Asked on Jun 15, 2013

80% weeds in backyard, what to do???

Paris Jones
by Paris Jones
i would like to know what is the fastest approach to eliminate all these darn weeds in my backyard and start from scratch. only want green approaches, do not desire to spray a bunch of poisons on lawn. after that is done should i seed or lay sod down. i am in the sandhills area of north carolina, which has humid hot summers. im sure its to late to start any grass, but i definetly want to kill everything now, so i can start from
weeds, minimal grass
  26 answers
  • Ivylore Ivylore on Jun 15, 2013
    Hi Paris, I sympathize. I am redoing my entire backyard, which looks like about the size of yours. I covered all of my grass (and weeds) with newspaper, cardboard, and lawn refuse paper bags. This will kill all of the grass and weeds naturally. Over the paper, you top with soil, compost, etc. Then over that you top with mulch. You will then have the opportunity to start from scratch like I did. I started this whole process in April... you can check out the entire process and what my backyard is looking like now on my posts: "Transforming my backyard into a Secret Garden- Part 1 and Part 2" Best of luck! It is a lot of work, but I definitely think it is worth it to get the living space that you want!
  • Nancy Hand Nancy Hand on Jun 15, 2013
    It looks like you have a Oak in the back there. Oaks will drink up alot of water and give alot of shade. What kind of grass do you have growing? You might need a shade loving grass. You can spray a pre-emergent herbicide to keep the weeds from growing in the fall and spring. That will give your grass a chance to grow and thicken up. I know you didn't want to spray but it really works good. I do it twice a year. I have St. Augustine under pecan trees.
  • Paris Jones Paris Jones on Jun 15, 2013
    irma thanks so much for that information. i am currently doing this very thing around my swing area because i was going to lay pavers down around that area. i have posted on my page my backyard transformation which has been ongoing for the last 2yrs, going on three as i have always had the issue of help and money/budget. all my work i have done on my own so it seems like it is taking forever to get it finished, but my major headache is the weeds. this seems like a very doable thing. after i finish eliminating areas i should not have as much grass to deal with, but i definetly wil go this route. i think my yard is a little bigger than yours as that was only the back left corner in the picture. i am also from up north so i see your backyard is very similar to the one i had when i lived there, from chicago area. i tried to view your pics of rest of your garden, but still trying to navigate this site. i have also posted my transformation that is still taking place, but i am determined not to give up and this was a great idea. thanks nancy i have a host of trees in my backyard. the one in the rear of the picture is some type of evergreen that has grown within the last 8 years. it does not drop leaves in the fall and sheds some early spring. next to it is a juneberry bush that i kept cutting down, because i had no idea of what it was and the following year it would come back even stronger. well i left it alone and while in the yard one year discovered it had fruit that looks like a red blackberry. i believe my yard is past trying to maintain the weeds nancy, i need to start from scratch. i see that you are in the georgia area which is not too far from me so your grass choice would be a good option for me. i am looking into what type of grass to lay down...thanks ladies for the info!
  • Nancy Hand Nancy Hand on Jun 15, 2013
    Zoysia is a good turf grass.
  • Ivylore Ivylore on Jun 15, 2013
    Nancy- Is Zoysia a good grass for Michigan? I need to do something about my front lawn--- so many weeds, awful!
  • Nest Furnishings Nest Furnishings on Jun 15, 2013
    rent a tiller and turn it all up. throw out the old sod. add some good soil. sod. cheap. gorgeous. instant yard. they will help you determine which one is best foryour area
  • Nancy Hand Nancy Hand on Jun 16, 2013
    Irma, not real sure but I found this site that said its adaptable
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jun 16, 2013
    Irma's method is an excellent way to prepare areas for planting, whether that be for flowers or a new lawn. And Irma, Michigan State says Zoysia is not a good choice for your area:
  • Connie Barber Connie Barber on Jun 16, 2013
    We have had the same problem for years. we would re seed, water. This year I bought a soil testing kit. Our soil was deficient in nitrogen. we replaced nitrogen and wow. the grass has outgrown the weeds. now we are cutting grass twice a week. lol.
  • Linda Olivera Linda Olivera on Jun 16, 2013
    Where do I find a soil testing kit? Are they expensive? My backyard (which is large - too large to spread paper and cardboard) is mostly weeds and looks ok when owed, but otherwise is almost purely weeds. I do have an area in the front that I may try the paper/cardboard method on - it is small and I want to put down flagstone and add a bench and plants. In addition, I am on a ridge and it is always very windy - porch furniture blows from one end to the other, so cardboard would not last for long. And for the past 3 years that I have been here in east Texas, we are overrun with grasshoppers! I hate them.
  • Valerie Valerie on Jun 16, 2013
    I have just removed my entire lawn. What I did was to 'turn' the area with a fork, leave the exposed grass to dry out for a couple of days, and then remove the dried lawn. Once this was done, I went back over the area very carefully (by hand) and removed any remaining roots. I am not familiar with the types of lawn in your area, so cannot say whether this will work for you. It was a very tedious and pain-staking undertaking, but so far, approximately two months after having completed the job (and now in our rainy season) it seems to have worked. I personally have replaced my lawn with an indigenous ground cover, taken for cuttings elsewhere in the garden, and it seems to be 'taking' really well. I do like Irma's suggestion, however.
  • Jewell Jewell on Jun 16, 2013
    I too used the cardboard mulch method on a 30' x 150' area. It is too easy. Only hard part was getting enough cardboard. No weeds, and wish I'd found this method sooner.
  • You can take your soil sample to your local cooperative extension center. They often do soil tests for free or for a very minimal charge.
  • Paris Jones Paris Jones on Jun 16, 2013
    @Valerie yes any yard task that requires digging is pain-staking task, but ooohhh the rewards.:) i am trying not to get discouraged and to complete this monster of a yard. i love this forum because it gives you a wealth of information and ideas and shows me that i am not alone in this. i love the beauty that nature brings and i just want to be able to enjoy my backyard once again, weedless mind you......patience has been my master in all of this
  • The Blooming Gardener The Blooming Gardener on Jun 16, 2013
    The best way to control weeds is with heavy mulching. Cardboard is free and big pieces of it can cover big areas and be covered thinly to look nice, with free wood chips from a tree company. Free wood chips can be put down four to six inches deep and left there without cardboard and the majority of weeds will die. CAUTION:Two or three inches thinly applied mulch without cardboard will just keep enough moisture in and the weeds will grow better, (easier to pull though, and new weeds not to germinate)!!!!. Rototilling will be a fast way to clean up the problem for a few days but as soon as you water, all the new seeds will sprout and new weeds will totally cover the whole area. I have covered newly rototilled, graded smooth back yards with used rolls of decent OLD SCRAP carpet, green is good... and stopped weeds from growing completely, rolled it back up a year or whatever later and hauled it to the dump or wherever it was going to be, before I repurposed it, 5% Vinegar works excellent, but mainly on hot days, on shallow rooted weeds, on baby weeds and on weeds that have pretty soft leaves, and certain kinds more than others. I have had excellent results with a flame weeder, but only when there are no leaves or mulch, rubber or plastic tubing/pipe or oil aromatic plants near enough to be a danger. Pavement or bare soil with young soft weeds flame weed best. thre are several soap based products that work, and salt can work, but in my area we have enough of a sal;t problem, that it always causes problems in nearby areas we really only use it very very very carefully and as a very last resort. Mulching with cardboard, cardboard and deep deep woodchips works excellent here. There are at least ten other methods too that will get weedy yards in shape, this is the free, least real effort, most long term technique that ends up adding great organic matter to the area eventually too.
  • Ivylore Ivylore on Jun 16, 2013
    Jewell, I ran into the problem of not enough cardboard too. So what I did (and I wish I had done it right from the beginning!- much easier than cardboard OR newspaper) was I bought the brown paper bags for lawn refuse- they were much easier to use and each bag covered a much larger area- and, they were easier to dig through than the cardboard when I did get to the planting stage. Doug, Thanks for the info on the Zoysia grass.
  • Paris Jones Paris Jones on Jun 16, 2013
    thanks blooming gardener, i have several tried and true routes to go without adding a drop of poisons to my lawn. i was getting a lot of that advise from the stores to get roundup and as soon as i would go on my rant about how they are no good for the enviroment, i began my own quest. i will definetly be implementing some of these ideas and appreciate all of them! irma i am always game for a easier method...:)...where do you find the brown paper bags for lawn refuse?
  • Many folks have concerns about using products such as roundup and all. Most are unfounded rumors from the way chemicals were designed and applied years ago. Formulations have changed a lot in response to that. There are many great weed killing chemicals that are fine to use without any adverse effects. The method most landscapers use is to kill the old grass, then till the soil, rake out the dead clumps. Then add fresh topsoil and fertilizer that brings the ground up to a quality that will accept a good growing lawn. Then sod. While seeding works, you really never kill all the seeds from the past lawn that you removed. Sod creates a boundary layer because of its tight root system that makes it much harder for those seeds to develop and grow up through the new lawn. You can play with cardboard, and paper all day, but in the end you will find your lawn will become bumpy as the cardboard settles down between the existing clumps of growth that remain. It may be fine for a small garden with some shrubs, but an entire lawn, I would steer clear of this method of hiding and covering. The only other thing I would add, its the application or I should say the wrong application of the chemicals that causes the issues and makes things unsafe. Way to many people think if they are putting the stuff down that they are not adding enough to do the job, so they add more then directed. You must follow the directions correctly, while it may seem your not putting enough down at the time, it does the job with what applied. As a licensed pest applicator I can tell you that the EPA drives this point home when we test for our permits to apply pesticides. The stuff you purchase over the counter in many cases is the exact same product that we use, only it is packaged for the consumer to use. I fully understand your concern about poisoning the soils and if you have small children playing on the yard even more so, but the products produced today are designed to break down quickly so you can plant in just a week after application without any ill effects to the new plants.
  • Paris Jones Paris Jones on Jun 16, 2013
    @woodbridge enviromental thanks for that info. i want to lay sod, but still looking at what grasses are best for my area first.
  • The Blooming Gardener The Blooming Gardener on Jun 16, 2013
    I use seed for ANNUAL Ryegrass for a temporary lawn...(not cereal crop rye) and it sprouts in three days, you can grow it on cement practically, it is usually used in winter, but I have used it in hot summer weather with watering, kept it mowed and have at least a green lawn short term. The green blades and the roots are super easy to rototill in for the real grass later and it adds organic matter (green Manure) to the soil. Even if you rototill and don't amend or even cover with mulch, seeds of annual rye sprouts faster than most weeds and smothers them pretty well, especially if you mow the grass high, and that shades out many of the weed seedlings. Annual rye is super cheap too (Lolium multiflorum) not perennial rye (Lolium perenne) and the grass clippings make great mulch too, or added to brown compostables does a quick compost combo. It also helps get the seed for the permanant lawn to sprout faster and is termed a "nurse crop" for that purpose. I have put it on weed infested areas, not rototilled the dirt, in hot weather, watered it and had green mowable lawns in less than two weeks, that lasted for a several weeks, cost was about $10.00 for the big bag of seed.
  • Paris Jones Paris Jones on Jun 16, 2013
    luv all the info! before its all said and done i think i will have a lawn again!
  • Roxann Roxann on Jun 16, 2013
    Paris (and Nancy) you can spread an organic pre-emergent on your lawn twice a year. Corn gluten is non-toxic (even the dogs and kids could eat it) and it works great. I use Gardens Alive products and have the best looking yard in the area. On old lawns the results take time because your basically getting rid of the toxins and chemicals that are already there, but your starting from scratch so you'll see the results much faster. Good luck!!
  • Pamela Dyer Pamela Dyer on Jun 17, 2013
    1 gal canning vinegar,1 c. salt, 1 shot dish liq., hot water, mix in a sprayer and go to it. Should you get some on a plant that you don't want to kill just rinse it off with cool water!
  • Paris Jones Paris Jones on Jun 17, 2013
    roxann what is a pre-emergent?
  • Cynthia Cynthia on Jun 20, 2013
    You could use black plastic or newspaper to kill off areas alittle at a time. Weed killer of course will take it all away fast. After they plants are killed off, lay 1/4 inch of peat and reseed. Water daily for 2 weeks, you can skip any day it rains. Fertilize with 38-0-0 and watch it grow like crazy. I know the fertilizer is not green, but farmers use it and we did too to fill in a bare lawn for selling our home. Atleast as you kill off the plants, weeds you can find areas to fill with good soil (peat, compost, topsoil and vermiculite and create garden areas as you go. If you don't care and just want a green lawn, top dress with peat and reseed. It will blend with weeds and you just keep them level. LOL!
  • Debbie Miller Debbie Miller on May 13, 2015
    I'm a naturalist and always looking for Natural and home remedies for everything. I read an article about mixing 'Granulated Sugar and Epsom Salt', sprinkle it over your lawn and it is supposed to eliminate the weeds and make your grass green and healthy. Yes, my first thought was "I'll just have a yardful of ants!" but it said when you sprinkle it down with water or do it just before an expected rain there will be very few ants. Supposed to be great for Roses, Flowers and some Vegetation also....I plan to try it right away. Here is a Link (not the same one, but it's great!) Go to "Gardening Secrets"...