Although the little white flowers are pretty to some, common chickweed can be a huge nuisance for the lawn and garden enthusiast. Common chickweed (Stellaria media) is an annual lawn weed that can be found throughout many areas of the United States. This weed is bright green and has oval-shaped leaves that end in a slight point. It can easily be identified with its small white flowers that are star-shaped and have petals with splits halfway down their lengths. Chickweed’s growing habit is very close to the ground and typically spreads laterally to form a mat along the ground, often in areas of the lawn where the grass is thin.
The seeds from this plant begin germinating in the fall; however, it is often not a noticeable problem until the spring when it starts growing quickly. Below are a few tried and true ways to remove chickweed for good from your lawn and garden.
Chickweed Non-Chemical Control
Luckily, chickweed has a shallow rooting system so there are many cultural controls that can be used to remove it from your lawn. Chickweed, like many other weeds, does well in areas that are over irrigated or have poor drainage. Developing a good irrigation schedule that uses deep, infrequent irrigation can help to keep moist areas from developing. A good way of monitoring proper irrigation practices is to conduct an irrigation audit. An irrigation audit will inform you of how much water the different zones of your lawn are receiving during a given amount of time. This way you can adjust your irrigation practices and ensure a proper irrigation schedule. It’s also cheap and will probably help you save money on water bills.
Chickweed seed also develops well in thatchy areas, so removing thatch from your lawn can help to limit its potential growth. Due to its shallow rooting system, this weed can be pulled by hand or removed carefully with a hoe. It may require multiple attempts to irradiate fully with hand-pulling alone, but if the area is small and you are persistent, this method can be effective. As with other common lawn weeds, your best defense is to maintain a healthy, thick lawn so that the weeds do not have the ability to compete.
One of the best ways to maintain a thick, healthy lawn is to fertilize the lawn with the nutrients it needs. Here are some of our favorite fertilizers. You can learn more about them at Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
Chickweed Chemical Control
If your chickweed problem is large and cultural controls alone are not enough to stop it, there are many chemical options that can be used. Since chickweed begins germinating in the fall, a good chemical strategy is to use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent the weed from germinating. The difference between a pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide is that a pre-emergent herbicide should be applied before a weed grows while a post-emergent herbicide should be applied if you already have weeds in your lawn. In other words, pre-emergents prevent future weeds and post-emergents control current weeds. Pre-emergents are typically applied in the spring and in the fall.
One pre-emergent option that can be applied in the fall to successfully halt chickweed growth is Dimension by Dow AgroSciences (active ingredient: Dithiopyr). This product is mixed into a spray tank for easy application across a specific area or an entire lawn and can provide season long control of weeds. A few other effective pre-emergents for chickweed are Prodiamine 65 WDG and Crabgrass Control Plus 0-0-7 with 0.37% Prodiamine. When applied at the correct time, in the early fall before chickweed seeds begin to germinate, these products can be very effective at preventing a chickweed infestation.
Two post-emergent spot sprays that can control chickweed are SpeedZone Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf (active ingredients: 2,4-D, 2-ethylhexyl ester, Carfentrazone-ethyl, Dicamba and Mecoprop-p) and SpeedZone Southern Broadleaf Herbicide for Turf (active ingredients: 2,4-D, 2-Ethylhexyl ester, Dichlorprop-p, 2-Ethylhexyl ester, Dicamba, acid and Carfentrazone-ethyl). Both products require tank mixing in a spray applicator. These products will work best if applied while weeds are small and actively growing.
A final herbicide that can control chickweed is CrossBow Specialty Herbicide (active ingredients: 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, butoxyethyl ester and Triclopyr). This post-emergent can be mixed and used for spot spraying problem areas, or to cover an entire lawn.
Since chickweed has a shallower rooting system, cultural controls like hand-pulling may be enough to stop this weed from becoming a major problem in your lawn. However, if chemical controls are needed, it is essential to apply products that are compatible with your lawn and that will be effective against the weeds you want to control. Reading and following the label carefully will ensure your safety and the health of your lawn.