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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Why using "weed 'n feed" on your lawn is a dangerous, outdated, wasteful habit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 brand names.

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

The two 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 trees.

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 is compromised.

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 effective alternatives.

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 in Denton.


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