How do you fix a lawn overrun with weeds?

A lawn overrun with weeds can be frustrating, but with some effort and patience, it can be restored to its former lush glory. Here are some tips on how to get rid of weeds and reclaim your lawn.

How do weeds get out of control in the first place?

There are a few key reasons why weeds might take over a lawn:

  • Improper mowing – Mowing too short or infrequently allows weeds to gain a foothold.
  • Poor drainage – Weeds thrive in wet, compacted soil. Improving drainage prevents this optimal weed environment.
  • Thin turf – If the lawn is patchy, weeds will fill in the bare spots.
  • Wrong turfgrass – The wrong grass type for your climate allows weeds to prevail.
  • Excess shade – Most turfgrasses need at least 4-6 hours of sun. Too much shade enables weeds.
  • Compacted soil – Weeds thrive where turfgrass struggles in hard, compacted soil.
  • Insufficient fertilization – Weak, underfed turfgrass is no match for aggressive weeds.
  • Incorrect pH – Extreme soil pH negatively impacts turfgrass allowing weeds to move in.

If any of these sound familiar, addressing them is key to reclaiming your lawn.

How do you get rid of weeds in your lawn?

Here is a step-by-step guide to ridding your lawn of weeds:

  1. Identify the weeds – Knowing your enemy is critical. Identify the types of weeds in your lawn and research their attributes and weaknesses.
  2. Remove existing weeds – Before reseeding and fertilizing, get rid of existing weeds. Manual removal, herbicides or a combination of both can be used.
  3. Aerate – Aerating reduces soil compaction and allows nutrients and water to better reach the roots.
  4. Top dress – Spreading a thin layer of compost over the lawn helps improve soil texture, smother weeds and fill in thin spots.
  5. Overseed – Overseeding introduces new desirable grass seeds that can fill in bare patches left by removed weeds.
  6. Fertilize – Applying the right fertilizer at the right time nurtures strong, healthy turfgrass that can outcompete weeds.
  7. Adjust pH – Bringing the soil pH into the optimal range for the turfgrass type ensures thicker, weed-resistant turf.
  8. Water deeply – Deep weekly watering encourages turfgrass roots to grow downwards away from weed seeds near the surface.
  9. Mow high – Raising the mowing height shades out germinating weed seeds and encourages deeper turfgrass roots.
  10. Reseed bare spots – Quickly reseeding any new bare spots prevents weeds from re-establishing.

Manual Weed Removal

For small lawns, manually removing weeds by hand or with a specialized weed removal tool is an effective option. Focus on removing the entire root system to prevent regrowth. Dispose of the weeds immediately and be diligent about looking for new weeds emerging from the soil. Manual removal works best for annual weeds and small infestations of perennial weeds.


Herbicides are an efficient chemical solution for more extensive weed problems. Broadleaf herbicides target dicots like dandelions and clover while not harming monocot grasses. Non-selective herbicides kill all plant material and are best for spot-treating persistent perennial weeds. No herbicide will prevent future weeds so combine with proper lawn maintenance practices. Always apply herbicides according to the label instructions for maximum effectiveness and safety.

How do you prevent weeds from returning?

Getting rid of existing weeds is only half the battle. Here are 7 tips to keep weeds from reappearing:

  1. Maintain optimal soil fertility – Regular fertilization ensures turfgrass outcompetes weeds for nutrients.
  2. Improve drainage – Redirect downspouts, add drainage channels and fill low spots to keep soil from being overly wet.
  3. Top dress and aerate – Alleviating soil compaction helps desirable grass thrive.
  4. Overseed – Thickening up turfgrass leaves little room for weeds to emerge.
  5. Mow high – Longer grass shades out germinating weed seeds.
  6. Water infrequently but deeply – Moist soil invites weeds; drier soil favors grass.
  7. Apply preemergent herbicide – Preemergent herbicides create a chemical barrier to block weed seeds from sprouting.

While patience and persistence are required, following cultural practices that favor vigorous, dense turfgrass growth is key to preventing weeds long-term.

What is the best time to treat lawn weeds?

Timing is a major factor when it comes to effective weed control. Here are the optimal times to treat common lawn weeds:


Crabgrass is an annual weed that germinates in spring. The best defense is a preemergent herbicide applied in early spring before soil temperatures reach 55-60°F. Postemergent herbicides work best on young crabgrass in early summer.


Treat dandelions in fall or spring when they are actively growing. Fall applications are most effective to prevent sprouting the following spring. Spot treatment can be done any time they appear.


The ideal times to control clover are spring and fall. However, spot-spraying of herbicides in summer can still be effective.


Yellow nutsedge should be treated in early summer (June-July) for optimal results. Later summer applications can reduce nutsedge for the current year, but results diminish after that.

Broadleaf weeds

Most broadleaf perennials like plantain and knotweed can be controlled by early fall applications or spring applications while actively growing.

How long does it take to get rid of lawn weeds?

With consistent, proper treatment, most weed infestations can be controlled in one growing season though difficult perennial weeds may take longer. Here are some general timelines for common methods:

Manual removal

Small infestations and annual weeds are typically removed after one thorough weeding session though spot checks and repeated weeding may be needed for stray weeds.

Postemergent herbicide

Liquid postemergent herbicides work within hours to days to kill emerged weed growth. However, repeat applications are likely needed on perennial weeds.

Preemergent herbicide

A preemergent herbicide applied at the right time in spring should provide full season control of annual weeds like crabgrass. Reapplication is needed each year.

Natural remedies

Non-chemical approaches like vinegar or boiling water provide immediate control but results are temporary. Ongoing applications are needed.

Lawn renovation

Completely killing the existing lawn and re-establishing takes one full growing season. This scorched earth method provides the most thorough weed removal.

Natural remedies for lawn weeds

For those looking to avoid chemicals, there are some homemade options to control weeds:

Boiling water

Pouring boiling water directly on weeds wilts and kills foliage though multiple applications are likely needed. Avoid boiling water on windy days when spray could impact desired plants.


Spray full strength household vinegar on weeds on a hot, sunny day for dehydration effects. Like boiling water, results are temporary and retreatment is needed.

Corn gluten meal

Used as a preemergent, corn gluten meal inhibits root formation on germinating seeds. Apply in early spring before weeds emerge and reapply every 6-8 weeks.

Flame weeding

A propane torch is an effective option for spot treating small weed infestations. Move torch continuously to prevent damaging desirable grass.

When should you call a professional for lawn weeds?

In certain cases, it is best to have lawn weeds professionally treated:

  • Extensive weed infestation – Blanket weed coverage exceeding 25% of the lawn area calls for a professional grade solution.
  • Persistent perennial weeds – Hardy weeds like nutsedge or quackgrass are resistant to DIY remedies.
  • Lawn renovation – Completely killing existing vegetation and re-establishing the lawn is complex.
  • Lack of improvement – If DIY efforts over a full season fail to improve the weed problem, it’s time for an expert.
  • Health concerns – Those unable to physically remove weeds or safely apply chemicals may require hiring it out.
  • Time constraints – Busy homeowners may determine that outsourcing weed control is a better use of their limited time.
  • Specific expert equipment – Commercial grade sprayers, tillers and other tools facilitate thorough weed removal.

The decision of whether to DIY or hire a professional comes down to the severity of the weed issue, your desired outcome and available time and resources.

Tricks and tips for homeowners

Here are some additional pointers to improve your odds of winning the war on lawn weeds:

  • Identify weeds before treatment – Proper ID ensures you use the right control methods.
  • Stay on top of mowing – Letting grass get too long gives weeds an opening.
  • Spot treat with care – Use a shield when spraying herbicides to avoid hurting desirable grass.
  • Apply at proper rates – Read labels closely and calibrate equipment to avoid wasteful over-application.
  • Time it right – Learning weed life cycles allows you to target them at their most vulnerable stage.
  • Pull weeds before they seed – Stop the spread by removing weeds before seeds mature.
  • Avoid stressing grass – Excessive heat, drought, traffic and more give weeds their chance.
  • Fertilize wisely – Don’t overdo nitrogen and switch to a weed preventer fertilizer.
  • Live with some weeds – Aiming for 100% weed free often leads to overuse of herbicides.
  • Persistence pays – Commit to continued monitoring and maintenance even after initial control.


Eliminating weeds from an overgrown lawn requires an integrated approach including proper mowing, fertilization, watering, aeration and targeted control methods. With knowledge of weed lifecycles, vigilant monitoring and persistence, homeowners can reclaim their lawn’s glory. In difficult cases, calling on the experts may provide the experience and equipment needed to gain the upper hand. With a plan in place using both cultural practices and timely weed treatments, you’ll be well on your way to a lush, weed-free lawn before you know it.

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