Weed and feed is a time-saving lawn care product that combines the benefits of a broadleaf herbicide with a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. To reap the full benefits of it, apply weed and feed to a slightly wet lawn after weeds start popping up in the spring.
That’s the short version of how and when to apply weed and feed on your lawn. To learn all of the ins and outs, keep on reading!
The best time of year to apply weed and feed
Let’s start with the important reason you’re here—when to apply weed and feed to your lawn.
With most products, you want to apply weed and feed to your yard in the spring after the weeds start popping up. If the spring application doesn’t remove all the weeds, and you think you must apply it again, wait until fall to apply a second dose.
Give your grass plenty of time to recover from the first application, and never apply it more than twice a year. There should be at least two months between the first and second application to keep the chemicals from building up to dangerous levels in the soil and threatening to kill off all vegetation in your yard.
Pro tip: When dealing with new lawns or freshly planted grass seed, wait until you’ve mowed at least twice before applying weed and feed.
Considerations when using weed and feed
Even though I said it’s okay to apply weed and feed to your lawn again come fall, there are a couple of critical considerations you must think about before doing so.
Obviously, weed and feed products are formulated to apply both fertilizer and herbicide to your lawn. Sometimes, you only need one or the other, and you may be better off ditching the combo product and only using one or the other, especially in the case of an herbicide.
For instance, if you have spring weeds, but your grass is already healthy and thriving (or maybe you fertilized the previous fall and have a green lawn), you may not want to give it more “food.” Plus, fertilizing in the spring will increase your lawn mowing duties. In this case, it’s best to use a post-emergent herbicide on its own.
Or, if you have lawn weeds in fall that you want to eradicate, a post-emergent weed and feed will kill these weeds, but you never want to feed a warm-season turf like centipedegrass or Bahiagrass in the fall. Feeding warm-season lawns late in the season dramatically increases the chance of winterkill.
For more information on whether or not you should use weed and feed, check out Lawn Love’s article: Is Weed and Feed Bad For Your Lawn?
How to apply weed and feed
Applying weed and feed is pretty straightforward, but there are a few essential details to remember, as it is a chemical product.
Note: These tips are not intended to replace the manufacturer’s instructions. Always follow the label directions before anything else.
- Mow your lawn two to four days before you use weed & feed. Cut the grass at its normal recommended height. This timing ensures the weeds are actively growing and gives them a couple of days for the leaves to grow after mowing.
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended application rate. Over-applying fertilizer will scorch or “burn” the grass because of the salts in the product.
- Apply the product across the lawn uniformly. I like to use a broadcast spreader and make two passes (the first moving back and forth from North to South and the second going from East to West to create a crosshatch pattern) across the yard at half-application strength.
- Be extremely careful around the lawn’s perimeter to avoid spreading the granules into flower beds, vegetable gardens, or ornamental shrubbery. Weed and feed is a broadleaf herbicide that will kill all these plants, even though you don’t consider them weeds. In this case, drop spreaders are better since they don’t throw the product like a broadcast spreader.
- Wait two to four days after application before watering. With this in mind, you shouldn’t apply the product during a hot, dry spell where the grass can’t go without water.
- Apply weed & feed no more than twice a year. Over-application increases the potential for fertilizer components to run off into nearby waterways, threatening fish and plants.
Safety considerations for application
Like all lawn chemicals, homeowners should follow basic safety precautions while applying weed and feed to their lawns.
- Wear long pants, long sleeves, closed-toed shoes, and gloves during application. Herbicides like 2,4-D, Dicamba, and MCPP may cause serious skin irritation upon exposure.
- Avoid contact with eyes. If you get product dust in your eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes.
- Never ingest or leave the product where a child or pets could consume it. Lawn chemicals can be harmful or possibly fatal if swallowed. If swallowed, immediately call poison control or 911.
- Keep children and pets off the lawn until the product is thoroughly watered, whether via rainfall or a sprinkler system, and the granules are completely dissolved.
Pro Tip: Always read the safety instructions on the product label as well—these instructions are not a substitution for the manufacturer’s guidelines.
What is in weed and feed?
Weed and feed is precisely what its name says. It is a granular or liquid lawn care product that performs two functions when applied to the grass: the herbicide portion kills weeds, and the fertilizer feeds the lawn.
What’s in the “weed” portion?
The “weed” portion of weed and feed is an herbicide that targets your yard’s broadleaf weeds like dandelions, broadleaf plantain, chickweed, and dollar weed. The weed killer is usually 2,4-D, Dicamba, or MCPP.
Pro tip: Most weed and feed products will not kill crabgrass because it is a grass. You need a dedicated crabgrass preventer to target it.
What’s in the “feed” portion?
The “feed” portion of weed and feed is a lawn fertilizer that contains varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and/or potassium. The exact formulation depends on the manufacturer, but all products have some nitrogen to green up the grass and encourage a healthy lawn.
Pros and cons of weed and feed
While weed and feed is convenient, there are some downsides to using a combination product instead of fertilizing your lawn and applying herbicide separately. Here are the pros and cons.
✓ Two tasks done at one time
✓ Easy to use
✓ Provides effective weed control
✓ Fertilizes the lawn
✗ Application timing is critical, and the product can be ineffective if applied at the wrong time
✗ Can damage flowers and garden vegetables
✗ Excessive chemical use
Different types of weed and feed products
There are different types of weed and feed products based on the kind of herbicide and fertilizer they contain. Each works differently, making it essential you apply the product at the recommended time and per the label directions.
Pre-emergent weed & feed
Pre-emergent weed and feed products are formulated to control common weeds before they even have the chance to grow. These pre-emergent herbicides are applied in early spring and don’t stop germination but keep the weed seedlings from making their way out of the soil.
When a weed seed germinates, the primary root pushes through the seed first, followed by a shoot that grows upwards. A pre-emergent interrupts cellular division and either stops that shoot from forming or the radicle from developing further. The sprout never has the chance to push through the soil surface.
Post-emergent weed & feed
Post-emergent weed and feed is the opposite of pre-emergent and is used to control weeds after they’ve sprouted and are growing.
Post-emergent herbicides work by killing off the above-ground parts of the weed they come in contact with (contact herbicide), or they travel through the plant down to the roots and kill from the inside out (systemic herbicide). Make sure you know what type of post-emergent herbicide is in your weed and feed product, as they work differently.
Slow-release weed & feed
Slow-release fertilizers, also called time-release fertilizers, release a small amount of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus into the soil over weeks or months.
These fertilizer types can be made from natural (i.e., organic) or synthetic material. Organic fertilizers release nutrients as the product decomposes over time. Synthetic slow-release fertilizers are usually coated with a resin or polymer that degrades slowly as exposed to water or heat.
Water-soluble weed & feed
Water-soluble or quick-release fertilizers release nutrients to the grass quickly. The fertilizer components are already dissolved in water, so they are readily available for plant uptake once applied to your lawn.
Lawn Love’s product recommendations
Our top picks for the best weed and feed products you can buy right now include:
FAQ about weed and feed for lawns
The best time of day to apply weed and feed is late afternoon or early evening before the sun goes down. Since the product contains fertilizer, you want to avoid using it during the hottest part of the day when the sun and heat can burn the grass because of the fertilizer salts.
Yes, you want your grass damp before applying a weed and feed product. You can either water the lawn briefly or use the product right after a rain. The leaves must be wet so the product sticks to the foliage and can start working.
At a minimum, it’s best to wait 24 hours before watering the grass after applying weed and feed. This delay is because of the weed control product. It needs time to get into the weeds and start doing its job. After 24 hours, give your lawn a good drink, soaking the soil at least six inches down.
If you need to apply a fall dose of weed and feed, at the latest, you want to apply it by the end of September. Come October, the soil is usually cool enough that the product isn’t effective. You can use it earlier. Just give your lawn time to recover from an early-season weed and feed application.
Call in the lawn care professionals
We get it. Sometimes, you’d rather not deal with weed and feed products or lawn chemicals at all. If that’s the case, and you need help with your lawn care needs, contact a local Lawn Love lawn care pro online or through our convenient mobile app.
We’ll put you in touch with a local independent professional who can handle all your lawn care needs and work wonders on your grass!