Nontoxic Weed Killers
Q: Could you please recommend a weed killer that is safe to use where children and pets play?
—Sara, Iowa City, Iowa
A: Roger Cook replies: I can't recommend a specific product, but I do have some suggestions for you so you don't have to use a large amount of weed killer. Remember that the stronger your lawn is, the fewer weeds you'll have to deal with in the first place. Fertilizing properly, adding lime to control acidity, mowing to the correct height, and watering and aerating regularly will all promote a stronger lawn. Pruning or removing trees to promote more sunlight is also important.
If you are going to use a weed control, talk to your local garden center. Find someone knowledgeable about weed control chemicals and have him or her go over the label with you. With a granular formula, the whole yard is covered. To cut down on the amount of weed killer you will need, consider a liquid instead. You can put it into a small sprayer and walk the yard with it, spraying only the areas that need it. Whether you use a granular or liquid formula, always wear protective clothing and rubber boots when you do the application, carefully follow the directions on the container, and keep children and pets off the treated area for 48 hours.
Keep in mind that a few weeds won't ruin your lawn. We all have a picture in our minds of the "perfect" lawn. I think we should redefine the "perfect" lawn as a lawn that is useable and chemical-free, where we use as little fertilizer and water as possible to achieve this "new" look.