Radio interview source: Rhonda Ferree, Extension Horticulture Educator, University of Illinois
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Invasive spring weeds are nobody's friend. Plants like creeping Charlie can take over a lawn if not treated properly.
Rhonda Ferree is a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension. She agrees that trying to eliminate perennial weeds such as creeping charlie, dandelion, and quackgrass can drive you crazy. They thrive in poor lawns and bare soil, so she says your best weapon in the war on weeds is growing healthy grass.
"Fertilize properly, mow properly, that's probably the one a lot of people mess up," she says. "They don't mow at the proper height, that we pick the right turfgrass to start with, so all of those things. Just making sure we have really good, healthy grass, and then it will be dense and full, and out-compete a lot of those weeds."
How you attack the weeds that do come up depends on the species, and timing. A pre-emergence herbicide should be spread over the yard in the spring to control crabgrass before it germinates.
A full-lawn attack on the perennial weeds may not be necessary.
"If it's a perennial weed like creeping Charlie, or a dandelion, or a thistle or something like that, then I probably would spot treat those," says Murphy. "And it's really important that for particularly those weeds, that we're using a spray once the weeds are already there. That's called a post-emergence application, and we do that when those weeds are actively growing."
If there aren't too many, it might be just easier to hand-pull the weeds, roots and all. Ferree says some people use non-chemical options such as pouring hot water over the weeds or burning them off with a torch. However you're only killing the top of the plant, so for the best control, you have to get down to the roots.