Weeds and Pests

(Question)

Hello, I am writing from Ottawa (zone 5). We bought our home last fall and found this summer that both the front and back yards had been severely neglected for many years (the previous owners were an elderly couple who I don’t think were able to keep up with the large lot size (100′ x 150′). There is barely any grass, mostly dandelions, creeping charlie, ground spurge, wood sorrel (to name just a few), and because the quality of soil is now so poor (dry, clay), there are plenty of pests too (ants galore, Japanese beetles, grubs, squash bugs etc). This summer we tried to control as much as possible but it is a huge uphill task. Is this yard salvageable? Is there an order we should focus on? Any products that can help? I am getting to the point where I just want to do an (illegal) controlled burn of the whole thing! Many thanks!

(Answer)

I can understand how frustrating it must be to have such a huge property and have it covered in weeds.  But not all is lost although it will take a bit of work.

I gather you have pulled out as many weeds as you could.  The soil is likely compacted so you could have it aerated by a lawn company. You could also rent an aerator and do it yourself but keep in mind that aerators are very heavy.

Add large quantities of compost to your lawn, 3- 4 inches at least and let the worms do their job of loosening the soil and transporting the compost into the original soil. They will do this during the fall.  In the spring you could either reseed the areas or put down sod.

The best defence against weeds in a lawn is having thick grass. Remember to water your lawn deeply once a week during dry spells once it has been established.

A more organic way to go about killing the weeds in your lawn is to employ a method called solarization. You may wish to refer to two of our earlier posts which give detailed information on this technique and a link to a website on how to treat your weeds organically.:

https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/old-sod/

https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/i-have-the-worst-weeds-ever/

You may want to enlist some strong workers to help you spread the compost.

Good luck!