How do you turn weeds into grass?

Turning weeds into grass is a common goal for homeowners and gardeners who want a lush, green lawn free of unsightly and aggressive weeds. While eliminating weeds entirely may not be possible, there are steps you can take to reduce weed growth and cultivate healthy grass in its place.

Why turn weeds into grass?

There are several benefits to converting weeds to grass:

  • Grass is more aesthetically pleasing than weeds.
  • Grassprevents soil erosion and provides a usable surface for lawns and yards.
  • Grass crowds out weeds and creates an environment less hospitable to future weed growth.
  • A thick, healthy lawn outcompetes weeds for sunlight, nutrients, and water.

In short, a lush grass lawn is far superior to a yard overrun with weeds. By taking active measures to favor grass growth, you can dramatically improve the look and usability of your outdoor space.

Challenges of turning weeds to grass

Eliminating weeds and correcting the conditions that allowed them to thrive in the first place is not always straightforward. Here are some key challenges:

  • Weeds spread aggressively through seeds, runners, and rhizomes underground. Removing visible weeds does not guarantee the weed roots and seeds are gone.
  • Many common weed varieties are exceptionally hardy and resistant to control methods. They easily regenerate from root fragments left behind.
  • Weeds indicate there are problems with drainage, pH, soil compaction, or other environmental factors in your lawn. Grass may struggle under the same conditions that weeds thrive in.
  • Poor maintenance like improper mowing, watering, fertilization, or aerating can all contribute to weak grass and weed growth.

Correcting these underlying issues is key for successful weed removal and encouraging lush grass growth.

Methods for Converting Weeds to Grass

If you want to banish weeds and upgrade to a premium grass lawn, here are some effective control and cultivation methods.

1. Apply selective herbicides.

Post-emergent selective herbicides target broadleaf weeds but do not harm grasses. Spraying these chemical weed killers can eliminate unwanted plants like dandelions, clover, plantain, and wild violet. However, this is just a temporary fix unless you also improve growing conditions to favor grass.

2. Pull weeds manually.

Hand weeding is most effective on young weed seedlings. Use a sharp hoe, hori-hori knife, or dandelion weeder tool to sever roots below the soil surface. Pulling weeds before they reproduce prevents further spread. But again, addressing underlying issues is still needed.

3. Use a weed torch.

A propane-fueled weed torch applies targeted heat to weeds, causing plant cells to rupture. Regular use can stop weed growth and gradually deplete the root system without chemicals. Combine with overseeding grass for best results.

4. Spread corn gluten meal.

This organic weed preventer inhibits root formation in emerging seedlings. Spring application timed with seed germination can thwart annual weeds. Existing perennial weeds will be unaffected, so combine with other controls.

5. Solarize the lawn.

Smothering grass and weeds under UV-stabilized plastic sheeting during hot, sunny weather cooks and kills vegetation. Reseed with grass once the area is clear. Solarizing works best for spot treating small areas.

6. Reseed with dense grass varieties.

Overseeding improves turf density, leaving little room for weeds to invade. Select competitive, hardy grass types adapted to your climate and conditions for best weed resistance. Proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing helps new grass establish.

7. Improve lawn growing conditions.

Thickening the grass and reducing weeds also requires addressing any underlying issues making your lawn environment conducive to weeds. Here are some common improvement steps:

  • Aerate compacted soil so grass roots can grow deeply.
  • Adjust pH to optimal grass-growing levels.
  • Improve drainage of overly wet lawns.
  • Top dress and overseed bare patches to fill in thin turf.
  • Mow high (3-4 inches) and allow clippings to remain and add organic matter back to the soil.
  • Use compost and compost tea to enrich soil microbiome.
  • Follow proper fertilizer schedules to strengthen grass plants without overfeeding.
  • Water infrequently but deeply to encourage deep rooting.

Focusing on growing healthy, resilient grass is key to long-term weed suppression.

Best Grass Varieties for Crowding Out Weeds

When overseeding or establishing a new lawn, choose grass types well-suited to your region and site conditions. Here are some top varieties for outcompeting weeds:

Cool-Season Grasses

Grass Type Key Benefits
Tall fescue Deep roots
Drought tolerance
Shade tolerance
Perennial ryegrass Fast establishment
Improved wear tolerance
Fine fescues Low maintenance
Good shade tolerance
Kentucky bluegrass Forms dense turf
Tolerates cold

These cool-season grasses thrive in northern climates. Choose blends suited to your specific conditions.

Warm-Season Grasses

Grass Type Key Benefits
Bermudagrass Heat tolerance
Forms thick mat
Zoysiagrass Slow growth habit
Tolerates shade, heat, traffic
Buffalograss Drought tolerance
Low maintenance
St. Augustinegrass Tolerates heat, humidity

These grasses excel in southern lawns. Choose cultivars bred for weed resistance.

When shopping for grass seed, look for “turf-type” cultivars bred for greater density, durability, and other improved characteristics compared to wild varieties. Use blends to combine strengths of different grass types. Your local extension service can provide guidance on the best mixes for your area.

Step-by-Step Process for Converting Weeds to Grass

Follow this comprehensive process for the best results transforming your weedy lawn into a lush grass oasis:

1. Identify your existing grass and weed types.

Knowing what you already have growing will inform your lawn renovation plan. Dig up samples or use photos and online guides to identify grass and weed varieties. Also note bare patches.

2. Evaluate and correct underlying issues.

Check for compacted soil, thatch buildup, drainage problems, improper pH, and low fertility issues. Aerating, dethatching, topdressing, soil testing, amendments, and other corrective measures can create better growing conditions.

3. Kill the existing lawn and weeds.

Non-selective herbicides, smothering with plastic or mulch, solarizing, or frequent deep tillage can remove weeds and grass completely. This prep work gives you a blank slate for re-establishing turf.

4. Select new grass varieties suitable to your climate.

Choose disease-resistant cultivars adapted to your region’s conditions. Consider sun exposure, soil type, seasonal rainfall patterns, and intended lawn use when planning grass selection.

5. Prep and amend the soil.

Cultivate to a depth of 6 inches. Incorporate compost and other amendments like lime or sulfur to optimize pH and fertility for healthy grass growth. Rake smooth.

6. Plant high-quality grass seed.

Buy fresh seed from a reputable dealer. Use proper sowing techniques for even coverage and the seeding rate recommended on the label. Gently water and keep moist until germination.

7. Use proper care and maintenance practices.

Mow high, fertilize appropriately, control pests and diseases, aerate compacted areas, overseed thin spots, and irrigate properly. Healthy turf resists weed encroachment.

8. Spot treat any remaining weeds.

Manual weeding, selective herbicides, or other removal tactics can eliminate the last stubborn weeds. Filling in bare areas and maintaining thick turf will prevent new weeds from invading.

With some effort and preparation, you can successfully transform your weed-infested lawn into an attractive grass showcase that chokes out unwanted plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the first steps to take for turning weeds to grass?

The first steps are to identify your current grass and weed varieties and then evaluate and correct any underlying issues like poor drainage, compacted soil, or improper pH. Optimizing the growing conditions allows grass to thrive.

How long does it take to totally remove weeds and reestablish grass?

Completely renovating a lawn with extensive weed problems can take a full growing season or longer. It involves killing everything, soil prep, seeding new grass, establishment, and follow-up weed controls before the turf matures.

What type of grass crowds out weeds the best?

Grass types like tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are competitive against weeds thanks to their dense growth habit, deep roots, and rapid spread. Improved turf-type cultivars offer even better weed resistance.

Is dethatching necessary when renovating a weedy lawn?

Dethatching to remove dead plant matter is advisable for improving conditions for new grass growth. Excess thatch blocks water, air, and nutrients from reaching grass roots.

Should I use weed and feed fertilizer when overseeding?

Avoid weed and feed products when seeding, as the herbicide component can prevent new grass establishment. Stick to standard fertilizer appropriate for the grass variety at seeding time.

What precautions should I take when using herbicides on lawns?

Use selective rather than non-selective herbicides; avoid drift onto desired plants; do not apply before seeding or in extreme weather; wear protective gear; and carefully follow all label instructions.

How often should I water newly seeded grass?

Keep the top inch of soil moist but not soaked until seeds germinate, which typically takes 7-14 days. Then water deeply only 1-2 times per week to encourage deeper root growth as grass matures.

Can I convert weeds to grass without chemicals?

Yes, through methods like smothering weeds, repeated cultivation, or solarizing to kill existing vegetation. Then focus on establishing healthy grass and maintaining conditions that prevent future weed issues.

What is the best time of year for overseeding grass?

Cool-season grasses like tall fescue are best seeded in early fall when conditions are cool and moist. Warm-season grasses should be planted in late spring as soil temperatures rise.


Eliminating weeds and growing an attractive, dense lawn is achievable with persistence and proper practices. Understanding weed and grass growth habits, correcting underlying issues, selecting competitive grass varieties, following sound maintenance protocols, and properly preparing the soil and establishing new seed are all critical keys to success. While it takes effort to transform weedy turf completely, the lush grass outcome is worth it for improved aesthetics, usability, and pride in your landscape.

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