Years ago, a lawn product was created that seemed user-friendly to the average homeowner, and it became very popular. After several studies, combination weed and feed products are no longer recommended.
The concept behind weed and feed products — a fertilizer and broad-leaf herbicide combination — was that one application would cover multiple tasks in one easy step. It seemed harmless enough but with time, it has been found to be quite harmful in many ways.
If we really consider it, weed and feed is an unnecessary and exaggerated method for producing a healthy lawn. The fertilizer in these products usually contains high, water soluble nitrogen, producing short-lived growth spurts — weakening grass and making it more susceptible to disease and pests such as grubs.
The herbicides used are a combination of three very toxic chemicals linked to increases in cancer risks and, after being broadcast, can stick to pets and children’s shoes, be eaten by birds, and washed into curbs and storm drains. It also only kills existing weeds. Instead, applying a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring and fall will do more to deter weed infestation.
Using this weed and feed product can and does put excessive amounts of nitrogen and herbicides in nearby water sources through run-off from sprinkler systems and rain, compromising their health and what lives in them.
Other victims of these products are your trees and shrubs. Spreading the herbicides around them, especially in the spring when leaves are forming, weakens and can even kill trees and shrubs.
A great alternative is to apply corn gluten to turf. It is natural, non-toxic, and promotes healthy turf and roots, which is key for reducing weeds.
According to an Eartheasy blog, “Each year Americans apply an estimated 27 million pounds of weed ’n feed to parks, cemeteries and home lawns.” With more education, I hope we will stop using these products and focus on natural alternatives for healthy lawns. Interestingly, Canada recently banned the use of all weed and feed products. It’s time America did, too.
Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org