After Hurricane Katrina, My Whole Lawn is Weeds?

Q:I need help with my lawn! What Hurricane Katrina didn't kill with salt water flooding, the heat and drought afterward did it in. All of my azaleas are dead so I'll have to replant those but my entire lawn is pretty much weeds now. I don't know what to do to get my grass back other than an expensive complete redo, or a sod job, neither of which I can afford.

Do I kill all the weeds and then overseed? Do I use a weed and feed product and hope the little bit of grass left takes over? Can my yard be salvaged?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

mef1957 from Ocean Springs, MS

A: Mary,

Sorry to hear about your terrible hurricane damage. Weeds are opportunists, so it's not surprising they are taking over your lawn. It sounds like you're planning on reseeding. If you haven't done it yet, your whole lawn would probably benefit from aeration to get some oxygen down to the grass roots, followed by a light application of fertilizer. You didn't mention what type of seed you bought, but if you find yourself having to reseed a second time, ryegrass usually makes a pretty good temporary lawn until other types of grass seed can become established.


Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and St. Augustinegrass are all very salt tolerant. Most grass can withstand being under water for 4 to 5 days without permanent damage, but the soil's nutrients will be have been depleted and in your case, replaced by salt. If your lawn and garden plants were healthy before the hurricane they may show signs of salt burn, but they should eventually recover with rain and frequent flushing with fresh water to leach out the salt.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service has put out some good bulletins on disaster recovery, including information on repairing lawns and gardens.

Good Luck!


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March 17, 20060 found this helpful

Chances are, you'll have other responses saying this is incorrect, but I'll tell you what I did. There was a very large section in my back yard where the grass died because it was covered, and yes...when I uncovered it, the weeds took over...that's all there were. I went to a grain mill and asked what kind of grass would grow the best in this area. (South Dakota) I don't remember what kind I wasn't expensive. I was told to spread it around and cover it with straw. I didn't have any straw and couldn't afford to buy any, so I just threw handfuls of grass seed on the weed covered ground right before we were going to get rain. It took a while, but the grass did take seed and it eventually pushed out the weeds. It's worth a try. I'm so sorry for all you have gone through with Katrina!

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March 18, 20060 found this helpful

Thanks .. I'm going to try doing that. We're due for rain in two days and I already bought the seed. And thanks so much for your kind words. It's been a rough ride these last 6+ months but we've had so many faith based groups and college kids down here helping - it's been a life saver and refreshing.


Thanks again ... Mary

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March 23, 20060 found this helpful

Have you considered making a cottage garden or one where you could use local mulch to make walkways or beds to plant flowers? Are there salvagable materials that you could get free... wood for beds or to edge walkways, or to make planter boxes, etc? You could put a handcrafted bench and some yard art made from them... There are lots of ideas online! All of that would mean less grass you will need and you could really create a beautiful place AND make a statement with what you use!
Good luck and many blessings to you!

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By Carol in PA (Guest Post)
March 24, 20060 found this helpful

Dont be too quick to uproot your azaleas. Often plants "look" dead, but later rejuvenate.


You may be surprised... Give them another year.... or two to recover. smile

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