A well-known sports adage states that a strong defense usually outperforms a strong offense. The same can be said of that never-ending lawn contest between weeds and turfgrass.

It's more effective – and easier – to take a few well-timed steps to prevent weeds from sprouting in the first place than it is to try to tame a lawn after it has become weed-infested.

These are the four key practices that make up a good lawn weed defense strategy:

1. Fertilizing

Fertilizing

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Good soil nutrition gives turfgrass the fuel it needs to maximize growth and stay healthy. When grass grows to its full potential, it fills in to create a dense mat that chokes out open space where weeds might otherwise thrive.

A good starting point is to test your soil to determine if anything unusual is going on or if major corrections are needed. DIY soil-test kits are available at most county Extension offices and many garden centers. The report will give you both nutrition and pH (soil acidity) recommendations.

Traditional fertilizer plans for cool-season grasses call for four applications per year: 1.) late March to early April; 2.) late May to early June; 3.) late August to early September, and 4.) between early and mid-November, before the ground freezes.

GreenView’s lawn fertilizers use a patented formulation of slow-release nitrogen to feed for 12 weeks at a time, achieving the same results with just two fertilizer applications per year rather than four. One application is done in spring, and the other is done in fall.

Read more on picking the right fertilizer for your lawn

Also helpful is spreading an annual, light (quarter-inch) layer of sifted compost or similar, fine organic matter over the lawn surface. This “top-dressing” adds both nutrition and organic matter to the lawn and can be done any time during the growing season.

Read more on top-dressing 

2. Mowing high

Mowing

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Scalped grass is a weed’s friend in two important ways.

For starters, shorter blades mean less chlorophyll-containing green tissue, which means less energy production to fuel grass roots. In other words, taller grass encourages the dense growth that keeps weeds at bay better than shorter grass.

Second, low-cut grass allows more sunlight to reach the soil. This promotes the germination of many lawn weeds, particularly those near the surface that require light to sprout.

Taller grass discourages weeds by reducing the light reaching the soil surface, shading the growth of young weeds, and cooling and retaining moisture to aid grass growth during hot summers.

A good height for cool-season lawn grasses is three inches. If you're cutting lower than that, try raising your mower blades and seeing if you prefer the evenness of the cut rather than the short height.

Read more on the right way to mow a lawn

3. Overseeding

Overseeding

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Adding new grass seed to existing lawns is the third pillar of weed defense. Overseeding fills in any open spots with grass before weeds can colonize the area.

Lawns can thin for a variety of reasons, ranging from drought to disease to natural attrition. Some lawn-owners overseed their lawns early each fall to maximize denseness, but overseeding is especially important if you notice thinning.

Remember… if you don’t put something there, nature will.

The two optimum times to grow new grass or add seed to thin areas in most of the United States are from Labor Day to the end of October and from the end of March to April.

GreenView’s Fairway Formula grass seeds give you a selection of grass types that can be used both for new lawns and overseeding.

Read why and how to overseed a lawn

4. Preventing new weeds from sprouting

The last step in defending against lawn weeds is applying a weed preventer. These granular products have properties that stop the sprouting of many lawn weeds.

The most well-known varieties used in lawns are crabgrass preventers, which are designed to halt the annual growth of crabgrass – a creeping, narrow-bladed, grassy weed that sprouts early each spring.

GreenView’s Fairway Formula Spring Fertilizer with Crabgrass Preventer prevents crabgrass as well as 40 other weeds, including chickweed, foxtail, henbit, and more.

It is most effective when applied in early spring, just as crabgrass seeds begin to germinate (typically around the time forsythia bushes bloom). Unlike most crabgrass preventers, this product controls crabgrass for up to four weeks after it germinates, so even if you apply it late, you'll still be able to manage young crabgrass plants.