Question of the Week 1: February 16, 2017

Photo: Early spring lawns are often plagued by a variety of unsightly weeds. But is a “weed-and-feed” product a good idea? Maybe not.

Photo: Early spring lawns are often plagued by a variety of unsightly weeds. But is a “weed-and-feed” product a good idea? Maybe not.


“Neil, why do you never recommend weed-and-feed products?”

I not only don’t recommend them – I won’t accept advertising for them. I never have, even though it cost me one very large account.

It’s my opinion that weed-and-feed products “dumb down” gardening to a level I’m not willing to accept.

I believe in herbicides. I watched my dad put an entire career into researching them for Texas A&M.

And I believe in inorganic fertilizers. My soil science training taught me that plants don’t differentiate between organic and inorganic nutrients. They all enter plants’ roots in elemental form in water solution.


Continued Below


So why not embrace combination products that allow you to do both things at the same time? Because the timing is wrong!

If you apply a fertilizer now, you are way too early for most of the state (exception being the Rio Grande Valley). Turf won’t be able to assimilate it efficiently. There will be too much chance of runoff or leaching.

If you wait until it’s the proper time to apply fertilizer you’ll be too late for the weedkiller. You will have missed weeds that should have been stopped with pre-emergent products, and cool-season weeds will already have bloomed and gone to seed.

The two tasks just don’t overlap. Address the weeds between now and the end of this month. Fertilize your turf in April.

And that doesn’t even address the fact that most weedkillers won’t need to be applied to the entire lawn. To do so puts trees and large shrubs, whose roots share the same soil, at great risk.

I have seen hundreds of mature plants killed or sickened by Atrazine, long the main ingredient of one of the best-known weed-and-feed products in America. My first three months on the job as Dallas County Extension horticulturist in fall 1970 I took so many calls regarding this damage that I just started referring people directly to the manufacturer, and I’ve never accepted ads for it in the ensuing 47 years. That’s a lot of years and a lot of trees. And it’s still out there. Read the fine print on the back of the bag before you make a mistake you might regret.

Posted by Neil Sperry
Back To Top