Chickweed (Stellaria media L.) is a winter annual weed that often invades lawns, beds and gardens. Its smooth, low growing, pointed leaves form a thick mat, typically 2 inches high. Chickweed typically dies out on its own and does not cause major problems for desirable plants, so simple lawn maintenance is usually sufficient for preventing it. In more severe cases, chemicals may be necessary.
1. Basic Lawn Care
Chickweed can be controlled without using chemicals, and this should be the first line of attack. Chickweed is best prevented by maintaining a healthy lawn that is at least 3 inches tall. Keeping turf thick by fertilizing and deeply watering makes it difficult for seedlings to grow. If chickweed emerges, pull it by hand before it spreads. Because it has thin roots, hand pulling is not labor intensive. If you initially notice chickweed in spring, hold off on control methods, because chickweed begins to die off in June or when temperatures reach their summer peak. If you use herbicides after noticing chickweed, it will do little good as the seeds for next year have already been released and it will return.
If chickweed infests flowerbeds or areas near trees, place a 2-inch layer of wood chips or other organic mulch over the area to reduce light and prevent seeds from germinating. Landscape fabric is also a good method. Apply a layer over chickweed and then cover it with rock or bark to protect the fabric from disintegration due to sunlight.
3. Preemergent Herbicides
Preemergent herbicides can prevent chickweed when applied in late fall or early winter, before seeds germinate and chickweed appears. Choose a product that is appropriate for the area you are treating. Some products are only for turf or ornamentals and cannot be used on crops grown for food. For use near turf and ornamentals, apply a granular trifluralin product at a rate of 5.5 to 7.3 pounds per 1,000 square feet, spread uniformly over the affected area. Follow all directions carefully, cover your arms and legs during application and avoid over-applying.
4. Post-Emergent Herbicides
If chickweed has emerged and you feel compelled to treat it immediately, post-emergent herbicides will kill the weed if applied to seedlings. For killing chickweed in grass only, use a 2,4-D and dicamba product. Read the label to be certain that it is safe for the type of grass you have. For cool season grasses, apply at a rate of 1.4 fluid ounces per 1,000 square feet in a sprayer with the dial set to 3 teaspoons per gallon. Do not add water. For warm season turf grass, spray at a rate of 1.1 fluid ounces per 1,000 square feet for hybrid bermuda grass and zoysia grass, or a rate of 1.5 fluid ounces per square foot feet for common bermuda grass. Set the sprayer to a rate of 3 teaspoons per gallon and spray uniformly over the area. Do not add water.
- University of Massachusetts at Amherst Extension: Common Chickweed in Lawns
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Chickweeds
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Controlling Chickweed
- United Horticulture Supply: Treflan 5G Herbicide
- PBI Gordon Corporation: Gordon's Speed Zone Lawn Weed Killer
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images