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When and How to Apply Weed & Feed

When and How to Apply Weed & Feed

by Ethan Hagan (email Ethan) | | February 23, 2011 | 56 Comments »

Weed & feed is the generic name for a broad range of lawn chemical products designed to strengthen existing grass and kill off certain weeds in a single application.  It generally improves your lawn’s ability to absorb water and food, and adds necessary nutrients which promote healthy growth. A healthy lawn, in turn, discourages weed propagation, enabling the use of a reduced amount of the product over time.

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The “weed” portion of weed and feed is one of a variety of broad leaf-targeted herbicides (usually Dicamba2,4-D, and/or MCPP) that attacks dandelions, dollarweed, and most other green leafy weeds. Not to be confused with pre-emergent, the chemical is usually sold in granules that are applied to and subsequently absorbed by the leaves of the weed. The granules will not sit on grass blades, which is why weed and feed generally doesn’t kill regular grass unless it is incorrectly applied (over-saturating, especially, can cause grass death). There are also liquid forms of weed and feed that are generally applied with a foaming sprayer. The same concept applies for the foams: they sit on and are absorbed by large weeds, while they run off of grasses.

The “feed” portion of weed & feed is a fertilizer that contains some combination of nitrogen, phosphorous, and/or potassium to green up your lawn. The exact blend of fertilizer ingredients varies by brand, but all products will contain some percentage of nitrogen. Some products also include additional benefits, such as timed-released nitrogen for extended feeding.

When to Apply Weed & Feed

Dandelions It’s important to apply weed & feed when weeds are actively growing. Applying weed & feed during the winter will have absolutely no effect on the lawn in the following spring and summer. You should spread weed & feed on damp/wet grass (use a sprinkler or apply just after rain) so that the granules stick better to the leafy portions of the weeds.

You should also pick a time when no additional rain is expected for two days, and you should avoid watering your lawn over this period. This allows time for the herbicide to absorb into the leaves. If it does rain or the lawn gets drenched, it will wash the granules off the leaves. In this case, however, you cannot re-apply the chemical immediately because you will over-feed the lawn and potentially cause a chemical scorch.

How to Spread Weed & Feed

There are a few important details to remember when spreading weed & feed. Keep all of these in mind when planning the job to achieve the best results. Note that these tips are not intended to replace manufacturers instructions, though you will find most manufacturers will recommend some variation of these tips.

  • Make sure your lawn is a normal height (not too tall, not too short) – approximately 3-5 inches is good.
  • Wait 2-4 days after mowing before applying. This protects your grass and helps ensure the weeds are actively growing. It also allows some of the leaves on the weeds to grow that may have been cut during mowing.
  • Don’t water the lawn for two-four days after application.  (Which means you shouldn’t apply the granules during a dry / hot spell). This is another important difference between broadleaf weed control and applying crabgrass preventer.
  • Be careful not to apply too much product as this will scorch your lawn. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Scorching occurs when you over-saturate the soil with the feeding chemical.
  • Only apply weed & feed twice per year. Over-application can result in run off that is harmful to the local environment, such as nearby rivers, bays, or lakes/ponds. The feed portion of the chemical is actually more dangerous in these areas as it can encourage algae blooms which choke out fish and native plants.
  • Be sure to spread the herbicide uniformly across the lawn for best results. You may choose to use a broadcast spreader and make two passes at half-application strength, rather than trying to spread at full strength in the first pass.
  • Avoid spreading granules onto flowers, vegetables, and ornamental shrubbery. It will kill most broad leaf plants, regardless of whether you consider them weeds. If you must spread near a garden, either use a drop spreader or consider laying plastic temporarily over the area near where you will be spreading.

Planting Grass or Aerating after Weed & Feed

Weed & Feed prevents seed germination, so you should avoid planting new grass or aerating your lawn for at least four weeks. We recommend waiting longer, though. If you weed & feed in the spring and summer, spread grass seed and aerate in the fall each year.

Reasons Weed & Feed Didn’t Work

Here are some common reasons that weed & feed was ineffective:

  • Weed & feed targets broadleaf weeds like dandelions, and dollarweeds. It does nothing for crabgrass and other grassy weeds. For these, you should use a crabgrass preventer in early spring. Make sure your weeds are on the list that the chemical targets.
  • Mature weeds are not actively growing, so the product wasn’t as effective. Weed & feed should be applied early in the growing season and a couple days after mowing.
  • Rain and sprinklers can wash away the granules. Make sure there is no rain in the forecast and avoid watering for two days after applying.

What if You Apply Too Much Weed & Feed?

The best way to avoid damaging your lawn is the flush out the weed & feed. Water your lawn with 1 to 2 inches of water for about 4 days. Don’t apply any other weed & feed until the following year.

Unfortunately, over watering like this can create run-off in certain drainage situations, so try to avoid the situation in the first place.

Safety Considerations & Pets

Like every lawn chemical, standard precautions should be followed before applying weed and feed or any herbicide to your lawn. These safety instructions are NO substitute for manufacturers guidelines. Be sure to read the safety instructions on the bag and follow them.

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves and gloves during application. Herbicides like Dicamba, 2,4-D, and MCPP can cause serious skin irritation.
  • Avoid contact with eyes. If you get the dust of the product in your eyes, flush them for 15 minutes with water.
  • Never ingest the product, leave the product where a child could ingest it, or leave it open for pets. Weed and feed chemicals can be harmful or fatal if swallowed. If swallowed, you should call 911 or a poison control center immediately.
  • Keep pets and children off the lawn until after the first drenching rain after application. Visually inspect the lawn to ensure the granules are completely dissolved.

Professional Lawn Service

Professional lawn care services will provide experienced and knowledgeable staff that will manage every aspect of your lawn. They will address pH imbalances, conduct soil test, proper watering and spur new grass growth. You can find a local expert through services like ServiceMagic, or you could contact TruGreen or another service near you.

What do you think? Do you put down weed & feed?

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Conversation on This Article

56 Responses to When and How to Apply Weed & Feed

  • jimroberts responds...
    April 1st, 2010 10:57 am

    how do you rate scotts 4 step program

    jimr

    [Reply]

  • Mark responds...
    February 4th, 2011 5:10 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I always thought I had to water the lawn as soon as I was done applying the weed and feed.

    [Reply]

    Denise Reply:

    Yeah, that us what my neighbor thought, too, who has been doing mine a and never killing any weeds. I did it once, the right way, and the died out so well that I was able to take a heavy metal take and take out huge chunks of dead weeds. It looked good sheng the lawn filled in, but then gets windy in Sacramento and back come the dandy lions. He is very nice to help me as I just had surgery, but he mowed, put out the weed and feed and stuck the sprinkler on. It won’t kill the weeds and hopefully it will feed something! I ALWAYS READ directions, even if I think I know.

    [Reply]

  • laurenjanelle responds...
    February 25th, 2011 10:08 pm

    I didn’t realize that mature weeds aren’t effected by weed killer. That’s good to know.

    [Reply]

  • Joyce Mehrens responds...
    March 20th, 2011 11:25 am

    Is it too late to use weed and feed? How can I kill grassburrs?

    [Reply]

  • Ethan responds...
    March 22nd, 2011 10:27 am

    Hi Joyce,

    Weed & Feed will target specific broadlead weeds and should be applied during the active growing cycle. Check the bag to see what weeds it will target.

    Grassburrs are a grassy weed (not broadleaf) and you should apply pre-emergent to help get rid of them. Put down pre-emergent when the soil temp reaches about 50 degress. There are post-emergent herbicides (MSMA or DSMA) and these work best on immature grassburr plants.

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

  • Lou responds...
    March 27th, 2011 6:49 pm

    I had a young man spread weed and feed yesterday on my backyard. He said I should use my sprinkler system in the everning which I did. ‘
    Also I have a dog and he said not to let the dog out. I forgot to ask him how long that should be. I used the sprinkler yesterday and I let the dog out this morning.
    Since then she is acting differently…laying around and hiding, wimpering. Is it possible that she’s been poisoned? If so, what should I do, short of taking her to a vet. It’s Sunday and I’m not sure I can get hold of the Vet.
    Please answer quickly.

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    Lou, We are far from qualified to give you advise about your dog. I would definitely call a vet. Get a list of the active and inactive ingredients as both can be harmful. Hope your dog is OK!

    [Reply]

    Dan Reply:

    Your dog is acting funny cuz he thinks you are acting funny.

    [Reply]

  • Manuel responds...
    April 20th, 2011 12:54 pm

    Thanks… and what about my pets with this product?

    [Reply]

  • Alice Dandridge responds...
    April 28th, 2011 9:20 pm

    I recently had a man to seed my yard now the weeds is taking over the grass that is coming up. What should i do my yard looks a mess.

    [Reply]

  • Jerrad Carter responds...
    May 4th, 2011 10:10 pm

    I am planning to apply weed and feed to my lawn, but the lawn appears to have a good bit of thatch. Is it OK to de-thatch the lawn before I apply the weed and feed? Thanks!

    [Reply]

  • Ethan responds...
    May 5th, 2011 9:15 am

    @Jerrad, Some thatch is a good thing. It helps prevent weeds from taking hold and locks in moisture. With that said, you want less than 1/2″ of thatch. If you have more, you should aerate your lawn. There’s no reason to wait in between aerating and applying weed and feed.

    [Reply]

  • Donna responds...
    May 10th, 2011 4:04 pm

    Can you use Weed n Feed on vegetables?

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    Hi Donna, Weed & Feed will kill vegetables. Don’t use it on your garden or flowers.

    [Reply]

  • Curtis responds...
    May 11th, 2011 4:56 pm

    If used in your vegetable garden, how long shoud you wait before re-planting?

    [Reply]

  • Tonya responds...
    May 23rd, 2011 12:09 am

    i just resod my lawn 5/1/11. When should I use weed and feed on new lawn or should it be used at all?

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    Hi Tonya, A newly sodded lawn is still very “fragile” and applying W&F before it has established roots is a bad idea. In my opinion, wait till the fall at the earliest.

    [Reply]

  • todd responds...
    May 30th, 2011 6:37 am

    Will the weed and feed help repair the grass that has been destroyed by my female dog’s urine?

    [Reply]

  • jeff responds...
    June 2nd, 2011 10:45 pm

    i may have overseeded a little on my lawn…maybe an overlap in a few places….should I just keep watering??

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    Watering those areas is a good idea. If the grass doesn’t look burnt in a few days you may have lucked out. Another good idea is to mow you lawn and bag the clippings to try and remove some of the product.

    [Reply]

  • Dan responds...
    June 20th, 2011 1:14 am

    My newly(5-1-ll) seeded lawn is looking good where the grass is coming up(70% of intended area). unfortunately, weeds are taking over elsewhere. I’ve had a bag of weed n feed waiting to apply. Too fragile at this time(6-20-11) for the new grass sprouts to weed’n'feed? I’ve cut the lawn twice, bagging the weeds and grass. Another part of the situation is that I put down Schultz 10-10-10 fertilizer with the seed 5-1-11. Too early for the 25-0-08 Estate/Viper for that reason, too? This is a remake of a formerly uncared-for(15 years) 9000 square foot backyard which I cleared by hand over the winter and spring, then ‘Roundup-ed’ 4-10-11 before the 5-1-11 seeding/fertilizer.

    [Reply]

  • Jesse responds...
    June 23rd, 2011 12:11 am

    How do I get rid of brown spots?

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    Hi Jesse, We’ve got an extensive article on watering your lawn. That might be a good place to start.

    [Reply]

  • Dale responds...
    August 17th, 2011 8:53 am

    I put down weed and feed yesterday with no rain in forcast a 16-4-8 with Atrazine. It raind 9 hours later. Where do I go from here? Thanks ahead of time for for any help or suggstions.

    [Reply]

  • susan responds...
    September 29th, 2011 11:33 am

    wish I would have read this first. just applied wee&Feed Your advice is very helpful I will definetly bookmark it.

    [Reply]

  • HANDYMAN51 responds...
    February 25th, 2012 10:28 pm

    Very good tips and discussion. This will help me a lot as I try to reclaim our yard for the grass this spring!

    [Reply]

  • Sean responds...
    March 15th, 2012 10:06 am

    Some good info here.

    I actually opted to put down weed and feed first instead of the crabgrass killer since there does not seem to be much, if any crabgrass action on my lawn. Also, I misread the bag for the spreader settings and actually set it to about half of what it was supposed to be (I set it at 3 when it was supposed to be 5 3/4). Is it alright if I do another run through my yard with a lower setting since I didn’t really put down the full amount to begin with? It was about a week ago.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    Hey Sean,

    If the weed-n-feed is being effective, you’ll start to seed broadleaf weeds (like dandelions) turn brown in a few days. If that happens, I’d hold off on another application. You don’t want to over-apply and scorch your lawn. If you don’t see any improvement, I’d suggest a regular strength application in about a week.

    Remember, I’m not a professional, so these tips are just coming from another homeowner (who wants a sweet looking lawn too). We’re getting ready to start a new series about a lawn service, and hopefully we can address questions like these.

    [Reply]

    Sean Reply:

    Thanks for your quick reply and information. I’ll take note and go from there.

    [Reply]

    CMan Reply:

    What happens if you put weed & feed on bermuda grass, and wanted to use up all the bag so you went back over places again? I see some of the broadleaf weeds starting to die. Some of the grass in some places may be turning brown. Bermuda usually revives itself doesn’t it if it is scorched right?

    [Reply]

  • Drew responds...
    March 24th, 2012 12:23 pm

    Should I spread weed and feed when there’s still dew on the leaves or should I wait until the lawn is totally dry?

    [Reply]

    jason Reply:

    Drew apply when wet either morning dew or wet the lawn manually

    [Reply]

  • SHANNON responds...
    April 2nd, 2012 10:08 pm

    First timer and having no clue. I have watered my lawn two days in a row after I have applied weed & feed. Am I done for the year or what can I do?

    [Reply]

    Fred Reply:

    Well, you’re probably in pretty good shape for the near term. You can apply Scotts weed and feed twice per year, I think (see the bag for directions). Hopefully you let the granules sit on the weeds for 24 hours before watering. That’s how weed and feed works (absorbed through the leaves).

    [Reply]

  • jessie Poindexter responds...
    April 4th, 2012 8:55 pm

    What will weed and feed do to clover.

    [Reply]

    Kris Reply:

    It will kill it…2-4d, dicamba, all those types of weed killers that are in weed and feeds also kill clover.

    [Reply]

  • johnny responds...
    April 9th, 2012 6:44 pm

    do you have to water after you use weed and feed?

    [Reply]

    Fred Reply:

    No. In fact, you shouldn’t water for at least 48 hours. See watering instructions above. You should actually water immediately before weed and feed application, and then hold off for 48 hours afterwards. The granules have to sit on the leaves of the weeds to be an effective weed killer.

    [Reply]

  • kathy responds...
    April 16th, 2012 3:22 pm

    I just seeded my lawn, how long should I wait to weed and feed it??

    [Reply]

    Fred Reply:

    Wait about 6 weeks after seeding. Water the seed/grass daily and make sure it gets reasonably strong before treating it with any type of fertilizer. Don’t overdo it. It’s easy to scorch new grass.

    [Reply]

  • Joanne responds...
    April 28th, 2012 4:13 pm

    Can I distribute weed n feed over my lawn using a dust pan (& wearing gloves)? I dont have a seed spreader. I have a small yard. Thanks.

    [Reply]

  • clay responds...
    May 8th, 2012 5:38 pm

    how long should i wait between weed and feed applications?

    [Reply]

  • Denise responds...
    September 13th, 2012 11:12 pm

    Yes, I get many weeds, spurge, which I hate, burr weeds and of course dandelions. Then there are tons of what I can only describe as swamp looking grass. Uia more and a few days later there are all these things sticking up about 8″long with tips that look like a row of seed pods. The actual weed is round and flat. I killed them all once spraying every one with round up and applying weed and feed to the whole lawn. They pulled out nicelyafter that but came back with a vengeance the next year. How do I get rid of em?

    [Reply]

  • Jean responds...
    October 4th, 2012 4:58 pm

    How long to wait after spreading weed and feed, before you water it in???
    You said hopefully 24 hours in your april 2nd reply, and 48 hours in your april 16th reply… Which is best? I spread mine yesterday, so I need to know now.

    [Reply]

  • robyn responds...
    April 2nd, 2013 9:31 pm

    I applied Weed and feed 5 days ago, watered it on day 4, now it is suppose to rain for a week, should I mow now or wait until after the rain ( a week more?) also, should I mulch or mow?

    [Reply]

  • Debbie Ganote responds...
    April 25th, 2013 9:43 am

    I put down crabgrass preventer on Friday and want to put weed and feed down on the next Sunday, 9 days later. Is that okay?

    [Reply]

  • HANDYMAN51 responds...
    May 16th, 2013 12:40 pm

    @ Debbie- Make sure the crabgrass preventer didn’t contain fertilizer, or you might ” burn ” the grass. Anyone out there have proven suggestions for getting rid of Creeping Charlie in the spring or summer WITHOUT killing grass?

    [Reply]

  • miah responds...
    May 16th, 2013 1:46 pm

    I always learn something new from you guys. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    [Reply]

  • sabrina responds...
    May 21st, 2013 11:48 pm

    I just mowed the lawn and then spread weed n feed and then soaked the grass hand watering the entire lawn. I was told to do this! Now I’m laying in bed looked this up and I now found out I’ve done it all wrong! What should I do?? Weed n feed it again tomorrow since I soaked the grass??

    [Reply]

  • Buy Inflatable Spa Online responds...
    July 8th, 2013 12:49 am

    There are many people who will surely love this post. Even if how well-built your house is, if your lawn has many weeds.. then it’ll surely break the beauty of your home.

    [Reply]

  • Mike L responds...
    July 13th, 2013 3:38 pm

    Can liquid be put on right after cutting lawn?

    [Reply]

  • Mike L responds...
    July 13th, 2013 3:39 pm

    weed n feed that is.

    [Reply]

  • Plastic cups with lids responds...
    April 4th, 2014 3:54 pm

    The moon looked low and the stars were having a party.
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    in the brewing compartment of the coffeemaker.
    The government are moving in the right direction but we.

    [Reply]

  • Craig responds...
    April 8th, 2014 1:58 pm

    There are so many different variations of weed & feed, example (28-0-04). What do the numbers stand for and what is your recommended variation?

    [Reply]

  • Daniel Bethe responds...
    June 9th, 2014 5:02 pm

    My spreader gadget has its valves stuck open, so I had a few piles of weed & feed spilled on my lawn. I scooped and scraped and kicked and wiped, using hands and a rake and stuff. Not good enough! I exchanged my weeds for a few big brown spots! I could have watered it but that’d have spread and diluted the product, so maybe I should have brought out the shop vac! ;)

    It soon rained hard for days, but I guess it was too late. The stuff works but it’s no joke!

    [Reply]





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