DIY Lawn Fertilization and Weed Control

The standard Weed-n-Feed granular product never worked too well for me. This is likely attributable to laziness. I didn’t want to get out early enough in the morning to apply it while the grass was wet! However, another negative was the cost of the name brand Weed-n-feed products. At $50 or more per bag, the cost is comparable to a lawn service.

So, for a few years, I used a name brand lawn service. They did a beautiful job. However, as the years rolled on, I was still bothered by the cost, and the nagging lack of that ‘DIY satisfaction’ feeling. Honestly, if you don’t get a certain level of satisfaction by doing something like this yourself, then I would suggest you continue to use (or start using) a professional lawn service. The can do an incredible job of keeping your lawn green and weed-free for most (hard to handle the hot/dry part of summer) of the year.

If you are on the fence, check out our lawn chemical/fertilizer application videos from last season.

Ok, so you STILL want to do it yourself? So do I! Let’s dig in!

Broadleaf Weed Control

First, we need to control dandelions. Yes, my young daughter enjoys dandelions, and is sad when they are killed. However, with some training, she can be convinced about how evil these persistent yellow buggers really are! Dandelions and other broadleaf weeds can be killed with 2,4-D. However, using the agricultural version of 2,4-D can present some issues, as it tends to ‘drift’ when sprayed, and may kill some flowers alongside your yard. Also, you can get better weed control by getting a mixture of 3 or more chemicals. This mixture is often referred to by a brand name ‘Tri-Mec’. I use this (please order through this link to support Tractor Time with Tim):

This should control the broadleaf weeds in your yard. If it does not kill after 3-4 applications, you will probably need to specifically identify the weed causing issues, and ask for help from an expert.

Crab-grass

Crabgrass is very difficult to kill once it is growing. Further, it seems to thrive in the late summer heat when the ‘good looking’ grass is really struggling. For whatever reason, crab-grass doesn’t seem to need much water to thrive, and it can expand over large areas of your yard in just a few days.
There are some ‘crab-grass killers’ available, but they are difficult to use. It is easy to damage your lawn with these chemicals. So, the best defense against crab-grass is to keep it from getting started. We can do this with, yes you guessed it, ‘Crab-grass preventer’.

There are several chemicals to prevent crab-grass from emerging. My favorite goes by the brand name ‘Barricade’. Barricade is quite expensive, and there are generic versions available. I use this one:

It is best to ‘premix’ this product in a small container to dissolve the granules, then poor the pre-mix into your sprayer.
I recommend applying this with each time you go over your lawn. The only time to skip this product is if you are trying to get new grass to sprout and grow. This product will prevent any grass from sprouting and growing.

Fertilization

Much could be written about lawn fertilization. I am certainly no expert in this field. However, the basics are relatively simple. You need a fertilizer with high nitrogen content. This is the first digit in the 3 digits you always see on fertilizer. For example, 18-3-6 is 18% nitrogen, 3% Potassium, and 6% Phosphorus.

You can get your fertilizer in liquid form, or in granular form. If you have both types of spreaders, then simply choose the least expensive approach, which is usually granular. If choosing a liquid, it is best to choose a ‘controlled release’ product. Here is an example:
CoRoN from domyownpestcontrol
I chose to use this fertilizer from Rural King last year:
Gordon’s Fertilizer from Rural King
You can also choose a non name-brand granular fertilizer from your local hardware (or big box) store. Just be sure to avoid the combo ‘weed-n-feed’ treatments if you are applying the chemicals separately as I recommend above.
I usually find the lower cost granular fertilizers way at the back of the store in both Menard’s and Lowe’s here. They would much prefer selling the $50 bags than the $10 bags.

Summary

I hope this helps you to get started. My main advice when beginning is to use low application rates to start. You can always re-apply it a second or third time if you don’t see the desired results. This is much easier than re-seeding your entire yard due to over-application.

6 Comments

  1. 18-3-6 is 18% nitrogen, 3% Potassium, and 6% Phosphorus.
    Actually it is nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium for the analysis order.

  2. Tim, as a retired certified golf course superintendent I applaud you in providing a succulent yet informative overview of general lawn maintenance. My seven plus acres receives a Prodiamine treatment for crabgrass and other grassy weeds in early spring abd an occasional broadleaf weed application as necessary. Fertilizer is less used due to cost for an application yet our “front yard” does receive fertility occasionally. Keeping weeds to a minimum is my goal.

    My sprayer (42 gal Fimco with a 3hp engine and roller pump plus Greenleaf nozzles asymmetrically aligned on 11 1/2 foot boom) can cover the property in five loads depending on the product and dilution/carrier requirements. It is far less expensive to do it yourself and you hit that nail on the head.

    P.S. I modified my 60D JD deck to add the front anti-scalp roller and think it will work out well. Thank you for your ideas from your 54″ model while not the same the work itself was very informative and helpful for my project.

  3. Tim, as a retired certified golf course superintendent I applaud you in providing a succulent yet informative overview of general lawn maintenance. My seven plus acres receives a Prodiamine treatment for crabgrass and other grassy weeds in early spring abd an occasional broadleaf weed application as necessary. Fertilizer is less used due to cost for an application yet our “front yard” does receive fertility occasionally. Keeping weeds to a minimum is my goal.

    My sprayer (42 gal Fimco with a 3hp engine and roller pump plus Greenleaf nozzles asymmetrically aligned on 11 1/2 foot boom) can cover the property in five loads depending on the product and dilution/carrier requirements. It is far less expensive to do it yourself and you hit that nail on the head.

    P.S. I modified my 60D JD deck to add the front anti-scalp roller and think it will work out well. Thank you for your ideas from your 54″ model while not the same the work itself was very informative and helpful for my project.

  4. We have been dealing with a weed problem for a couple of years. We’ve considered using a lawn service, but I am a DIYer and, just like you said, love that sense of accomplishment. I like your explanation and am going to try this approach. Wish me luck!

    • Thanks for the comment. As I say, I don’t do quite as good of a job as the pros, but I feel good about it.
      I’ve made some mistakes. …don’t use much nitrogen later in the season during the dry times. I totally killed my grass in some places last summer.

      Also, get on it early in the spring, and hit it every 4 weeks with a light dose of the weed killer.
      Use heavy fertilizer in the spring to help it get a good start in preparation for summer drought.

  5. Just starting to get my lawn whipped into shape. I have about 2 acres, I want to get ready for fall. I live in Southern Indiana, what steps to I have to do to get the lawn looking good for the spring?

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