Weed removal + Plant maintenance

Asked April 17, 2017, 2:28 PM EDT

We just moved into our home and have a yard that has been neglected by the previous owners. There is creeping charlie that is covering an entire section of the backyard (the second image shows how much area it covers) and is expanding further into the yard and into the neighbors yards. Its probably 90% creeping charlie, 10% grass. The rest of the yard has more grass but there is a large amount of dandelions. Im wondering because of the extend weeds how should we proceed? Should we use a weed killer on the creeping charlie and plant new grass seed, and hand remove the dandelions? The large tree in the picture shades most of the area, but it is slowly rotting so we are considering removing it. I was also wondering about maintaining the lilac bushes, they are approx 8ft tall. There's alot of dead branches that we will remove, but I am wondering when should I trim them back to encourage new growth? Do I have to wait until the end of summer to trim them? Thank you!

Hennepin County Minnesota lawn renovation creeping charlie lilac bushes horticulture

2 Responses

You do have a problem. With the amount of creeping charlie you have, your best avenue would be to kill everything with a weed killer and start over. You may wish to do a soil test also to determine what nutrients are needed for a good lawn. Once you have killed the weeds, remove the dead plants and this probably is the time to have the tree removed. A shallow tilling might work best to remove the dead plants and the you could rake up the dead plants and roots. Your soil test will tell you what fertilizers are needed but compost is always a good addition. Till that in. Do not just spread it on top. Then you have to decide whether to seed or sod. Here's a couple links on renovating your lawn and making the seed/sod decision. http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/turfgrass/repair/lawn-renovation/
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/turfgrass/establishment/seeding-sodding-home-lawns/ As to the lilacs. I would guess you have the common purple or white lilac. They do form thickets like you have. After they have bloomed this spring you can do a renovation job on them too. Remove the old, thick canes all the way to the ground. You can then trim back the younger canes. They are the ones that will bloom best for you anyhow. We usually recommend not cutting shrubs back more than 1/3rd at a time but these lilacs are very tough and you could cut them back by 50%. Do your pruning as soon as the lilac blooms fade as they will start to set next year's blooms within a few weeks of blooming. The shorter stems may or may not bloom much next year but it will be worth the effort. Again next spring after bloom time, you can trim them back some more by a foot or so. Good luck on your projects. The final result will be beautiful. Congratulations on your new home.

Sorry for the delayed response, but I wanted thank you so much for your help and give you an update on the progress we've made! The weeds have died back significantly from the weed killer and our grass looks a SO much better. Our lilacs just finished blooming about 2 weeks ago so we are going to trim them back this weekend. We also got a quote from a tree trimmer, and when he saw the tree he said its not actually rotting, but that it was probably damaged when it was young. He said it is fine and healthy to continue growing, so we decided to keep it since it shades the house nicely.

Thank you so much, this was super helpful!