Crabgrass is one of the most common lawn weeds in America. It’s a tenacious plant that can be difficult to get rid of once it gets started. Knowing how to identify crabgrass and how to prevent it from getting a foothold in your lawn is the best way to keep your yard looking its best.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about crabgrass, from what it is and how it grows, to the best ways to get rid of it.
By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be an expert on this pesky weed (but, don’t worry, if you still need help, our Lawn Serv Subscription Plans include crabgrass control–we’re here to help)!
What is crabgrass and why does it grow in my lawn?
Summer lawn maintenance begins in the spring and an important consideration when preparing your lawn is pre-emergent weed control.
In fact, while the temperature does impact plant growth, it’s really the soil temperature that you need to watch out for, as this determines weed seed germination.
If you can apply your pre-emergent weed control at the right time, most products on the market work extremely well against crabgrass (and broadleaf weeds too!). If you’re looking for a lawn that’s free of weeds, controlling crabgrass early is critical.
Crabgrass reproduces through underground stems and seed heads that are spread by the wind, making it incredibly difficult to remove without pre-emergent weed control strategies.
Crabgrass spreads easily and quickly–each of the individual crabgrass plants in your lawn can generate 150,000 crabgrass seeds!
Each of these crabgrass seeds can then spread, turn into a crabgrass plant, and the cycle continues throughout the growing season! Crabgrass grows vigorously in the summer and can quickly choke out other vegetation, which can hurt your good grass’ ability to survive.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent and treat crabgrass infestations through lawn maintenance techniques such as overseeding, proper mowing height and soil aeration.
Taking preventive steps early in the spring will go a long way towards achieving a luscious lawn come summertime!
How do I know if I Have Crabgrass In My Lawn? How to Identify Crabgrass
Crabgrass (Digitaria) is a tough, low-growing annual weed with many stems. It has a procumbent growth habit and eludes mower blades when lawns are cut. Its stalk that bears flowers and seeds is very tough and can withstand foot traffic in high-traffic areas, so it is a very durable plant!
Crabgrass looks like coarse light green clumps of grass with sprawling stems resembling the legs of a crab; it may be mistaken for fescue grass but color and size serve as good differentiators to recognize it accurately.
Young crabgrass blades have the thickness of a pencil while older ones get heavy, fall, become scraggly, displaying star-shaped patterns in the middle.
Types of Crabgrass
There are two types of crabgrass species: hairy and smooth.
Hairy crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) is the most commonly found type in North America, and its dark green leaves have a rough, bristly texture.
It grows in clumps and can reach heights of up to 8 inches when mature. Its seed heads are usually reddish-brown or purplish in color and grow on the end of long stalks, which makes it relatively easy to identify.
Smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum) has much finer hair than its hairy cousin, and its leaves tend to be lighter in color with a smooth texture.
It also tends to grow lower to the ground than hairy crabgrass, reaching only about 2 inches at maturity. Unlike large or hairy crabgrass, it does not produce seed heads; instead, it reproduces through underground stems called rhizomes which spread outward quickly and make eradication difficult once established.
Both types of crabgrass thrive in dryer environments with full sun exposure and require pre-emergent weed control strategies for effective management.
Proper mowing height, overseeding, aerating the soil, and spot treatment with herbicides are all important steps that should be taken in order to prevent or control an infestation of this pesky weed.
How can I prevent crabgrass from growing in my lawn?
Lawns are susceptible to crabgrass invasions each year, but fortunately there are measures you can take to help prevent it from taking over, including chemical controls and prevention.
The most beneficial pre-emergent step you can take is applying pre-emergent weed control during the optimum time in which crabgrass begins germinating. Depending on the climate, this window of opportunity occurs anytime between late winter and early spring when soil temperatures start to warm up. When soil temperatures start to reach ~55°F for four to five days, that’s when crabgrass seedlings really start to wake up and grow, so this is the ideal time to prevent a crabgrass infestation. For most cool season grasses, seeds germinate around March/April, while warm-season grasses (such as St. Augustine grass) may even see these soil temperatures all year round.
Additionally, keeping an eye on your soil temperatures (early summer and spring in particular) can help reduce the spread of dry crabgrass seeds in your yard and maintain a lush lawn all season long.
With proper pre-emergent care, you can protect your yard from crabgrass and keep your lawn looking its best all summer long.
How can I get rid of crabgrass that’s already growing in my lawn?
If you have crabgrass growing in your lawn, it is definitely time to take action!
Full-lawn weed control application
One of the best ways to get rid of this pesky weed is to use a ready-to-spray product that won’t harm or kill the grass around it. And, this is likely the most effective way to kill crabgrass while also preventing it from setting seed (very important for control!).
In this case, post-emergent herbicides are used. These come in two types: selective and non-selective.
Ready-to-Spray products come in several varieties, but there are some effective products that tackle both crabgrass and other weeds (one of our favorites: Ortho WeedClear Lawn Weed Killer)
Selective herbicides target specific weeds or plant categories, while non-selective kill all plants, including those you might want to keep (non-selective herbicides kill all plants, so these products are usually used on patios, driveways, etc. and not really on lawns unless they are REALLY infested with weeds!). If you have any other plants in the area that you want to keep, a selective post-emergent herbicide should be chosen that targets crabgrass specifically.
Spot-treatment for crabgrass elimination
When spot treating, be sure to carefully spray the leaves and stems of the crabgrass and nothing else. For smaller lawns, there are effective products that come in spray bottles, so they are very easy to apply. But, for larger lawns, you may want to look for an effective concentrate product. Reapplication may be necessary if you are dealing with a particularly stubborn patch.
Additionally, regularly controlling weeds when they first appear can help to reduce future outbreaks of crabgrass. Taking these steps will help keep your lawn free of crabgrass so you can enjoy a beautiful, healthy lawn all season long!
Importantly, once crabgrass dies, it’s important that you remove the dead crabgrass–other weeds thrive in thick thatch buildup!
Maintain a healthy lawn
Maintaining a healthy lawn is the best way to prevent weeds, like crabgrass, from invading. Regularly mowing the grass to the correct height, overseeding thin patches with new grass seed, and aerating to improve root development can help create an environment that is less hospitable for weed growth.
Furthermore, applying pre-emergent herbicides at the appropriate time of year can help reduce the spread of weed seeds and protect your lawn from an infestation. Spot treatments are also effective in eliminating existing crabgrass (and other weeds), but must be done carefully so as not to harm any surrounding desirable plants or grasses.
Regular maintenance is the key: regularly controlling weeds when they first appear can greatly help reduce future outbreaks of crabgrass.
Taking these steps will ensure that your lawn is kept healthy and free of invasive weed growth throughout the season by blocking their initial germination process before it even starts. When taking care of your lawn, be sure to avoid over fertilizing or over watering; both can cause excessive weed germination and unhealthy conditions for grass growth.
With proper maintenance and care, you should have a lush green lawn all season long!
Should I be concerned about crabgrass, or is it just a nuisance weed?
If the question is whether you should be concerned about crabgrass, the answer is a resounding yes! Crabgrass can quickly take over your lawn, smothering beneficial grass species and creating an unsightly weed patch. The roots of crabgrass can reach depths of 12 inches, meaning it’s difficult to uprooted without significant effort – it can even spread from one lawn to another.
However, with timely and effective management techniques, such as pre-emergence herbicides, careful soil maintenance and proper mowing schedules, you can effectively manage crabgrass and prevent it from taking over your lawn. Additionally, more tolerant turfgrass species are available for those wanting a more low-maintenance option when it comes to avoiding crabgrass outbreaks. With some simple tips and preventive measures in mind, you can avoid being overrun by unwanted weeds like crabgrass.
Crabgrass prevention tips for next year
Taking preventative steps to limit the growth of crabgrass in your yard next year can save you time and energy fighting an onslaught of this pesky weed. One of the best ways to start is by taking care of your lawn throughout the growing season. Regular tasks such as cutting, aerating, and fertilizing will keep your grass healthy and strong, presenting a tougher barrier for crabgrass to penetrate. It’s also important to mow at the proper height – short enough for a neat appearance but not too short that you’re weakening or scalping the grass itself. Regularly check on any areas of your lawn that may be susceptible to bare soil exposure or standing water; these areas are commonly prime spots for crabgrass to sprout. Finally, apply a pre-emergent fertilizer early in the season – doing this before you see signs of trouble can help to ward off potential crabgrass down the line.
The bottom line on crabgrass
When it comes to crabgrass, the bottom line is that prevention is key. Taking preventative steps such as overseeding your lawn and maintaining a healthy soil pH level can go a long way to helping reduce the chances of an infestation. If you are dealing with existing crabgrass, prompt action is important in order to reduce its spread. Applying an herbicide approved for use on lawns may be necessary to help control the growth, but if not done properly it could also damage your grass. So get informed on the best options available and decide what will work best for you and your lawn before taking action.
Crabgrass is a problem for many homeowners because it’s unsightly and difficult to get rid of. But by following the tips in this article, you can keep crabgrass out of your lawn and have a beautiful yard that you can be proud of. Thanks for reading!
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