How to remove weeds from your lawn

Q: We live in a townhouse and have a small backyard. When we moved in, our yard was a mess with garbage and weeds and no grass. We have tilled up the yard ending up with more weeds than ever! I have two small children and want a weed-free, grass-covered backyard for my children to play in. What can I do that will not be toxic for my children to get rid of weeds? We have thought about putting down sod vs. seed for the grass cover, which would be better? We live in zone 2, NE BC.

Depending on how many weeds are on your lawn, you’ll either want to fix the problem by removing the weeds and using a spot treatment, or you can start from scratch and re-till your entire lawn.

If you have few enough weeds that it’s feasible to deal with them, you’ll need to start by getting rid of everything that you don’t want to be there. Pull weeds up from the roots with a small hand shovel. Don’t discard of weeds on the ground to chop up with a lawn mower; this will actually spread the seeds further and create more weeds on your lawn. Throw weeds out immediately. Spread some topsoil over the new bare spots. You can replant the areas with seed, but I would recommend using sod for this method. If there are only a few spots to cover, it will be worth the few extra dollars. Sod comes packed with grass seed and nutrients and will take easily if you water it well.

If your weeds are too rampant and you decide to start from scratch, here’s some advice from Conway Lum, resident plant problem and pest expert at GardenWise:

I would suggest rototilling the existing lawn and incorporating a good quality topsoil. Generally speaking, the minimum soil depth required to grow a lawn is about 10 to 15cm (4 to 6 in.) but 20 to 30cm (8 to 12 in.) is more desirable. This would be a solid foundation to get the lawn off to a good start. Most topsoil should already contain some sand and wood products plus other soil amendments. Laying sod would get an instant lawn, but is more costly than using seed. It is important to keep up regular maintenance. This makes for a thicker lawn so as to prevent weeds from getting established.

Once you’ve solved your weed problem, be sure to maintain your lawn so weeds don’t return. Find more information on keeping your lawn healthy on the GardenWise website.