How To Get Rid of A Lawn Full Of Weeds

Whether you’re a professional gardener, or just a gardening enthusiast, there’s nothing that brings you more joy than watching a lawn you spent so much time and energy into blooming beautifully with healthy plants and colorful flowers.

However, with gardening comes one big responsibility you must always keep in mind, and that is, having to put in extra effort in keeping your lawn away from all sorts of troublemaking weeds, because if you don’t do so, not only will they mar the overall aesthetics of the lawn but affect the health of all the other plants around them too.

With that said, let’s come to the important question: how to get rid of a lawn full of weeds? In short, you have two options. The first is more of a shortcut, which is using herbicides, which usually contain chemicals. You can directly spray these over the weeds, causing them to die quick. The second is more environmentally safe and organic, which involves a combination of maintaining your lawn through mowing, aeration, planting new seeds, watering the soil, fertilizing, and so on.

Let us break this down for you in detail by discussing the types of weeds and how to tackle each of them:

Different Types of Weeds

Weeds come in all shapes and forms, but we can classify them into three basic types:

1) Broadleaf Weeds

Broadleaf weeds are the easiest to identify, as they, just as their name suggests, have broad and flat leaves instead of blades. These leaves appear to be veined or lobed. Some of the common examples of this type of weeds include dandelions, chickweed, clover, oxalis, ground ivy, and so on.

2) Grassy Weeds

Grassy weeds are a bit tricky to identify because just as the name suggests, they’re similar to normal grass. They also grow in the same manner as grass and produce one leaf at a time. Common examples include foxtails, quackgrass and crabgrass.

3) Grass-like Weeds

The main difference between grassy weeds and grass-like weeds is that the former has more of a flat shape while the latter resembles triangular, tubular shapes. Common examples include wild garlic, wild onion, and so on.

a clump of weeds being held up by a gloved hand

Classifying Weed Types On The Basis of Their Growth Period

With the basic weed types covered, let’s break them down in further detail by classifying them on the basis of the periods in which they grow. Knowing this is important since it gives you a sort of heads-up as to when you should start taking preventive measures against the weed types so they don’t even get a chance to grow, let alone infect your entire lawn.

1) Perennial Weeds

Common perennial weeds include the broadleaf type such as dandelions and clover, and also grassy weeds such as quackgrass. These are the most irritating and stubborn of all weeds as they grow throughout the year, which is why they are called perennial. 

They also have very deep roots which cannot be gotten rid of by merely hand-pulling them off the ground. You will have to dig deeper to reach the roots completely and pull them out.

Perennial weeds may seem like they’ve died away during the winter period, but that’s not so much the case as they simply enter what you may call a dormant period after which they start spreading again in spring.

Herbicides can also be used to get rid of perennial weeds, given the fact that they are difficult to overcome through manual means.

2) Annual Weeds

Annual weeds grow once in a year. How they basically work is that they spread their seeds at the time of the season they’re meant to grow, and then die. Therefore, working against annual weeds is easy, because you just have to use “pre-emergent herbicides” that prevent their seeds from spreading right from the very outset.

Common examples of annual weeds include chickweed, crabgrass, foxtails, and so on.

3) Biennial Weeds

Biennial weeds grow within a period of two years. In the first, they spread their roots, while in the second, they reach the soil’s surface and grow into visible broadleaf weeds such as the poison hemlock.

Working against biennial weeds involves a combination of both pre-emergent and post-emergent weed killers.

Have you noticed mushrooms on your lawn? Refer to our article How to Get Rid of Mushrooms on a Lawn.

How to Get Rid of a Lawn Full of Weeds: The Chemical Way

With the passage of time, more and more people are inclining towards the organic methods of garden care and maintenance, but chemical herbicides and weed killers still have their relevance and benefits. Let us break down their types, and the situations in which it is recommended to use them:

Types of Weed Killers: Pre-Emergent and Post-Emergent

Pre-emergent weed killers kill the weeds before they rise to the surface, basically preventing them from germinating right from the outset. On the other hand, post-emergent weed killers are used for weeds that have already come to the soil’s surface.

A combination of both pre-emergent and post-emergent weed killers, depending on the type of weeds being dealt with, is important. Oftentimes you might also end up missing spraying certain weeds as they’re spreading their roots and notice them only after they begin sprouting, requiring you to use a post-emergent herbicide.

If you want to both control and prevent weeds with a pre-emergent and a post-emergent weed killer, try using Scotts WeedEx Pre-Emergent Weed Control alongside the Ortho WeedClear Weed Killer for Lawns. The Ortho weed killer will get rid of any weeds growing on your lawn without harming the surrounding grass, and the pre-emergent weed control from Scotts will help to prevent the weeds from growing in the first place.

Thinking about using bleach to kill weeds? Read through our article Will Bleach Kill Grass to find out why this may not be the best method of weed control.

Is It Recommended to Use Herbicides?

Herbicides still have some relevance, but overall it’s not recommended to rely on them all the time since they contain chemicals that might seep into your lawn grass and the healthy plants that you don’t want to end up harming in the whole process of fighting against the weeds.

Herbicides also harm the environment and can cause allergic reactions to people or pets, which is a drawback to consider as well.

What about Natural Herbicides?

Organic herbicides do exist, which make use of chemicals that exist in nature instead of synthetic chemicals, but then just because a chemical exists naturally, it doesn’t mean it can’t harm your plants. It really comes down to the type of plants you’re dealing with, and how mindfully you’re using your herbicides.

When to Use Herbicides?

Now there are situations where going by the chemical method is actually just as good as the organic way (which we’ll discuss later), if not more, and also a bit faster. We can break those situations down in the following points:

1) If a weed is in an area isolated from desired plants and grass, it’s okay to kill them with herbicides. Make sure the herbicide you’re using is compatible with the type of weed. For example, a broadleaf-based herbicide will only work on broadleaf weeds.

2) Let’s say your entire lawn is filled with weeds, and you want an intensive repair. You can use herbicides that target different weed species at the same time, while also being mindful of the ingredients being used. Some herbicides contain chemicals that actually end up fertilizing the desirable grass and plants, so it’s a win-win situation.

3) Perennial weeds have extremely deep roots, so in some cases it’s best to target them with the chemical method to achieve a better result.

4) If weeds persist even after performing all the organic methods, you can use herbicides as the last resort.

Quick Tip: Make sure you read the instructions of the herbicide you’re using, as to know which types of weeds are they able to target, and also to know whether they’re usable only at certain times of the year. Different herbicides work differently, so make sure you don’t miss on first actually knowing the correct way to use them.

How to Get Rid of a Lawn Full of Weeds: The Organic Way

The chemical method might achieve instant results, but it won’t give you a healthy, sustainable lawn in the long run, which is why you should focus more on the organic ways to maintaining your lawn and keeping it free of weeds. You want to have that healthy, lush-green lawn all blooming with beautiful plants and flowers all year round. 

Let’s talk about some of the long-term solutions to keeping your lawn free of weeds:

1) Regular Mowing:

Regularly mowing your lawn and cutting the grass at the appropriate length will go a long way in preventing weeds from spreading. Weeds often occur in an environment wherein a lawn isn’t being maintained properly or regularly enough.

After you mow, make sure you rake in order to sweep away any thatches of the mowed-down weed.

close up of grass blades on lawn

2) Hand-pulling the weeds:

Especially in the case of isolated weeds with shallow roots, it’s alright to just hand-pull them out instead of using herbicides or other methods. This won’t work in the case of perennial weeds, though, as they have roots going very deep beneath the soil.

Once you’ve removed the weeds, you can leave them to dry under the sun and later use them as mulch, which brings us to our next point:

3) Covering the Soil with Mulch:

Especially on areas of the soil susceptible to weed growth, it’s a good and organic solution to cover them with mulch so the weed seeds don’t get enough sunlight to be able to germinate.

4) Using Landscape Fabric:

Weeds can usually form around the healthy, desirable plants that you don’t want to be spoiled. Apart from placing mulch around them, another option you can make use of is investing in landscape fabric, a textile material which basically inhibits weed roots from getting enough sunlight.

5) Using Natural, DIY Herbicides:

Vinegar is scientifically proven to be a natural weed-killer. It’s a popular DIY organic herbicidal choice in case you don’t wish to use a chemical herbicide.

To make a DIY vinegar-based herbicide, take a spray bottle, filling it with 10-20% acetic acid. Add a few drops of a liquid dishwasher into it, and you’re good to go.

Spray your vinegar herbicide directly on the areas where weeds have formed, killing the weeds effectively.

Alternatively, some people also use boiled water to essentially scald the weeds and prevent them from forming again.

6) Aeration of the Soil

Aerating the soil, using an aerating tool really helps in keeping your soil weed-free. Aerators basically creates holes down the soil so that water and fertilizing nutrients are able to go deep within the soil, making it healthy inside-out. Weed killers are much more effective after aerating your lawn.

7) Planting New Seeds

Once you’ve gotten rid of the weeds, it’s good to turn over a new leaf and plant new seeds in your lawn to give a redeemed look. Overseeding a weedy lawn can help prevent future weed growth.

In order to plant the new seeds correctly, follow the steps below:

1) Use a power rake to dethatch the lawn in order to provide a better surface for the new seeds to be planted upon.

2) Break the aerator plugs.

3) Remove debris from the soil. Once the soil is ready, use a broadcast spreader in order to spread the new seeds evenly over the soil. As for the quantity of the seeds, it’s best to go by 15 seeds per square inch.

4) As an additional measure to prevent any weeds from forming again, use a pre-emergent herbicide. This will ensure no weeds get a chance of spreading and sprouting to the surface of the soil again.

8) Watering the Lawn

Regularly water the soil to keep it adequately nourished. How often you should water your lawn depends on where you live, and the weather conditions there. It also comes down to the type of soil and plants in your lawn.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good practice to water your lawn at least once a week. We have provided some more detailed guidance on how to work out the best watering schedule for your lawn in our article Best Time to Water Grass & For How Long.

9) Fertilizing the Lawn

Fertilizers contain healthy nutrients essential to the soil such as potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. Phosphorus helps to prevent weed development, while potassium and nitrogen add to the overall longevity of your plants.

Over here, it’s also important to consider the best time of the year to fertilize your soil, which also depends on the type of the soil. For cool-season grasses, consider fertilizing during autumn and early spring. For warm-season grasses, fertilize between late spring and summer. See our article How to Fertilize for a thorough step-by-step guide on lawn fertilization.


Weeds can be a hassle to deal with, and especially if you have a lawn full of weeds, it can be a sad spectacle. But with regular effort, you can ensure your lawn gets the nourishment it needs to survive and turn into the lush-green lawn of your dreams that your neighbors will envy.

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