To get rid of the weeds, I use vinegar. It changes the pH in the soil and within a couple days, the weeds shrivel up and die. Of course, you won’t want to use this next to your prized rose bush, but for nuisance weeds where it doesn’t matter, this is safe and effective!