What’s First: Feed, Weed or Seed?
This is a big question in early spring: “My lawn needs everything what should I do first, put down seed or kill my weeds? The reason why this question is tricky is because many of the weed controls will harm new grass seedlings.
Weed, Feed or Seed?
Here are your best two options:
Do you have less than 75% good grass with bare spots larger than a few inches in diameter?
Answer: If lots of larger spots, then seed this spring. Be sure to use a special Starter Lawn Food plus Weed Preventer that is compatible with grass seed (the regular crabgrass preventers will keep grass seed from growing). If you do not prevent weeds when you seed, you are likely to be very disappointed as crabgrass and other weeds will germinate and choke out your good grass before it has a chance to take hold. A machine called a slit-seeder will help make sure the grass seed comes in contact with the soil. You just select the Turf Builder Grass Seed blend that is right for your conditions, such as sun, shade, heat-tolerant, etc. If you only have a few bare spots to take care of, consider Scotts EZ Seed. I think this is the best bare spot repair product we have ever sold! Spread the Starter Lawn Food plus Weed Preventer after you put down the seed. Feed your lawn again in one month after seeding with Turf Builder Lawn Food. Once your new grass has been mowed 4 times, you can kill weeds with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer OR Roundup For Lawns.
Do you have more than 75% good grass however your lawn is thin and weedy without widespread bare spots?
Answer: If you have more than 75% grass, you may be surprised how your good grass will fill in with four feedings a year at 6 to 8 week intervals. With this option you skip spring seeding (you can always seed in fall if your lawn still needs it). Here is a schedule for the year: Feed your lawn now with Scotts Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer. In 6 to 8 weeks after your first feeding, feed again with Scotts Turf Builder Weed and Feed if you have lots of weeds or if you only have a few weeds, your second feeding can be Turf Builder Lawn Food and spot treat your weeds with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer OR Roundup For Lawns. Put down Scotts GrubEx sometime in May or June. In 6 to 8 weeks after your second feeding, feed again with Scotts Turf Builder with SummerGuard to control insects. In 6 to 8 weeks after your third feeding, in late summer/early fall, feed with Turf Builder Lawn Food.
If you have questions during the year, the Scotts Help Center folks will be happy to help you.
Do I Weed & Feed or Plant Seed First?
You can sow grass seeds now and kill weeds later with a post-emergent herbicide or kill weeds now with a pre-emergent herbicide and plant the seeds later. Weed-and-feed fertilizers are specially formulated combinations of turf fertilizer and herbicides that you apply either before you plant grass seeds or on established lawns.
You apply pre-emergent herbicides before weed seeds germinate, typically in the spring. Pre-emergent herbicides do not prevent weed seeds from germinating; they suppress the development of weed roots as they germinate. They’re usually effective for two weeks to three months, depending on the formulation, and you have to water the lawn after applying for the herbicide for it to be effective. There are pre-emergent herbicides to kill both broadleaf weeds and weedy grasses. You can apply them before you sow your grass seed. If you apply a pre-emergent herbicide that kills weedy grasses, you have to delay sowing your lawn seed.
Post emergent herbicides kill weeds after they appear. Some post-emergent, systemic herbicides that you can apply directly on lawns only kill weedy grasses, while others only kill weeds with broadleaf weeds. Contact herbicide such as those including the active ingredient glyphosate kills on contact. To use one of those on a lawn without killing the grass you have to daub it on individual weeds.
Pre-Emergent Weed-and-Feed Fertilizer
Fertilizers containing pre-emergent herbicides selectively prevent certain kinds of weeds from finishing their germination cycle. There is no point applying this type of weed-and-feed mix after weeds are growing on your lawn. You have to apply it early in the growing season before weeds appear. Make sure the pre-emergent herbicide in the fertilizer kills the kind of weeds that have plagued your lawn in the past. You might apply a starter fertilizer containing a pre-emergent herbicide before you sow your lawn seeds.
Post-Emergent Weed-and-Feed Fertilizer
Post-emergent weed-and-feed formulations kill selective weeds that are already growing in your lawn. Make sure that the herbicide in the formulation you buy kills the type of weeds that are growing in your lawn. Most weeds make their appearance in the spring, the best time to apply weed-and-feed fertilizer.
How Many Days Do You Have to Wait Before Seeding After Weed & Feed?
Weed and feed fertilizers are often used in combination with seeding. Weed and feed formulations consist of two components: a herbicide to kill weeds and a fertilizer to strengthen the turf. The herbicide will weaken the grass as well as the weeds and the fertilizer will strengthen the weeds as well as the grass. When applying seed over a weed and feed application, remember that some weed and feeds can prevent grass seeds from growing.
Types of Herbicide
It’s important to know a little about herbicides so you can make the best choice for when to apply seed in an area that has been treated for weeds. The most common types of herbicide in weed and feed products are selective and systemic. Selective herbicides target a species of plant to kill while systemic herbicides work by being absorbed though the roots and then transported throughout the plant, killing it from within. Read the bag label to see what kind of herbicide is used in the weed and feed you are considering using or have used. The bag label will tell you how many days you must wait before applying seed to a lawn that has been treated with that product.
Herbicides can target weeds before they germinate from seed – pre-emergent – or as developed plants – post-emergent. Before you seed, you can use a non-selective, post-emergent herbicide to control any weeds in the area to be seeded. Most of these can be applied up to two weeks before seeding to control any existing weeds. Herbicides should not be used after seeding until the new seedlings are established. Mowing and spot treatments can be used to control weeds until the seeded area is actively growing and requires only maintenance watering. Establishment times vary depending on the type of seed you use and your weather conditions.
Using Weed and Feed
Only use a weed and feed if the weed infestation is completely uniform over the entire lawn and all species of weeds targeted will be affected by the herbicide in the weed and feed. This scenario doesn’t occur often, so it is more likely the use of an herbicide and a fertilizer separately will be needed. If the weeds are uniformly spread over the area to be treated, match the appropriate weed and feed product to your grass, the seed you have recently applied or want to apply, and the time of year.
Know What You Grow
It is important to know what kind of grass you have growing or want to have growing. Certain chemicals act differently on different species of grass and weeds. For example, the common herbicide 2,4-D is toxic to some cultivars of St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), which grows in the area roughly covered by U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10. Another common herbicide, atrazine, is potentially lethal to grass when applied in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the instructions on the bag of each weed and feed product to determine how it will affect seeding.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Weed Management in Home Lawns
- Texas Agricultural Extension Service: Maintaining St. Augustinegrass Lawns
Sara DeBerry is a graduate of the University of Florida holding a masters degree in environmental horticulture and a minor in entomology and nematology. DeBerry has been writing for government agencies since 2004 and has published peer reviewed scientific articles during her studies at UF.