There’s something inviting about a new season, and fall is a favorite for many people. But cooler temps and changing conditions invite something else, too: problems with seasonal weeds and insect pests. The good news is, you don’t have to put up with them. Just follow these expert tips for dealing with fall weeds and bugs.
How to Tackle Fall Weeds
Spring doesn’t have exclusive rights to sprouting weeds. In fact, many cool-season annual weeds, like dandelion, henbit, and chickweed, germinate in the fall. And while it may be tempting to ignore fall weeds in the hope that a cold snap will kill them, the truth is that they can withstand winter like a champ. Some even have a lifecycle that makes them come back with a vengeance in the spring. That’s why it’s so important to take care of weeds in the fall. You’ll zap them now and have an easier time with them once the weather warms back up.
Like spring and summer weeds, fall weeds have a tendency to pop up here, there, just about anywhere. You may find fall weeds in and around your lawn, garden, patio, driveway, sidewalks, and fence lines. So, that’s the first place to start: Pinpoint the problem areas.
Step 1: Locate Fall Weeds
Take a stroll around your yard and outdoor areas, looking for fall offenders. Likely suspects include henbit, annual bluegrass, chickweed, corn speedwell, lawn burweed (also known as spurweed), hairy bittercress, marestail (also called horseweed), dandelion, pokeweed, ragweed, and poison ivy. Be sure to check in and around your hardscapes, too. Many weeds thrive in tough growing conditions, such as the shallow cracks found in driveways and between patio pavers.
If you see baby weeds and the ground is moist, it’s okay to pull or dig them out by hand if you want. Keep in mind, though, that especially tough and hardy fall weeds like dandelions can snap off, foiling your efforts and leaving the taproot behind to begin growing again.
Step 2: Kill Fall Weeds
Once you’ve identified fall weeds and their growing places, you’ll want to treat these areas with an appropriate weed control product. Because these products work through the plant leaves, you’ll also want to time your application carefully. The period between Labor Day and your area’s first frost is an excellent time for this because the weeds are actively moving nutrients into their roots as they prepare for winter. The product is taken with it, helping to stop weeds as they start to grow again in spring.
Before applying, make sure the weed is actively growing. Next, make sure no rain is forecasted for a least a few hours so the weed control product won’t wash away. A warm-ish fall day that’s no cooler than 60ºF is ideal. Finally, you’ll want to do some very minimal prep work.
- For lawns, that means not mowing a day or two before and after treatment. Waiting beforehand gives the product a better chance of thoroughly wetting the foliage so it can be absorbed by the plant. Afterward, it gives the product a chance to work through the entire plant to the root.
- For hardscapes, the only prep you need to do is determine whether you want to clear the area completely or leave some desirable plants. This is important because some weed control products kill grasses and some don’t.
- For poison ivy, there’s no preparation needed if plants are small—they’re ready to treat. If plants are sizeable, wear protective clothing and gloves, then carefully cut away large branches and dispose of them properly. Never burn poison ivy since the smoke produced contains irritants that can harm the lungs.
With that behind you, you’re now ready to kill those fall weeds. Which product to use depends on the type of fall weed, where the weed is growing, and how big the weed problem is. For a few weeds or small areas, spot-treat them. For larger areas or lots of weeds, apply a broadcast treatment. Either way, be sure to check the product label to confirm that it lists the weed or weeds you’re trying to kill.
To kill weeds but not your lawn or desirable grasses:
- Use Ortho® WeedClear™ Lawn Weed Killer Ready-to-Spray to kill fall dandelion, chickweed, and over 200 weeds down to the root. This weed control product won’t harm your lawn when used as directed.
- Use Ortho® Weed B-gon™ Lawn Weed Killer Ready-To-Use with Comfort Wand for fast-acting treatment of hairy bittercress, pokeweed, and other listed lawn weeds. It also kills the root and won’t harm your lawn when used as directed.
To clear everything – including unwanted grasses:
- Use Ortho® GroundClear® Super Weed & Grass Killer to kill fall weeds and grasses in hardscapes and landscape beds. This product acts on contact, but then works deeply to kill weeds at their roots. So, it’s a good one if you’re in a hurry to make those weeds disappear, but also want to make sure they won’t be coming back. Be sure to read and follow all directions on the label.
- Apply Ortho® GroundClear® Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer to take out tough weeds like poison ivy, poison oak, and wild blackberry. Use as directed around homes, fences, and along trails.
- For year-long control of weeds on driveways, paver patios, fence lines, and gravel areas, use Ortho® GroundClear® Vegetation Killer Ready-to-Use2 as directed. Don’t use it where you want any plant to grow, though, since it controls both weeds and grasses.
How to Tackle Fall Bug Problems
Fall is an especially tricky time for annoying outdoor bugs because this is when they start doing their best to become invasive indoor pests. Luckily, dealing with both indoor and outdoor pests can be pretty simple to accomplish—as long as you’re armed with the right plan.
Step 1: Locate Fall Pests
Fall is a popular time for indoor-outdoor chores, so make the most of it by looking for bugs (and the signs of them) inside and outside your home.
Bugs commonly found indoors in the fall include Asian lady beetles, wasps, ants, and cockroaches. Outdoors, the fall pests you’re most likely to see include brown marmorated stink bugs, boxelder bugs, bagworms, and yellow jackets. Don’t be surprised, though, if you see these same outdoor bugs inside, too. Autumn’s falling temperatures can send these pests in search of better, warmer shelter and more consistent food sources—all of which may be found inside your home.
In addition to keeping an eye open for the insects themselves, be on the lookout for evidence of them. Droppings, stains, nesting, and plant damage (like holes in leaves) offer the telltale signs of a possible insect infestation. Some bugs, like the Asian ladybeetle, can emit a slight “buggy” odor, so pay attention to any unusual scents inside your home, too.
Step 2: Deal with Outdoor Fall Insect Pests
Enjoying the outdoors doesn’t stop when the season changes. Some outdoor insects, though, can interfere with that fun, not to mention do a number on your lawn and outdoor plants. The solution is to treat those areas with an effective bug control product for the type of outdoor bug and its location.
- For fast control that kills bugs on contact, above and below ground, choose Ortho® BugClear™ Lawn Insect Killer, following all directions. Granular and easy to use, it can be applied to your lawn and garden, and around your home’s foundation. Plus, it creates a season-long bug barrier against listed bugs.
- To kill outdoor insects in your lawn, around your home’s perimeter, and on ornamentals, flowers, trees, and shrubs use Ortho® BugClear™ Insect Killer for Lawns & Landscapes Ready-to-Spray. Just shake, connect a garden hose to the attached sprayer, turn on the water, and spray until wet. It starts killing insects in minutes and controls for up to 6 months. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
- For flying and crawling insects, treat your yard with Ortho® BugClear™ Misting Insect Killer. It acts fast to control bugs, plus its odor-free. Apply with the portable, rechargeable Ortho® AllClear™ Power Mister to clear flying insects and garden pests. It sprays fast without propane or heat, so you can cover large areas in a minute. Of course, read and follow all label directions for both products.
It’s also wise to get rid of what attracts these pests in the first place. Add a few tidying-up tasks to your fall clean-up day, including trimming tall bushes and overgrown branches, dumping stagnant water (including water found in birdbaths, planters, tarps, and old tires), and removing debris and relocating firewood away from your home. These fixes will give bugs fewer places to overwinter and make ready access to the indoors a little more difficult.
Step 3: Deal with Indoor Fall Insect Pests
Now that outdoor bugs are taken care of, it’s a good idea to move indoors—before bugs do. Begin by looking for entry points and hiding places. Look up and down, from floor to ceiling, for insect-sized cracks and crevices. Pay special attention to gaps around windows and doors. Take a look around the outside perimeter of your home, too, including the foundation and places where venting and pipes are found.
Next, fill, plug, or block these open areas with caulk, spray-foam insulation, weather stripping, or wire mesh screening. If open windows in the fall are your thing, make sure your window and door screens are in good condition. If you have visible gaps, rips, or holes, replace or repair the screen.
Then, create a bug barrier inside your home with Ortho® Home Defense Max® Indoor Insect Barrier. Apply a 4-inch-wide band around indoor windows and doors, under appliances, along baseboards, and in hard-to-reach places, including cracks and crevices, and where walls meet the floor in the basement. Not only will it kill any of the listed insects you see (when used as directed), but it will also put down a long-lasting preventive barrier to help keep bugs out.
Keep in mind, too, that fall bugs are no different than other bugs when it comes to needing food, water, and a place to live. So, if you want to keep fall indoor bugs at bay, your job is to interrupt their supply chain.
First, take away their access to food and water by storing foods like flour, sugar, dried fruit, and nuts in sealed containers. Next, dispose of trash properly, and wipe up spills and crumbs as soon as you see them. Since dampness counts as a water source, fix under-the-sink leaks and use a dehumidifier to keep your basement and storage areas as dry as possible.
Finally, remember that fall weeds and bugs likely will not go away on their own. So, to keep a few fall weeds and bugs from escalating into a real problem, put this plan into action at the first sign of them.