In much of Canada, particularly Quebec and Ontario, pesticides are hard to come by—and for good reason. When used improperly, they can cause headaches, nausea and skin and eye problems. There are environmental impacts, too. But that doesn't mean the only way to get a weed-free lawn is to pull 'em by hand. Here's what to do instead.
If you're planting grass seed, purchase soil from a reputable nursery or retailer. Cheaper options often contain weed seeds and bits of root. Horticulturist Stephen Westcott-Gratton recommends testing your topsoil before you start seeding. Scoop a few cups into a pot, place it in full sun and keep it well watered. If weeds begin to sprout in seven to 10 days, you'll need a higher-quality topsoil.
Do not disturb
Avoid using a rototiller (a motorized lawn tool that breaks up soil with its rotating blades) when preparing for seeding. The blades bring buried weed seeds to the surface, where they can germinate.
Get to the root
To prevent weeds from returning, remove them by their roots. For stubborn thistles and dandelions, weed-pulling tools make your job easier; they'll lever out weeds, along with their root systems, without cutting into the turf.
If you have a large yard, prioritize. Westcott-Gratton suggests starting by removing weeds that are going to seed, preventing them from spreading. Next, pull the weeds that are in flower; those pesky seeds aren't far behind. Finally, attend to newly sprouted weeds, which should be the easiest to remove.
Don't put weeds with long taproots—or those that have gone to seed—in your compost bin; it won't get hot enough to kill the seeds, so they might pop up again when you spread the compost come springtime. Instead, Westcott-Gratton suggests placing weeds in a yard waste bag and leaving them for municipal pickup.