Get rid of chickweed in your lawn and garden by hand-pulling, spraying a weed killer, or covering chickweed-infested areas to deprive weeds of light and oxygen. To prevent chickweed, cultivate a healthy lawn, mulch garden areas, and apply a pre-emergent weed killer in summer to prevent this late-sprouting annual from invading.
Using these methods, you’ll have a chickweed-free lawn, maintain healthy turfgrass and garden plants, and know how to get rid of chickweed for good.
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What Does Chickweed Look Like?
Chickweed can be identified by its waxy, lobe-shaped leaves, small white flowers, and many stems growing from a central point. Chickweed is an annual weed that sprouts in late spring or early summer. After sprouting, chickweed grows quickly and dies shortly after flowering.
When identifying young chickweed, look for small plants growing in moist, shady areas of gardens and lawns. If the leaves of the weed are spade-shaped and have a thick, shiny appearance, it’s chickweed. When chickweed matures, it will produce many small, white flowers, about half the size of clover flowers. Flowering chickweed should be removed immediately. If allowed to complete its life cycle, it will cast hundreds of seeds, ensuring a future invasion of chickweed.
How to Get Rid of Chickweed: 7 Simple Methods
Chickweed is a fast-growing weed that appears late in the season. For this reason, chickweed can seem to defy all your spring weed-killing work, appearing in lawns and gardens after you’ve put in hours eradicating other weeds. However, there are several ways to remove and prevent invasive chickweed quickly and permanently.
Hand-Weed or Hoe
Chickweed is a very shallow-rooted weed that loves moist soil. For these two reasons, it’s often very easy to hand-pull chickweed or remove it with a digging tool. Often, the entire root system will come up, killing the chickweed and preventing its return.
Hoeing a patch of garden overtaken by chickweed will often be enough to kill this shallow-rooted weed. Just make sure to bag and trash any chickweed killed by hand-pulling or hoeing. Flowering chickweed can drop seeds even after it’s been uprooted.
Use Non-Selective Weed Killer in Gardens
Non-selective weed killers, such as Roundup, make short work of chickweed. Spray the chickweed with a single application of weed killer. The plant will show signs of wilting within hours and will be killed down to the roots within days. Just make sure to avoid spraying any desirable garden plants with weed killer, as it may damage or kill them.
Homemade vinegar weed sprays may not be effective against chickweed. The waxy leaves can resist vinegar, and vinegar will not kill the weed down to the root. Commercial weed killers have much higher kill rates with chickweed.
Use Selective Weed Killer in Lawns
Where chickweed is growing among lawn grass, it is best to use a selective broadleaf weed killer that will attack chickweed without any killing of the surrounding harming grass. Weed killers containing 2,4-D and/or Dicamba are safe for most lawns.
Keep in mind, selective weed killers will not harm most turf grasses, but are harmful to garden plants. Be careful when spraying for chickweed to avoid harming desirable plants, and check product packaging to make sure the weed killer you choose is safe to use on your turfgrass.
Cover with Tarp or Black Plastic
An effective, natural way to kill chickweed is to cover it with a non-permeable tarp or black plastic and weigh down the edges. This prevents air and sunlight from reaching the chickweed, killing it in 1–2 weeks.
This approach works extremely well in gardens overtaken by chickweed. You can wipe out a large area of chickweed with very little labor and without the use of chemicals.
Try Pre-Emergent Weed Killer
Pre-emergent weed killers kill seeds as they sprout. They are commonly used in lawns in early spring to prevent all manner of weeds and invasive grasses from growing. However, in some regions chickweed sprouts in late spring or early summer. By this time, an early round of pre-emergent herbicide has lost its effectiveness and will not stop chickweed. Consider an application of pre-emergent herbicide in late spring, when soil temperatures rise to 60℉ (16℃) to stop chickweed.
Keep in mind, a pre-emergent herbicide will kill all sprouting seeds. Do not use pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn if you have seeded grass within the last 3 weeks, or if you are planning to seed grass within the next 6 weeks.
Strengthen Your Lawn
A healthy lawn resists chickweed invasion. By regularly mowing your lawn at your mower’s highest blade setting, you promote thick, tall grass growth that smothers invasive chickweed sprouts. To get the most out of your grass, monitor your lawn’s pH and amend with lime as necessary. Additionally, consider using fertilizer or a weed and feed product 1–2 times per year to strengthen your lawn and wipe out invasive weeds.
Mulch your Garden
A layer of garden mulch 2–3 inches deep will go a long way toward preventing chickweed from sprouting. Mulch keeps weed seeds from reaching the soil and prevents any seeds present from sprouting by depriving them of air and sunlight. A well-mulched garden will keep chickweed out, leaving more water and nutrients for the plants you wish to grow.
What Herbicides Will Kill Chickweed?
Chickweed is vulnerable to several herbicides. Non-selective herbicides, such as Roundup, will kill chickweed by infiltrating through the plant’s leaves and traveling to root systems. The chickweed plant may begin to visibly wilt within 1 hour and die completely within 7–14 days.
Selective herbicides often billed as “broadleaf weed killers” are also effective against chickweed. Chickweed is part of the Caryophyllaceae family, which is a group of broadleaf plants including carnations and baby’s breath. These plants are susceptible to most broadleaf weed formulations.
How Do You Kill Chickweed without Killing Grass?
To kill chickweed in your lawn without killing grass, use a selective broadleaf weed killer or weed and feed product that includes a broadleaf weed killer. These products will kill chickweed in your yard without harming the grass. Products with Dicamba, 2,4-D, or mecoprop are formulated specifically to kill weeds and leave grass unharmed.
Remember to consult all product warnings, as some broadleaf weed killers have been known to damage certain grass varieties.
How Do You Kill Chickweed Naturally?
The best ways to kill chickweed naturally are:
- Hand-digging or hand-pulling.
- Smothering with black plastic.
- Flame weeding.
- Dousing with boiling water.
Chickweed has notoriously shallow roots, making it easy to dig or pull without leaving behind any root material that will cause regrowth. It also dies quickly when smothered or exposed to the heat of a flame weeder or doused in boiling water. All of these are fast, natural methods to get rid of chickweed.
Does Vinegar Kill Chickweed?
Vinegar is not the best natural chickweed killer. Unlike commercial weed sprays, vinegar does not infiltrate the plant through the leaves and kill the entire weed—it simply kills the leaves it touches. While this may be enough to kill young chickweed, there is a chance the plant could return after being sprayed with vinegar.
It’s usually more efficient to hand-pull chickweed than spraying it with vinegar. You’ll have a higher success rate killing chickweed this way because it is so easy to pull.
Does Chickweed Die in Winter?
Chickweed has a very short life cycle and typically dies long before winter. Chickweed can go from seed to flowering plant in 5–6 weeks. Once chickweed flowers, it spreads its seeds, then the plant dies. You may have chickweed sprout in May and die off by July, but by that time it’s already sown its seeds and will return next year.
How to Kill Chickweed
Chickweed is a fast-growing annual weed that should be controlled early to prevent flowering and seed casting. It can be killed or prevented through the following methods:
- Hand weeding or digging.
- Spraying with a non-selective weed killer.
- Spraying with selective broadleaf weed killer safe for lawns.
- Smothering with a tarp or black plastic.
- Spreading pre-emergent weed killer in late spring.
- Cultivating a thicker, healthier lawn.
- Mulching garden areas.
These methods will allow you to easily kill chickweed permanently and prevent it from returning in the following seasons. With just a little work, you can rid your yard and flowerbeds of chickweed entirely.