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Is weed and feed bad for your lawn? 6 things to know before you use it

The pros and cons of using weed and feed

Grass with dew on it
NOPPHARAT9889/Shutterstock

Lawn care can be tricky to get right. Too much of one thing or not enough of another and you might end up with a brown, patchy lawn. There are chemical treatments you can use, and organic weed killers as well, but one common phrase you may see on products is weed and feed. You may be wondering if weed and feed is right for your lawn, or if there is a better alternative.

We’ll break down all the facts on how weed and feed works, the pros and cons of using it, and what other options are available. This simple guide will give you all the facts, so you can decide which option is the best for your lawn care routine.

A home with a grass lawn
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What is weed and feed?

Weed and feed is a category of chemical lawn treatments intended to get rid of weeds and strengthen your grass. It’s a broad category, and there are many chemicals used for weed and feed treatments. Typically, weed and feed treatments contain two chemicals. One targets the weeds and the other feeds the grass. These chemicals are mixed together and applied to the lawn.

Although there are many chemicals used in these products, there are a few that are more common than others. Dicamba, clopyralid, 2, 4-D, and triclopyr are all commonly used weed killers in weed and feed. The feed part of weed and feed can be any fertilizer. Typically, they are heavy in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are the three nutrients plants need in the highest amounts.

A person holding a bright red spray bottle, spraying liquid onto weeds
Dean Clarke/Shutterstock

What benefits does it offer?

The primary benefit of weed and feed is that it kills weeds and strengthens grass. Since there are many weed and feed products available, not all of them have the same level of effectiveness. However, on average, the weed and feed technique does work, at least somewhat.

Another benefit is that you’re essentially getting two products in one. Instead of buying two separate products, a weed killer and a fertilizer, and applying them separately, you’re able to get one product that you can apply once. This saves on time, money, and energy. Additionally, you don’t need to worry about the two chemicals potentially reacting to each other once applied. Since they’re bottled together, you can be reasonably sure they’re safe.

Buffalo grass with dew
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Are there any negative effects?

Not every impact weed and feed has is good. Effects vary from product to product, but there are reports across multiple weed and feed treatments of lawn damage. Some damage occurs from improper use, which can happen by either applying too much at once or applying more often than recommended. Other damage seems to occur even with proper use.

As with any chemical treatment, there are health and environmental risks to consider. Chemicals used can linger on your grass and can leak into underground water reservoirs or be washed into rivers. This can harm wildlife or plants. Some chemicals pose health risks to humans as well. It’s important to read the label of each product before using it, wear protective gear when applying it, and keep pets and children off the grass for a couple of days after use.

These negative effects can be amplified by how you apply weed and feed treatments; either sprayed or scattered across the entire yard. This may be fine for fertilizers, but weed killers are typically intended to be applied in targeted areas. This means that, by using weed and feed, you’re using more of the weed-killing chemical than you otherwise would.

Green grass lawn
Zaheer Ashraf 25/Shutterstock

How quickly does weed and feed work?

The amount of time it takes to work can vary from product to product, depending on what chemicals it contains. However, on average, weed and feed takes a week to have any impact and can take up to three weeks to make a significant difference in your yard. It’s important to read the packaging and instructions before using weed and feed. The product details can help you determine how quickly you can expect to see results and how long you should wait between applications.

Spray bottle being used on garden plants
Andris Tkacenko / Shutterstock

What, if any, alternatives are available?

There are several alternatives for weed and feed. One easy way to cut down on the negative effects is to get separate weed killers and fertilizers. This allows you to target the weeds specifically, cutting down on the amount of weed killer used. There are also organic weed killers you can use, such as vinegar-based herbicides.

You can also hand weed your yard the same way you might hand weed your garden. It takes more time and effort, but it’s much easier on your lawn and the environment. Another alternative is to leave the weeds. Although we think of grass-only lawns as being more attractive, a mixed lawn that includes grass and other plants is a healthier ecosystem.

Manicured Bermuda lawn
Aimful / Shutterstock

Does weed and feed prevent new weeds or kill existing weeds?

Most weed and feed products only kill existing weeds and don’t prevent new weeds from taking root. Herbicides that kill weeds before they sprout are called pre-emergent herbicides, and they work slightly differently from regular herbicides. Most weed and feed products do not contain pre-emergent herbicides, so you’ll need to read each product’s label carefully to check. Although many weed and feed products can be used at the same time as a pre-emergent herbicide, this does mean applying at least three separate chemicals to your lawn in a short time span, which can exacerbate the negative side effects of weed and feed.

Weed and feed can be an effective way to get rid of weeds and fertilize your lawn. However, it can be harmful to your lawn and the environment. There are several alternatives that may not be quite as convenient, but they are effective and carry fewer risks. Now that you have all the facts, you can weigh your options carefully to make the best choice for your lawn.

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Cayla Leonard
Cayla Leonard is a writer from North Carolina who is passionate about plants.  She enjoys reading and writing fiction and…
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