A lack of snow in the Wasatch Mountains this winter is one of the reasons more weeds are growing in your yard this spring.
Utah’s capital city has been named one of the 10 worst cities for weeds and lawn disease in 2018, according to the first “weed watch” forecast from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).
“Warmer than average temperatures will make two of this region’s most troublesome weeds — crabgrass and spotted spurge — flourish here this summer,” the report said of Salt Lake City, which came in ninth on the Top 10 list.
There is good news for anyone who spent the past weekend digging or spraying these pesky plants: The city’s “below-average precipitation in the spring and early summer will help limit the moisture these weeds need to fully thrive,” NALP officials noted.
Like their counterparts in Salt Lake City, lawns in Philadelphia (fourth place) and Minneapolis (10th place) are battling crabgrass and spotted spurge, said Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NALP.
“You’re in good company,” she said during a telephone call Monday.
Atlanta has the worst lawn weeds in 2018, the NAPL report said. The city has dozens of species, including nimblewill and thistle, and a host of other lawn diseases exacerbated by Georgia’s hot and humid summers.
Orlando was the runner-up thanks to an abundance of crabgrass, which “thrives in the heat, making Florida a prime target for this weed,” the NALP said.
Other Top 10 weed cities are Boston, Detroit, Witchita, Kansas, Seattle and Minneapolis.
To get its Top 10 list, the NALP used consumer questions about weeds and disease reported to lawn care professionals between April and August, Henriksen said. The information was then compared with forecasting information from the National Weather Service.
“Besides being ugly and annoying, lawn weeds and diseases have the potential to destroy backyards, sports fields and much-enjoyed public spaces,” said Henriksen, which is why homeowners need to be diligent about getting rid of them.
When there are too many weeds, “they are taking nutrients and taking the water and their roots are in competition with the grass,” she said.
Creating a strong, healthy turf means “the grass will emerge victorious” over the weeds.
Katie Wagner, a member of Utah State University’s horticulture faculty in Salt Lake County, agreed. “If you don’t have nice dense turf stand, you’re setting yourself up for weed problems.”
While crabgrass and spurge are “two of the toughest weeds” that Salt Lake County must deal with every year, Wagner said they are just two of about 15 weeds “that we see in areas along the Wasatch Front,” including dandelions, yarrow, black medic, field bindweed and clover.
While the weather plays a part in weed germination and growth, homeowners do many things that weaken their lawn and promote the spread of weeds, she said.
Overwatering is the most harmful thing for your lawn, she said. “People tend to irrigate frequently, wanting to keep the soil moist, but that is going to encourage weed germination.”
Overfertilizing and cutting the grass too short are other common habits that weaken the lawn.
Aerating can help strengthen a weak turf, Wagner said. Older lawns may benefit from the application of new grass seed — a process called overseeding. This will fill in bare spots and reinvigorate older lawns.
Wagner said there are many new drought-tolerant seeds that work well in Utah soils and are worth investigating.
If you do have weeds — and who doesn’t? — USU has a downloadable book, called “Common Weeds of the Yard and Garden,“ with information and color photographs that can help homeowners identify 51 common Utah weeds and the best way to get rid of them.
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” fits in the case of weeds.
“The more people educate themselves and learn to control different types of weeds,” said Wagner, “the fewer they’ll have in the first place.”