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NOT a Chemical Romance

Now that spring has sprung, we - along with many of our neighbors - are out toiling on our land, sprucing up the yards, trimming back the shrubs, killing off the weeds?.... Dana asks:

What do you ladies know about weed killers/fertilizers in particular? My lawn is a hideous melange of crabgrass, weeds, and a little actual grass. My husband would like to use Weed and Feed on it based on a recommendation from my entirely environmentally-inept-chemical-using-republican-stepmother. No seriously I love her but the woman actually doesn't know how to recycle. I taught her this weekend. She says that Weed and Feed is not long lasting and that the chemicals break down after a few weeks. I would really love to believe her. On the other hand I want my son to be able to play in the grass this summer with a clear conscience.

Does anyone know about chemicals like this? Or does anyone know of health/enviro friendly alternatives?


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I would suggest contacting the Master Gardener program for answers to your questions:

Jordis Yost
MG Program Coordinator
503-678-1264 x 147

A Master Gardener would be able to answer technical questions related to human and watershed health.

Happy Gardening!

Get thee to Portland Nursery and ask the experts.

Our strategy includes old-fashioned weed-pulling (see "grandpa's weeder"), a belief that clover is our friend, and not a weed, overseeding with the right kind of grass (sun-loving for the sunny spots, etc.), raking out the inevitable moss, and using organic/non-toxic fertilizers - no weed killers at all, our lawn is gorgeous for now - it gets brown in the summer, like everyone's. My husband takes an almost-frightening bougie pride in it, actually. But it DOES look nice...

Weed and Feed is certainly not beneficial to the environment and yes, you'll want to keep kids and pets off the grass for at least several weeks while it breaks down (there is a lot of debate over how bad or not this stuff is for you but kids and pets are probably at the highest risk of ingesting it).

Given the amount of rain we get this time of year you'll also need to reapply much more frequently as rain breaks this stuff down before its maximum effective exposure.

Based on your description of the existing "lawn" it probably won't help much unless you also have a crabgrass preventer in the mix. Also, in our climate it may already be a bit late for the application of crabgrass preventer.

If you really have very little grass your best (and most expensive) option to to tear out the old and replant. There are a lot of great non chemical ways of maintaining a weed free lawn (mowing heights to shade out clover and dandelions and reduce crabgrass, better seed mixes for our area, etc.) and there are some great non grass lawn alternatives too. There aren't a lot of environmentally friendly ways of dealing with an already weed transformed lawn that don't involve a lot of hard labor.

Maybe others have some suggestions I've overlooked. Good luck with whatever you choose.

OrganicGardening.com has some good info on lawn care.

Also, set your lawnmower higher. Letting the grass get taller helps keep down the weeds.

We love our Weed Hound, too. Even the kids think it's fun to step on and pull up the dandelions.

replacing doesn't have to be TOO bad - we rented a sod cutter and cut the whole lawn really quickly. The hard (but fun) bit was rolling up the sod and moving it - we just made a big pile in a corner, which has now broken down and been added to the compost. Then you reseed and wait! We did it a few years ago... of course, now we're back to mossy clovery lawn with muddy spots, but c'est la vie.

Thanks ladies! That's a huge help. That organicgardening.com website was a huge help too. There's actually more that can be done than I thought. I kind of thought the answer would be that there's really nothing I can do except to just suck it up and weed a lot. Yuck. Your advice came just in time too. My husband was itching to "fix it" this weekend, and I was having trouble stalling him until I found an alternative. We'll see how it goes. I am still open to any more suggestions though.
Take care.

Take a look at www.protimelawnseed.com for a great lawn alternative. Local company, too!

We bought a house a couple years ago with a brand new lawn that I have been breaking my back to keep emerald green. I, too, have made peace with the clover and was happy to learn that I could just rake up the moss. My greatest ally is my weed hound, which I use to pull up dandelions as soon as I see yellow in spring. This has kept the labor to a minimum, and pulling the dandelions is somehow very psychically satisfying. I have made peace with the clover, but attack crabgrass like GI Jane. The final, most important element is: reseed in spring and fall. If you have young kids it is great to have a seed spreader. My kids adore the spreader and basically do all my work for me. Sounds like you may have to dig up your lawn and start over. But once you do, these simple steps can keep your lawn looking great!

I noticed a few suggestions for "grass for our climate". Does anyone have brand suggestions etc.?


Something else to consider is the soil under your grass. If it doesn't drain well your grass will be patchy and full of moss and weeds.

It sounds like this isn't your style, and it wasn't mine, either, until a few weeks ago, but we've been eating our dandelions in salads! If you pick the leaves before they shoot up a flower they're like arugala. So tasty! It at least makes me feel better about the sorry state of my back yard. It's may be overgrown and neglected, but it's feeding us!


We've had great luck with the grass seed sold at the Portland nursery for part shade/dry summer. I don't recall the brand name but it wasn't a biggie and came packaged in small clear plastic bags.

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