Many lawns suffer from extensive weed problems. Proper identification is the first step in determining how to handle the problem and properly eradicate the weed. There are several common lawn weeds in the mid-Atlantic region, including bull thistle and dandelions. Homeowners and landscapers should know the characteristics of the typical weeds for their region in order to help prevent them and keep a lawn healthy and looking its best.
Bull thistle is a biennial lawn weed that thrives during the summer months. The sharp leaves form a rosette shape with pointed tips and jagged edges. During the first year, bull thistle has a shallow tap root system but develops a tougher root system in the second year. Pink or purple flowers also appear on the stems during the second year from early summer until mid-fall. Remove bull thistle before flowering to avoid further germination. Bull thistle is best removed in early spring by cutting beneath the head. After the flowers have developed, bull thistle is more effectively removed with a herbicide.
Dandelions are extremely common lawn weeds known for their bright yellow flowers present from early spring until fall. As a perennial, dandelions can present a major problem to lawns if not effectively treated. Dandelions have a fleshy taproot system. The stems are short and mostly underground with simple leaves 3 to 10 inches long appearing on the surface. The bright, yellow flowers are ray shaped and appear on the end of a hollow stalk. Dandelions spread by seed throughout the flowering season. They can be removed with herbicides in early fall if necessary. Maintaining a dense lawn is the best way to help prevent dandelions.
Ground ivy is a lawn weed commonly found in lawns with abundant shade and inadequate soil drainage. As a perennial lawn weed, ground ivy can be a persistent problem in some lawns if not properly treated. Ground ivy has creeping stems with round or kidney-shaped leaves. When mowed over, a mint-like scent is emitted. The stems are square and trailing with occasional short, pointed hairs. Ground ivy produces tiny purple-blue flowers that form in groups of three. It is often confused with common mallow or purple deadnettle because of their similar appearance. Ground ivy spreads by a creeping stem rather than individual seedlings. If caught early, it may be removed by pulling it out. A herbicide applied during a dry period in fall is also effective at removing ground ivy from lawns. Regular mowing and reduction of shade can help prevent the weed from growing and taking over lawns.