Weed and feed is an all-in-one product that promises to fertilize your lawn & prevent weeds in one application—learn if it’s the best solution for your yard. Weed and feed lawn products combine a lawn fertilizer with a weed killer and/or weed preventer in one product. Different turfs call for different types of products, and application timing is critical. Check out these tips for before and after application for lawn weed and feed fertilizer. Weed and feed products can be a useful tool for keeping weeds from germinating in your yard. For them to be effective, though, you need to ensure that you apply them at the right time. Spreading the product once every spring and fall can…
Everything You Need to Know About Weed and Feed
Weed and feed is the lawn care equivalent of the shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one products in the hair care aisle. They promise to save you time while giving you the same results by applying two different products. However, you’ve probably noticed that two-in-one hair care products haven’t led to the extinction of individual shampoos and conditioners. Many people believe it’s better to weed and feed your lawn as a two-step process for much the same reason.
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What is Weed and Feed?
Weed and feed is the term used for lawn care products that contain both herbicides (weed killers, the “weed” part of the name) and fertilizer (the “feed” part). Weed and feed is designed to fertilize your lawn while also killing weeds in your grass, like dandelions and clovers.
Many people like the idea of using weed and feed because it means they only need to do a single application of product rather than separately applying herbicide and fertilizer. They see it as a way to do twice the work in half the time.
The weed killer in weed and feed is either pre-emergent or post-emergent.
- Pre-emergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating, so they need to be applied very early in the year before the weeds begin to sprout.
- Post-emergent herbicides work on weeds that are already growing,such as moss, clover, and dandelions, so they should be applied later in the year, usually in the summer. Broadleaf weed killers might even be more effective in the fall.
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Tips for Using Weed and Feed
Suppose you still think the benefits of a two-for-one application outweigh the negative aspects of weed and feed. In that case, the Weed Science Society of America offers some tips to follow so you get the best results with minor environmental damage:
- Please read the label before you purchase to know what you’re buying and how to apply it.
- Identify the kinds of weeds growing in your yard and make sure the herbicide in your product targets those weeds. If you don’t know what the weeds are, contact your local Extension agent or check an online resource, such as those produced by the Extension Service.
- Identify the kind of grass growing in your yard. A quick rule of thumb: cool-season grasses stay green all year while warm-season grasses go dormant and turn brown in winter. It would be best to fertilize cool-season grasses in the fall and warm-season grasses in the late spring or early summer. Choose a weed and feed that works in that fertilization period.
- Apply the product with post-emergent herbicides early in the morning when the dew is on the grass, or water the lawn before applying. The granules will stick to the wet blades of grass and release the herbicide better than with dry blades.
- Follow the directions that come with the product, including using the recommended amount at the suggested time of year or growth stage for weeds. Applying too much weed and feed or putting it down at the wrong time of year is a waste of money and could damage your lawn.
- Keep the product off other landscape plants. If any gets on the sidewalk or driveway, use a blower or broom to sweep it back into the lawn.
- Clean your hands and shoes after applying the product so you don’t unwittingly take the chemicals into your house.
- Keep kids and pets out of the yard for a few days after treating your lawn. Studies show that lawn chemicals stay in the grass for at least 48 hours, and dogs who’ve been exposed to properties treated with herbicides may have a higher risk of certain cancers.
Alternatives to Weed and Feed
The easiest alternative to applying weed and feed is to treat feeding and weed killing as two separate processes. Apply fertilizer at the time dictated by the kind of grass growing in your yard —fall for cool-season grasses, late spring or early summer for warm-season grasses.
Treat for weeds at an appropriate time. If you genuinely think you have weed seeds all over your yard waiting to sprout, apply a pre-emergent over the entire yard in late winter before the seeds germinate. If you’ve applied pre-emergent in previous years and have your weeds under control, putting pre-emergent over the whole yard may be overkill. In that case, it makes more sense to see if any weeds do come up and spot-treat them with an appropriate herbicide based on what’s growing in your yard.
A natural product called corn gluten meal, sometimes referred to by its initials, CGM, may offer some hope for an organic alternative to weed and feed. CGM is a byproduct that results from wet milling corn. An Iowa State University professor found that it reduces seed germination, and it has been patented for use as a natural pre-emergent agent. CGM is about 10% nitrogen, the main ingredient in most fertilizers, so it’s also a natural fertilizer.
But if a natural, organic weed and feed sounds too good to be true, it might be. There are several reasons why CGM hasn’t become the go-to weed and feed product:
- CGM is very expensive.
- It only works on certain kinds of weeds.
- It typically requires multiple applications.
- It must be applied at the right time to stop seed germination.
Skip The Chemical Weed Killer
The most environmentally friendly way to avoid weed killer is to pull the weeds out of your yard by hand. Weeding is never a fun task, but you don’t have to worry about chemicals being tracked into your home or being washed off and polluting local waterways if you hand-weed.
Various weeding tools are available to make the chore a little easier. These include long-handled, foot-operated tools that grip the weeds and allow you to dig up the roots without having to bend down.
The best defense against weeds is a thick, healthy lawn. Keep your property adequately watered, apply fertilizer when necessary, and take steps such as aerating when necessary may be all your lawn needs to stand tall against a weed invasion.
Weed And Feed Lawns: Where To Begin
Weed & Feed products combine a lawn fertilizer with a weed killer and/or weed preventer in one product. One application does double duty, treating random weeds spread across an entire lawn while also feeding and greening grass. Weed & Feeds come in two basic formulations, granules and liquids. But before you make an application, here are some things you need to know about weed & feed products.
Weed & Feed Starts With Weeding…
The “weed” half of “weed & feed” contains some mix of herbicides to kill lawn weeds. Almost all products contain a post-emergent herbicide, but some also combine a pre-emergent herbicide designed to prevent new weeds from sprouting.
Post-Emergent herbicides kill existing lawn weeds like Dandelion, Clover and many other common weeds. The complete list of weeds can be found on your product’s label. These post-emergents are always selective herbicides, so they will not harm existing grass when applied as directed. New innovations, like BioAdvanced 5-in-1 Weed & Feed, also kill grassy weeds like Crabgrass, eliminating the need for multiple applications of additional herbicides to achieve control.
Pre-Emergent herbicides are meant to keep new weeds from germinating and growing. Timing is the key, apply too early and the preventer can become ineffective while weeds are still dormant. Apply too late and seeds may have already germinated. You’re probably most familiar with Crabgrass preventers that are applied in early spring.
…And Ends With Feeding
The “feed” half of “weed & feed” is all about fertilizer. Most fertilizers are a mix of nitrogen and other macro-nutrients, and sometimes micro-nutrients, in varying amounts. Nitrogen (N) is the most important element in lawn fertilizers and comes in two basic forms – fast-release and slow-release. Most lawn fertilizers include a mix of fast-release and slow-release forms to provide quick green-up and sustained growth.
Fast-Release Nitrogen (often referred to as water-soluble nitrogen or WSN) such as urea and ammonium sulfate, is readily available and absorbed quickly by the grass, resulting in fast green-up. Unfortunately, it can also can burn your lawn if applied improperly, and can leach through the lawns root zone or run off the lawn in heavy rain, causing pollution.
Slow-Release Nitrogen (often referred to as WIN or water-insoluble nitrogen), such as sulfur-coated urea, methylene urea and animal manures, are released more slowly to the grass and provide more sustained, even growth – up to 3 months for methylene urea.
Before You Begin, Know Your Lawn Type
Before applying any type of weed & feed or fertilizer product, you need to identify your type of grass. Some fertilizers can be applied to all lawn types, but most weed & feed products are specifically labeled for certain types of grasses. Apply the wrong product to the wrong type of grass and you can damage your lawn. Use caution and read the label. If you’re still unsure, use the toll-free number found on the label to contact the manufacturer.
When To Apply
Weed & Feed products are most effective when weeds are small and actively-growing, namely spring and fall.
In spring, wait to apply until you’ve mowed your lawn two times before applying to be sure it has emerged from dormancy.
In fall, be sure to check the with local Cooperative Extension System office for historical frost dates in your area. Many Weed & Feed labels will recommend application timing based on that date.
Most weed & feed products will have temperature restrictions as well, be sure to check the label. Do not apply to water-saturated soils, lawns under stress from drought, disease or prone to injury.
How To Apply
For liquid weed & feed products, be sure to use one of the sprayer types recommended on the label and follow label instructions for mixing and spraying.
For granule weed & feeds, use a rotary or drop-type spreader. Drop spreaders apply fertilizer very precisely in a narrow band directly below the spreader, while a rotary spreader broadcasts over a wider area. The application pattern is very important. Be sure to follow label instructions.
Both types of spreaders have adjustable application settings. How much fertilizer is applied varies according to the settings on the type and model of spreader you use. Read the spreader manufacturer’s instructions before fertilizing to help you calibrate your equipment to ensure proper application rates. You’ll find the proper setting for your type of spreader on the specific fertilizer label. If not, there should be a toll-free phone number to call. Do not use the spreader until you are sure it is set properly. You can learn more about calibrating your spreader and spreader settings. Be sure to read always and follow label instructions.
Other Things You Should Know
Mowing – For best results, mow your lawn 1-2 days prior to application. Clippings from your next three mowings should be left on the lawn. Be sure not to use these clippings as mulch or compost around flowers, ornamentals, trees or in vegetable gardens.
Do Not Rake – Heavy raking will disturb the weed preventative barrier and reduce the effectiveness of this product.
Watering – Many weed & feed products instruct you to wait 24 hours before watering in. Be sure to consult your specific label.
Feeding New Lawns – Most new lawns don’t need to be fertilized until 6-8 weeks after planting. However, that can vary depending on how the soil was prepared before planting and the type of fertilizer used. Consult your local Cooperative Extension System office or nursery for recommendations on fertilizing new lawns.
How to Apply Weed and Feed
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Weed and feed products can be a useful tool for keeping weeds from germinating in your yard. For them to be effective, though, you need to ensure that you apply them at the right time. Spreading the product once every spring and fall can help keep certain weeds at bay. Be sure to check the forecast before applying, though, to avoid rain washing the product away.
Plan to apply it in the spring and fall. Weed and feed works best when applied when weeds are actively growing and the daytime temperatures are between 60° and 90° F (15.5° and 32.2° C). In most areas, this means applying once during the spring, and once during the fall.  X Research source
Mow your lawn 2-4 days before you apply. If you can, mow your lawn to a medium height 2-4 days before you plan to apply weed and feed. This helps ensure that the product is evenly distributed throughout your lawn.  X Research source
- The forecast should be clear for at least 24 hours for weed and feed to work correctly. You are also going to need to avoid watering your lawn during this period.
- Do not try to apply the product immediately after a heavy rain, either. Standing water in your lawn could wash away the particles.
Wet your lawn before applying. Use a misting or a low-pressure setting to lightly wet your lawn immediately before applying. You want your grass to be damp to the touch, but with no quick-draining or standing water. It should be just wet enough to help the product stick to the blades of grass.  X Research source
- If you do not already own a spreader, you can buy one at a home and garden store or online for under $30 USD.
Apply the product to your lawn. Once you have the product loaded and your spreader set, you can begin applying the product on your lawn. Get the best coverage by walking linear passes along the length of your lawn while disbursing the product from your spreader. Walking in straight lines ensures the most even coverage.  X Research source
Overlap your passes to improve your coverage. To help ensure that all your lawn receives an even amount of the product, overlap your passes slightly. Walk on the edge of your last pass. You should be able to see the product on the lawn to help guide you. This helps prevent any untreated spots.  X Research source
Sweep or rake any excess product off of sidewalks and driveways. Use a broom or a rake to push excess product from any sidewalks, driveways, or roads back into your yard. This keeps unused product from washing away in storm drains.  X Research source
- If a pet or child ingests any weed and feed, call a vet or a doctor immediately to get recommendations for treatment options.
Avoid watering your lawn for at least 24 hours. Washing your lawn too quickly after you apply weed and feed could wash away the product before it has a chance to work. Wait at least 24 hours before watering your lawn. Some products recommend waiting up to 2-4 days before watering. Check your specific product’s instructions to get the most accurate recommendation.  X Research source
Wait 4 weeks to reseed and aerate your lawn. Weed and feed can prevent seeds from germinating, so it’s important to make sure the product is fully absorbed before you plant new seeds or aerate your lawn. Wait at least 4 weeks after the date you applied the product to start reseeding or to aerate the treated areas.  X Research source
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About This Article
This article was co-authored by wikiHow Staff. Our trained team of editors and researchers validate articles for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow’s Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards. This article has been viewed 194,741 times.
If you want to apply weed and feed to your yard, mow your lawn 2 to 4 days beforehand to ensure that the product will distribute evenly across your lawn. For the best results, plan to apply it in the spring and fall, when weeds are actively growing. Also, since standing water can affect your weed and feed, check the forecast for rain and wait for at least 24 hours of clear weather. To ensure your grass is wet enough for the product to stick, lightly spray your lawn with the misting or low-pressure setting on your sprinklers. Then, add your weed and feed to your spreader, according to the directions on the packaging. Finally, apply the product by walking your spreader across your yard in slightly overlapping lines for full coverage. For more advice, including how to care for your lawn after applying weed and feed, keep reading!
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