Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Why using "weed 'n feed" on your lawn is a dangerous, outdated, wasteful habit
“Weed ‘n feed” is a two-in-one weed killing and fertilizer
product which claims to kill weeds and fertilize the grass in a single
application. It’s often used purely out
of habit, its overpromising ads having been disproven years ago. It's still marketed under varying
The dream of accomplishing two tasks in one action have made
weed ‘n feed one of the most frequently used lawn products. But any short-term
effectiveness is gained at the expense of long-term lawn and soil health. Weed n feed actually weakens your lawn—causing
the kind of fast, weak, unnatural growth that’s susceptible to pests and
disease. Why is it bad?:
1.It doesn’t work as advertised
ingredients in weed ‘n feed products simply aren’t meant to be applied at the
same time. The pre-emergent part of it should be applied about 2 months earlier
than the soluble fertilizer part of “weed n feed”. If not, the pre-emgent
weed killer is just a big waste of your time and money.
2. Excessive use
of weed killers is wasteful and dangerous.
Granular “weed and feed” products are applied to the entire
lawn, not merely to areas of weeds, which results in herbicides being applied
where they are not needed. One
ingredient is meant to be applied to the entire lawn, and the other one is intended for
problem spots. In most lawns, broadleaf weeds like dandelions usually occupy
less than five or 10 per cent of the area.
Most contain 20 to 30 percent more weed killer than is really
needed – too much fertilizer too. When we give lawns more food than they need,
the excess fertilizer ends up polluting groundwater because plants simply can’t
absorb it all.
3. They can kill your
Quick-release fertilizers, commonly used in most weed ‘n feed
products, apply a quick and heavy dose of nutrients to the lawn, and are likely
to wash off. It,' meant to attack broadleaf weeds. But another main ingredient in “weed and feed” – atrazine, should
never be used on 99% of residential sites, and many commercial sites. Simply
said, atrazine kills trees in addition to broadleaf weeds. And tree roots
cover the entirety of most residential lots.
For this reason alone I do not recommend Scotts Bonus S, Vigoro, Sam’s
Club weed n feed and a few others. Studies have also linked weed n feed's pesticides
to massive bird deaths.
4. Long-term lawn health
Once you begin a program of using synthetic fertilizers, your
lawn becomes dependent on these chemicals to ensure a weed-free look
year after year. However, over-fertilizing with synthetic chemicals disinfects
or kills most of the beneficial fungi and organisms in soil. This makes it more
difficult to build a naturally healthy lawn which contains beneficial organisms. The result is something like cocaine. Eventually you're "hooked" on weed n feed until the inevitable point when your lawn becomes a wasteland and nothing will grow.
5. There are safer, more
Inundating you lawn with synthetic chemicals may do harm to other
living things that frequent your yard. Pets, wildlife such as birds, even small children may be
harmed. The good news is that you can have a beautiful, healthy lawn without
using blanket applications of synthetic lawn chemicals.
Consumers should also realize that weed ‘n feed products do not
prevent new weeds from growing. You can prevent new weeds from germinating by
applying a pre-emergent herbicide during that first warm spell in spring and in
the early fall. One of the best pre-emergents is corn gluten meal, a completely
natural substance that also provides the benefits of fertilizing. Corn gluten
meal is an organic alternative to weed ‘n feed.
In short, if you bought weed 'n feed, and haven’t put it on your
lawn yet, take it back.
As you may know, I don’t accept paid advertising
of any sort on this blog. This allows me to speak honestly and (hopefully)
creates a sense of trust among readers. Sure, I miss the income, but honesty
and trust in what I write is far more important.
Most of the “reader” comments on my blog are
useful and on-topic. A few recent ones, however, seem to be self-serving
advertising and have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Are they an
unethical attempt to sneak unpaid ads onto my readers’ computer screens?
So let me clarify: I do not accept any sort
of advertising on this blog. Occasionally I’ll mention a specific product by
name, but only after I’ve successfully tried it myself. Even then there’s
always the chance I won’t like the product – and I may say so in this blog. And
I will continue to freely publish readers’ tips, hints, anecdotes, suggestions
and bird sightings.
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is
a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas
for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the
Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of
Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects,
National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.