New house bad lawn

Tony Bartolucci
15 days ago

Just moved into a new house. It’s mostly weeds and crabgrass… What are the recommendations for next steps? I assume a pre-emergent herbicide/weed and feed? And then that’s pretty much it till fall when we can air-rate

Comments (22)

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    First things first. Where are you located?

    But yes, pre-emergent for most areas of the US is called for as soon as the forsythia blossom.

    Herbicides--probably something like Weed B Gon Plus Chickweed, Clover and Oxalis, look like they're going to be necessary.

    A good soil test (I suggest Logan Labs) would be a good idea to start. We can find out what, if anything, is wrong with your soil and work with it this year. It's pretty cheap and we can prioritize any issues so that the worst ones get worked on first. I've been a new homeowner, so I understand that budgets can be a little bit tight!

    And then you can be ready to seed this fall. Fortunately, aeration shouldn't be necessary--it really never is, except under extraordinary circumstances like having heavy equipment driven over your soil. Which, if yours was new construction, might have been the case, actually!

  • Tony Bartolucci

    Thanks! I’m in southern NJ - I’ll work on the soil test. Any recommendations on pre-emergent?

    Also what’s the forsythia? Lol and has it bloomed??

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  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    There are as many that will advocate aeration, particularly core aeration, as those that say it is not necessary. It may be particularly applicable with a new build but is also common with well established lawns. Any kind of repeated foot traffic on the lawn - raking leaves, kids playing, dogs romping, mowers and wheelbarrows being pushed, etc. - can lead to compaction over time, as does rainfall, snow accumulation and irrigation.

    Determine what will work best for your conditions.

    ps. forsythia is a very early blooming deciduous shrub with bright yellow flowers that appear before the leaves. Depending on location, it will be in bloom anywhere from mid-February to early April. It is in full bloom now in my area.

  • simpjr1020

    It's in bloom near Philly, PA too.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    Yep, yellow shrub, tangly, the first thing to bloom in most areas.

    You can encourage your natural soil to aerate itself pretty easily by feeding organically, which will cause your natural worm populations to propagate and do it for you. Not to mention the natural lungs of the soil--your fungi and bacterial populations--to take over and do the job. I'm not even going to argue the above. QED.

    The forsythia (a tangly, yellow-blooming shrub, pretty much the first thing to blossom in the spring that's larger than a crocus or smaller plant) should just about be ready in your area!

    If you wanted to apply any given pre-emergent right about now, you wouldn't be wrong with the weather we're (I'm in eastern central Pennsylvania, but in the general greater area) having. Mine aren't quite blossoming yet, but I'm seeing greening tips and the buds are very swollen. Even if I applied mine right now, I wouldn't be too far off!

    You can choose anything you like off the shelf, but I'd advise something that does not include a feeding. It's too early to boost the lawn just yet--that shouldn't be done until May--as it will cost you performance over the summer and very likely damage a new lawn. Feeding now taps the roots of carbohydrates, forces spring growth (which is fast and strong anyway), and tends to lead to summer damage when it's supposed to be trying to withstand the drier, hotter conditions.

    Choose something like Dimension or Prodiamine without feeding, or the like.

    Since it looks like you're going to require reseeding in fall, check the bag carefully, and apply amounts of pre-emergent that will run out before you need to seed.

    And you're going to want to seed, in southern NJ, around August 15th.

    Yes, August 15th. Earlier than you might expect. Just as summer starts coming to an end, and I'm counting on you not quite making that date. :-) It's warm, so the seed germinates easily, nights are cooling down, and the grass starts to sprout right about the end of August. It has all of September to grow, October to set in, and November to harden off for winter.

    Most people start far too late.

  • kitasei

    Before you jump to take the chemical warfare route, please at least educate yourself about the organic approach.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    Kitasei, please feel free to elaborate here as a learning experience. Because I'd also like to get away from constant Prodiamine apps in fall to reduce P. annua and P. trivialis incursions.

    I've balanced my soil's resources via Logan Labs tests and applications of the correct elements to keep the soil at proper Ca, Mg, K, and so on balances. The lawn and gardens look great.

    I've managed to reduce WBG apps to zero by encouraging the lawn to thick and lush and to abolishing its own weeds by organic feeding at the correct times.

    Arguments that this does not work to the contrary, and poo on the one who sarcastically told me it doesn't work. :-) A lawn at maximum health does not allow incursions easily. Obviously.

    As well as reduced fungicide applications to zero with judicious applications of corn meal early in the season before any problem begins.

    Arguments that this does not work to the contrary--and I call foul on those by simple observation and poo on the lack of formal testing. :-)

  • Tony Bartolucci

    I kinda feel like I should be planting some grass seed? otherwise, what am I growing all spring/summer? Weeds and dirt?

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Tony listen to morph. His climate in the Philly area is much more like yours than most anyone else here. You can go ahead and seed now, but you will be frustrated with the outcome and expense. Why? Because NOW is the time when the summer annual weeds are germinating. You cannot use a preemergent weed killer and seed new grass at the same time. If you pick seeding, then you will have both new grass and summer annual weeds. Crabgrass is the big one you'll see. The roots on the new grass will not make it through the summer heat without a Herculean effort in watering. Crabgrass loves frequent watering, too, so what often happens is you seed in the spring, and by July the heat loving crabgrass has completely filled in. Completely.

    Your assumptions in your first post about how to care for the lawn leads me to think you're new at this. You vastly oversimplified, suggested two mistakes, and missed the two most important points. Weed and feed is a mistake especially for beginners. Applying wnf is hard to do properly, so it almost always is unsatisfactory in both weeding and feeding. As morph mentioned, core aeration is likely unneeded, too. Almost everyone thinks their soil is compacted and almost everyone is wrong about it. I had to convince my wife to hold the course when we moved here in 2014. I ended up digging all the holes for shrubs because her weight was not enough to penetrate the soil with a sharpened shovel. Today the soil is incredible. All I did was water properly and fertilize with organics.

    The two important points you missed were watering and mowing. Since you didn't quite get the fertilizer part right, I'll go over that, too.

    Watering - Use this as a guide, not the gospel: Deep and infrequent is the mantra for watering. Deep means 1 inch all at one time. Measure 1 inch by placing cat food or tuna cans around the yard and turning on the sprinklers. Time how long it takes to fill all the cans. That is your watering time from NOW ON. My oscillating sprinkler on full sweep takes 8 hours with my hose and water pressure. An old neighbor had a high flow in-ground system that filled his cans in 20 minutes. Yours will likely be in between those. So far this has been more toward gospel than guide. Watering frequency is the second part to watering. This part is more guide than gospel. I should add that I developed this guidance based on conversations (heated) with a lawn care professional in Phoenix. After a few weeks he finally convinced me that watering frequency needed to be extended. There are many factors bearing on frequency, but the main driver is air temperature. Water more frequently when it gets hot. Generally when the temp is below 70 degrees F, deep water no more than once a month. With temps between 70 and 80, water once every 3 weeks. With temps between 80 and 90, water once every 2 weeks. With temps from 90 to 100, water once per week. With temps from 100 to 105, water once every 5 days. With temps from 105 to 110, water once every 4 days. NOTE: you NEVER water a mature yard every day. This general guidance has been around since at least the 1950s and people have ignored it just as long. Now if you have higher humidity or frequent rain, then stretch out the watering frequency. Last year in my part of Texas, because of well timed rain, I watered my lawn only 4 times in the back (full sun facing south) and 3 in the front (north side and some shade trees).

    Mowing: Mow your lawn at the mower's highest setting for most grasses. Weeds hate this, because the taller grass puts more shade on the soil making it harder for the seeds to germinate and take root. When you get ready to seed a northern type grass (fescue, rye, and/or Kentucky bluegrass), then mow shorter to allow the grass seed to see the sun. In your location you will likely be fighting bermuda grass. If that becomes a problem for you, please start another topic about that. You will either have to give in or prepare for war.

    Fertilizing: The sellers likely did not fertilize properly at the end of last season. With that in mind, I would not be opposed to applying an organic fertilizer relatively lightly in the next week or so. I use alfalfa pellets at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. For you maybe 10 pounds per 1,000 would be fine. 10 pounds will seem like absolutely nothing when you put it down. If you overdo, no problem. But generally the first fertilizer application should be in late May. Whether you apply fertilizer now or wait until May, do it in late May. Memorial Day is a good date to remember. I realize you are anxious to do something now, but you honestly don't need to do much...except for that preemergent thing. If you see a lawn care commercial on TV, mute the TV. Those things are poison to the brain and lead to you making mistakes causing you to buy more products than you need.

    Herbicide: In mid April you can spray with the WbG product that morph mentioned. Spot spray the weeds only and ignore the grass without weeds. WbG is a leaf mist type product, not a soil drench. It only takes a few minutes to do a whole yard. Then it take 3 weeks to see 90% weed kill, so again, patience. If you still have a weed problem in September, you can spray again. Although you'll be in a reseed about then, so different rules apply.

    Insecticide: Likely not needed. If you need it, you will see the damage in August or September. Preventive apps of insecticide are not needed.

    Fungicide: Preventive apps of fungicide do much more harm than good. The most beneficial microbes in your soil are fungi. Don't go killing them off because you think you might have a problem. If you're doing the watering correctly, you probably won't have a disease problem.

    Dethatching and core aeration: Not needed if you're watering, mowing, and fertilizing right.

    All this list is in order of importance. If you're watering wrong, all bets are off.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Also if you are on the fence about organic fertilizers and their effectiveness, here's a picture I've been using for 9 years now.

    Thanks for mrmumbles for posting in June 2011. It shows a spot in his zoysia lawn where he tossed a handful of alfalfa pellets. He put them down in mid May and took the picture in mid June. Yes, it takes about that long to show the results. Clearly the grass is more dense, taller, and has better color than the unfertilized grass.

    And if you are on the fence about deep and infrequent watering, here's a picture posted by morpheuspa in 2010.

    His lawn was watered deeply and infrequently while all the rest of the lawns were watered lightly every day.

  • Tony Bartolucci

    Thank you for the detailed posts! - your assuming all three acres have an irrigation system. I got something of a system but I haven’t turned it on yet so IDK where it is and where it isn’t!

    Also with 3 acres that seems like a lot of pre-emergent bags! Maybe I should hire a company specifically for the pre-emergent??

  • Tony Bartolucci

    oh also where do I get decent Prodiamine from!!

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    eBay or Amazon is the easiest, but if you're going to be seeding this fall, Dimension from your local Big Box store is probably going to be better for you.

    Prodiamine can be metered out at 3 month levels, but it's easy to make a mistake, too. I intentionally apply the stuff at 9 to 10 month amounts so I only have to do it once.

    In your case, that would mean you couldn't seed in fall. And yeah, it really would keep you from seeding; 90% of planted seed (or more) will fail if you use Prodiamine.

    (Sorry about the speedy reply, but as of 5 PM yesterday, this State is Closed for Business. I'm home for at least two weeks and don't have the kind of job that can realistically be done from home.

    So they pay me for sitting here, painting, making soap, and otherwise watching YouTube).

  • dchall_san_antonio

    I missed where you said you had 3 acres. In that case you should consider chopping that up into manageable plots. Here are some ideas.

    accent lighting in trees

    arbors (for vines)


    beds (perennials, annuals, bulbs, herbs, ferns, roses, hostas, container plants, rock, and fruits).

    bee keeping


    butterfly garden


    decorative gates (may be free standing)

    dog run or kennel

    edibles (veggies)

    fences (accent)

    fences (privacy)


    fragrance garden



    ground covers


    herb garden

    hot tubs

    hummingbird garden

    Japanese garden

    jogging track

    moon garden (plants and lights for night time viewing)


    ornamental grass garden

    other groundcovers

    out buildings (like sheds)

    outdoor theater

    overhead sunshades

    parcours (exercise stations)

    parking area

    party room (free standing for games, theater, pool table, etc.)


    picnic or barbecue area

    play yard for children

    ponds or garden pools


    potting bench or shed

    putting green

    rock garden

    rolling hills

    rose garden

    screened rooms (free standing)

    screens (foliage hedges or growing on a wire mesh)

    sitting or reading area

    sports courts



    storage buildings

    sun room (free standing)

    swimming pools

    tool shed


    trees (shade)

    trees (accent or decorative)

    tulip garden

    vining plant garden

    walkway (formal paved)

    walkway (informal path)

    walls (retaining)

    walls (accent or decorative)


    Zen garden

  • Tony Bartolucci

    Is this a good one?

    Your friend has shared a link to a Home Depot product they think you would be interested in seeing.

    50 lb. 19-0-7 Dimension Crabgrass Preventer

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    It contains far too much nitrogen to use early in the season. If it were your only choice, you could because you'd have no other choices but...

    I came up with Scotts Halts, Spectracide Weed Stop Plus Crabgrass Preventer (which will kill existing plus prevent--I'm not completely thrilled with this one, but...), Green Light Amaze, and a ton of others.

    Don't be married to Dimension just because I said so. :-)

  • Tony Bartolucci

    Ok so I put down Scott’s weedEx with halts on March 20th - Heres the pics from today I swear it’s done nothing :(

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    Oh, it did. However, all that was sprouted earlier than the 20th. I'm visually impaired so can't read species from the photos, so what's there could be a lot of perennial stuff, too.

    Pre-emergents only work on things that sprout after the pre-em layer establishes. Alas.

    It's not uncommon that a "deck clearing" would be necessary and, in your case, that certainly seems needed.

    While, again, I can't read the species, others probably can. Off the cuff, it looks like Weed B Gon Chickweed, Oxalis, and so on is the one to choose, but...

  • Tony Bartolucci

    Deck clearing! Lol like everything? Ground clear?

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    Just the weeds! The Weed B Gon won't touch the grass!

  • Tony Bartolucci

    Can I put that on NOW ? Even though I just but the weedx down?

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)

    Yes. The pre-emergent will suppress out new weeds. Weed killer will kill the existing ones and keep them from dropping new seed. They don't interact and unless you choose two that are specifically contraindicated (WBG doesn't interact with Halts), it's not a problem.

    You can reapply both by whatever the limitations are on the bottle and bag, but pay attention if you want to reseed in fall that you mind whatever the bottle/bag have to say about that as well. You can't apply either too close to a seeding without destroying the new sprouts.

    There are a couple of pre-emergents that can be used at the time of new seeding that won't suppress out new grass seed--but do kill many new weed seeds.

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